Friday, April 03, 2009

Whatever Happened, Happened... This One's For Hurley

So I'm about to post my extremely belated DocArzt post and in it I'm going to give a shout-out to three of my brilliant commentators on here who explained the idea of why the future can't be changed to someone like me, accustomed to the whole, "If I step on a cockroach in 1941 I'll completely change the future" approach to time travel. But I noticed some people still seem a little perplexed by the entire discussion between Hurley and Miles, and accept Hurley's position on it, so in case you haven't read through the many, many comments to pick these out, let me highlight the analogies and explanations by the ever-brilliant humanebean, Teebore, and Blam.

First, humanebean. I had misunderstood Miles' plea for Hurley to shoot him, thinking he was suggesting that he can't die no matter what you do to him. I said, does that mean he can't age, either? humanebean explained it succinctly:

Miles said that he COULD die - "all of us (could)". This "now" is occurring after the events we've seen in 2004/5. If he were to be shot and killed, it in no way would affect the later events, which were already an established part of the timeline, even though they are "in the future" from the time period we are witnessing (and they are living through) in the moment. Yes, it is a mind-bender, and I don't blame Hurley for having a hard time wrapping his mind around it.

Teebore took that and went much further with it, explaining it beautifully:
As I understand it, Miles (or any other time traveling Lostie)can absolutely be killed/hurt/aged while in 1977.

While the events of 2004 take place objectively, for Miles 2004 is his past and 1978 the future of his subjective timeline.

There are two flows of time, the objective one (in which time time flows chronologically in order...1970, then 80s, then 90s etc) and the subjective one (time as its experienced by an individual).

For you, me, Ben and most people, objective time and subjective time are the same. We experience events in the order that time flows.

But for the Losties, once Ben turned the wheel, their subjective timelines got thrown out of whack from the objective timeline.

So while Ben in 1978 won't die because he's alive in 2004, Miles in 1978 COULD die because he experiences time differently than young Ben.

All of that probably just muddies the waters. How 'bout this: think of it terms of narrative. Anything can happen to Miles, Hurley, etc. because we're watching those stories unfold. We don't know what the next chapter holds.

But for Ben in 1977, we know what happens in his story: he grows up, kills Dharma, leads the Others. The events happening to Ben in 1977 are like watching a flashback: we're seeing events that already happened to the characters, even if we (the audience) didn't know about them already.

When watch a Jack flashback in season one and we see him yelling at Christian pre-815 crash, we know he won't die in that flashback because we've watched him on the island after those events. But when we're watching the island narrative again, anything could happen to Jack.

So now the Losties find themselves inserted into other characters flashbacks. For them, it's the main narrative, but for characters like Ben, everything that's happening is like watching one of their flashbacks.

And then later last night, Blam created a simple analogy that also explains it, but in a different way:
I mean no offense to those of you who don't understand how the past of the travelers is still their personal past, even though it's now in The Future, capital F, since they've traveled to The Past, capital P, but it's entirely consistent, and their past, in The Future, is still in their future as well, if they live long enough and/or don't jump back to the moment they left in a later episode. If time is immutable, then they have always been back where they are, just never come across any records of it before they traveled there.

An analogy:

I'm walking down Central Avenue. We're all walking down it. Everybody does; it's the only street we know. And it's a one-way street. Each of us has a cookie and we're letting crumbs fall on the sidewalk as we mosey along.

Now some blocks down Central, as a group of us passes, oh, the post office, at 2004 Central Ave., we see the sky flash. While we're blinded, we stumble onto a side street that we never knew was there — or someone pulls us into an alleyway *** — and after doubling back around on the next street over we end up back on Central Avenue, but many blocks behind where we'd been walking when the sky flashed, say by the bank at 1973 Central. (*** This is the inexact part of the analogy, since there was instantaneous transportation through time on Lost; it's not like they experienced traveling through some side-door dimension.)

