Thursday, May 20, 2010

Alan Watts and Lost magnets

In the late author Allan Watts' splendid dissertation entitled "The Nature of Consciousness", the former Episcopal minister turned lay Hindu offers an alternative approach to the traditional Western religious myths which lie at the heart of our culture and are observed most notably by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In this first myth, the universe and man were something made, constructed by a mysterious Patriarchal potter out of a kind of clay that the creator breathed into, hence making the inanimate figurine come to life, as it was now "informed". Mr. Watts called this the Ceramic model of the universe, and it was quite normal for a young Western child to ask its mother, "how was I made"? This belief was not shared, however, by the Chinese, or the Hindus. A young Chinese boy might not ask his mother how was I made, but rather, how did I grow? That is very different from the making process, indeed.

After the invention of the steam engine, however, this worldview changed to what Mr. Watts referred to as the Fully Automatic Model of the universe. Think of the universe as a trolley, or a funicular on a track:

There was a young man who said, damn.
For it certainly seems that I am,
A creature that moves, in determinate grooves,
I'm not even a bus; I'm a tram.

From this perspective, science replaced religion as the modern Weltanschauung, and has remained there till this day.

There is another view, altogether, in Mr. Watt’s mind. This myth of the universe shall not be called the Ceramic model, or the Fully Automatic Model, but rather the Dramatic model. Think of the universe as a drama. What is the nature of all games, of all dramas? It is the game of Hide and Seek.

When a child is born, and in LOST children are the very plenum of the Island's consciousness, it comes into the world really knowing what everything is all about because the baby is a recent incarnation of God. In Hide and Seek, the adult covers his face only to reveal it to the baby, who then starts laughing. Why? Because it comes into the world really knowing what everything is all about, and in all games, in all forms of drama, there is this idea of the green room, off scene, where the actors take off their masks. And if human actors can convince an audience of their reality, think what the cosmic actor can do? He can take us in utterly.

LOST is about the nature of non-dual consciousness, using the game of Backgammon in order to reveal a hidden flaw in our perception. It is NOT about good versus evil, at least in the traditional sense, but uses this battle as a mirror. In fact, it is quite the opposite. LOST uses our three dimensional illusions of time (past, present and future) to show us that existence is a game of polarities, not opposites. The Yin/Yang symbol acts as a hintergedanke, a fundamental ulterior symbol of an unconscious memory, a Mandala. Within these alchemical fields of life, and non-life for that matter, are plays of light and shadow, with the universe itself constantly in the process of rebirth and creation. We ARE that universe. While seemingly involved in a conflict that must be exalted by the supremacy of the light over the dark, it is in fact the very existence of the dark that gives the show away. It is collaboration, a conspiracy of forces united to balance the equation. It is not ou! t in the open, but is tacit. Without this agreement, there would be no universe at all, and thus no story, no drama. Hence, LOST is about magnets, and always has been, from the very first when the plane crashes, to the ineluctable destiny of all its players. It is a game of opposites, which can only exist by agreement. Light cannot defeat darkness, nor vice versa. Cut off the ends of a magnet to get rid of one of its poles. You cannot. There is simply no way to do away with the South Pole from the North Pole. No matter what you do, you will always have another south or north pole, no matter how hard you try to be rid of it. This is the game that the children understand on the Island. This is the game that they are all playing, one with specific spiritual principles and rules. Thou Shalt Not Kill, says the young mystery boy, not because it’s wrong, but because there would be no game otherwise. And the universe would disappear. Just ask Desmond, or Arjuna.

Therefore, LOST is ultimately about our voluntary participation in this existence. It is to recognize that there are no such things as victims, or mistakes, or wrong choices, either when the script is scripted or not. When Locke throws the white rock into the ocean, he calls it “an inside joke”, and he is, of course, quite right. What is so delicious about this season, in particular, is the overt humor that has finally, rightfully, entered into the fray. Within this dramatic model of the universe, Mr. Watts offers us the extraordinarily relevant notion that the universe in fact may not be serious at all, that even within the tempestuous nightmare of dark dominion and fear, there is a wild inclination to blurt out laughing. But still, what if the darkness wins? What if the light goes out forever? We live in an age where, as Father Maskell puts it, “we are something that happens between the maternity ward and the grave, and that’s it baby, that’s it”.

But is this true? Based on our notions of life, our somber terrors, one would have to say that this is what most people really believe. You may say you are a religious person. That you believe in God. You may go to church regularly. But if people really believed what the church said, they would be rioting in the streets. “You would take out full page ads”, says Mr. Watts. “You would have the most terrifying television programs if you really believed what the church says. But you know you don’t. What you really believe is the Fully Automatic Model of the Universe.” But at the very heart of LOST is the wink of the eye that says, oh now, come off it. I know who you are. “Shiva, I recognize you”. Mr. Watts would not be too far afield in asking the question, “isn’t this a more optimum game rule for life rather than supporting the supposition that it is hopeless”?

What I think LOST is about, “is a reexamination of our common sense”, using Mr. Watts words. What has in fact been lost, is our connection to this basic universal principal. There is the central self, that is all of us, and we are playing the game that we don’t know that we know:

There was a young man, who said “oh”,
It seems that I know that I know,
What I would like to see,
Is the “I” that knows “me”,
When I know, that I know, that I know.

And that is mankind’s fate. He is a being who knows that he knows. It is the introduction of this quite obvious Eastern spiritual view on the nature of waking up to our inherent divinity that has moved LOST from its Cartesian reality to one dominated by non-linear spiral hemispheres, Vedic leitmotifs, Buddhist mysteries and, just to throw in a Westerner, Jungian archetypes. The unifying and revivifying forces at work, which under-gird the Island, is water. LOST is finally nothing more than a brash re-imaging of our possibility to be. A wake up call to the soporific nature of our collective stupor, urging us to remember the times of our most infantile, oceanic selves. It is we who participate in the journey home. It is a comedy, not tragic at all.


Blogger LMS said...

"Mr. Forkush is clearly the most erudite and the most insightful philosopher of this age...dare I say ANY age. Woe to you if his Linear English fails to cause your atomic particles to do a dimensional jig of intergalactic proportions! Thank you, Mr. Forkush, for reminding us of that most godly of adages...I LAUGH, THEREFORE I AM !"
Andrew Watt-Harvey, Pacoima

8:12 AM  

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