We've absolutely no idea how we ended up thirty blocks behind where we'd been, but we decide to make the best of it and start walking forward again. You idly wonder if the crumbs from your cookie will still be there when we get back up to the post office, and in fact why the cookie is even in your hand at 1973 because we didn't buy the cookies until the bakery at, like, 1984 Central Avenue. I reply that of course we have the cookies, and the crumbs will still be there. A couple members of our group, whom we never really liked anyway, but still any loss of human life is a tragedy, could get paralyzed by spiders at our current location and never move forward again, but they would still have been farther up on Central Ave. earlier in the day and the people from the bakery at 1984 would still remember them: Aw... That's a shame. Hey... Wait... What do you mean they died ten blocks ago? That's impossible! They were here!

The fact that Central Avenue only goes one way, and that we've all only ever walked down it in one direction, and that our senses have been blown by skipping back in the opposite direction, doesn't change the fact that we have still physically been farther down the street before we came back around to 1973, or now that we've walked a bit farther, to 1977 — when some of our friends, who had kept walking to the airport at 2007 Central after we disappeared, join us, equally bewildered at how they got here.

I probably laid that on thicker than necessary, so my apologies for taking up so much space, but if it helps just one person my job here is done.

So, is everything clear now? Awesome. :)


Jarie said...

Blam, your job is definitely done, and well done at that!!! Up until I read your analogy, my brain was still coming around from that whole exchange btween Miles & Hurley. Great analogy...simple, and to the point...leaving out all the time travel mumbo jumbo behind! Kudos my friend, Kudos!

Brian Douglas said...

I feel left out. Stupid life getting in the way of having in-depth, time-travel discussions. :-(

Colleen/redeem147 said...

The New York one confuses me ;)

I like the 'step on a butterfly' approach too. How could I not - I love Ray Bradbury. (Cockroach?)

But I also like the 'everything that has happened is what happened' approach.

Then there's the heartbreaking Pompeii episode of last season's Doctor Who. He realized that he was the one who had destroyed Pompeii by making Vesuvius erupt. So he had to throw the switch. Doctor Who allows for small time corrections by the time stream so butterflies tend not to be a problem.

Can you tell I like time travel stories?

humanebean said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Nik! Each week, your blog crystallizes what is most enjoyable about the online LOST community. You inspire your many readers to match your level of erudition and insight - and in any given week, there are many contenders worthy of mention. Kudos to Blam and Teebore for demystifying a complex issue in novel ways. (and Brian D. ... as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" - next time, bro!)

Benny said...

I still love Blam's cookies!
Anyone thinking DHARMA crackers?

Nikki Stafford said...

Benny: I am seriously sitting here eating unsalted crackers while I'm working. And they're just as good as when I put them in this tin 15 years ago!!

Brian D: I know the feeling... I've been SO swamped with work that I was off my computer from about 4 yesterday til 11am today, and had no idea what sort of discussion was happening on here.

humane: Aw... thank you!

Colleen: Speaking of which, are you still watching Being Erica? I think that show is So much fun!

Oh, and Blam, I forgot to mention in the post: I know that we can't change the past, but if we're walking up the street and we pass those people lying on the sidewalk around 1984 Main Street who died from spider bites, are we allowed to kick them? Repeatedly?

Nikki Stafford said...

Jarie: I'm glad I wasn't the only one still baffled after watching that scene!! :)

lefty said...

I haven't been able to read through everything, but a quick word search turns up precious few references to course correction. Yet this would seem a crucial concept, since, at least on the surface, it is in tension with the idea that "whatever happened happened."

That is, if there is EVER a need for the universe to course correct, then there would seem to be the possibility of changing at least SOME things that happened. Otherwise, there would be nothing to CORRECT.

This seems to leave the door open for the possibility that the Losties were NEVER in the DI, that Miles and Hurley NEVER DID have that conversation before, etc.

For me, the central question has long been, Why are some events treated as landmarks in time that cannot be changed, while others are permitted to change (thus forcing the universe to course correct to accommodate them)? For example, if Michael is at one point not supposed to die, why does the universe permit him to get all f-ed up in the NEAR-fatal car accident, but not permit him to be, say, grazed by Keamy's bullet (as opposed to having the gun lock up). (perhaps there are better examples that highlight the question I'm asking.)

I've long thought that the Losties are treated by the universe as tools for course correction, rather than beings whose life-events are themselves immutable Landmarks in time. I don't think this sheds much light on the pressing questions of the day (i.e. all the time-travel questions raised in recent episodes), but it is something that deserves more attention than I am seeing.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

It was a great season of Being Erica. Did you watch the season finale this week? Talk about screwing with a time line...

Benny said...

@lefty: we haven't mentioned course correction because, so far, I feel there has been no strong evidence of it. But I do concede that it is possible it's happening.

The way the survivors are behaving suggests mostly this is how it always happened. Though we won't know for sure until later. But that is indeed the direction the execs have said they were taking!

In terms of course correction, this happens when one's awareness of the coming events lead him to try and change those events. Specifically, Desmond's attempt at reliving his past and subsequently saving Charlie. Desmond's own past was slightly changed and Charlie's course was altered on several occasions.

From Charlotte's last words, that she had met Daniel in the past and had warned her not to come back, this pushes towards the theory that they have always been there are, as such, are not part of a course correction but are, in facet, the course itself. Their own attempt at changing history is what makes history.

Now this is just how I see the pieces and, obviously someone might see the pieces arranged differently.

adrian said...

The whole course correction terminology was just a oversimplified explanation for what we're witnessing. In reality (and the show), there is no course correction. Hawking merely used that as a way of trying to explain to Desmond that they cannot change their destinies (i.e. whatever happened happened). The actions of Desmond preventing Charlie from dying was a set-up for us into thinking that these characters--especially Desmond--can change the future. When we thought Desmond was changing Charlie's fate, we were actually mistaken because Desmond, in fact, reinforced Charlie's fate (save him several times from eminent death so that he can turn off the Looking Glass Station's block on communication, thus setting everything else up with the O6 and Ben turning the wheel, etc.).

All of the "free will" choices we saw done by our Losties in the last couple of episodes (and the entire show for that matter) actually propelled what they thought they were preventing. This certainly reinforces the point that there is no change to history.

As for the confusion about timelines and subjective and objective histories, my favorite time paradox from Back to the Future is at the beginning of Back to the Future III. While digging up the DeLorean, Doc and Marty accidentally bump into Doc's gravestone from 1885 (or therabouts). Since Doc sees this in his subjective past (Doc in 1885 is his subjective future), one would think that Doc would probably remember this little run-in his whole life, especially when he accidentally gets sent back to that exact time! However, Doc in 1885 never mentions knowing about his own death. Further to complicate things, in Back to the Future mythology, you can change the past, which is what Marty and Doc subsequently do. They save Doc from being shot in the back, and Doc gets to travel the timeline with his new wife. HOWEVER, if Marty changed the past and Doc is never shot, there should be no evidence of his gravestone in 1955, right (i.e. no death, no grave)? So what did Marty and Doc see that prompted Marty to go back to 1885 in the first place? Paradox!

Benny said...

I should mention that this is the reason why I didn't approach it with course correction.

I can't speak for everyone here!

Nikki Stafford said...

adrian: LOL! And, um, I think part of my brain just collapsed.

Benny said...

@adrian: how does it account for Desmond actually buying the ring and being subsequently hit in the head instead of the bartender?

Since Ms. Hawking ackonwledges her encounter with Desmond, it stands that the encounter actually happened. Perhaps the visions of Charlie dying are only that, visions.

But Desmond did change a few aspects of his past, without changing his whole 'destiny'.

adrian said...

Benny: Again, I think the point is, what we see in Desmond's visions (not necessarily memories) is not really what happened in the timeline.

Desmond is the wildcard in this entire time traveling equation because he has moments where he can exist throughout his entire life's timeline or at any point in it (being "unstuck in time" like in Slaughterhouse 5). This again can confuse people into thinking he's changing the future. He's actually not; his visions and premonitions actually force him into the path that's already there. Remember, we never see another person get hit in the head at the bar, we just hear Desmond tell this story. Desmond's "future seeing" (which I think are just visions, not the real future) is the universe's control for him so that he acts accordingly and follows the timeline thusly.

I would love to be wrong on this actually because, if I'm right, then we pretty much know how this story will end: at the beginning. I'm hoping they do something with Desmond in that he can break out of this timeline trap (since he's the only one in the show that's aware of it to that level).

lefty said...

From Charlotte's last words, that she had met Daniel in the past and had warned her not to come back, this pushes towards the theory that they have always been there are, as such, are not part of a course correction but are, in facet, the course itself. Their own attempt at changing history is what makes history.

That Charlotte had been in the past as a girl does not entail that the Losties have always been adults (having these conversations, etc.) in the DI in the 1970s. That is, the ability to jump around in time does not entail that "whatever happened/happens happened/happens". I find it very hard to believe that there is a coherent picture of the (television) universe in which Hurley comes into being in, say, 1980, but ALWAYS existed prior to taht, as an adult, in the DI in 1970s.

So some things that happened/are happening didn't always happen.

adrian said...

Lefty: Actually, yes, there's a perfectly coherent picture of Hurley (and the other Losties) always existing in both 1974 and 2004. Granted, you have to believe in time travel, but if you get past that, everything else is academic!

How does Ethan exist if Juliet's not there to deliver him?

I can name about 8 more occurrences where the Losties existence in the 1970's has to happen, but I think you get the point.

It's odd that you use Charlotte as an example to counter that "Whatever happened happened" when, in fact, it further proves that the Losties existence in the 70's shaped the way 2004-2007 is in this series. What exactly are you getting at, Lefty?

Benny said...

@adrian: I agree with you about the visions of the future. The concern for me is about the past he lives through in Flashes Before Our Eyes. Eloise admits of a previous encounter with Desmond that hadn't previously happened.
By being hit in the head instead of the bartender (by attempting to save him) created a different past for Desmond. Not a significantly different one, but a different one nonetheless. Just as he never originally bought the ring.

@lefty: Charlotte mentioned she believed she talked to Daniel when she was young. Now that she was young proves nothing, her statement suggests that adult Daniel has always been in the 1970s and has always tried to prevent her from coming back.

Blam said...

Thanks, Jarie!

And Nikki, I'm glad I helped and I'm flattered you thought enough of the explanation to spotlight it. You're more than welcome to kick our spider-bitten friends, but I think we already dumped them in the basement. You should have seen the strange look in their eyes.

I was originally going to say that we were littering, Benny, but that didn't seem right, hence the cookie crumbs.

Benny said...

@Adrian: I agree with your example of Ethan. But here's an odd thought.

1) If Juliet is not there, would Amy maybe become an Other and Ethan born an Other to a different father (Rom).
2) Or if she gets back to camp and eventually marries Horace and gets pregnant, could DHARMA bring her to the Others in order to save her delivery and thus Ethan is born with the influence of the Others (similar to what Ben may experience in the Temple).

This is too far fetched I think, but just an idea nonetheless.

Blam said...

I know how you feel, Mr. D., but take it from a fellow Brian: It's never too late. I didn't get to post any comments until more than 24 hours and 115 comments had passed.

Blam said...

Over on the DocArzt site, a poster called Icyone wrote:

The concept behind that conversation was that Hurley felt he was protected from harm because he’s in 1977 now and he knows he will exist in 2004, therefore he must survive.

This is the incorrect solution, of course, because 2004 Hurley is younger than 1977 Hurley, by which I mean, they are on their own timelines. ????-2007,1977-???? for the O6 time hoppers, and ????-2004,a bunch of time jumps,1974-???? for the non-O6 time hoppers.

That's the most concise and on-the-nose explanation yet, with the exception that, to avoid confusion, the initial ????, meaning birth date, should be XXXX, since everyone was born in different years but not necessarily unknown years, whereas the ???? for, if you will, dates of expiration truly have yet to be determined.

adrian said...

Benny: One of two things can be happening:

1. When Desmond wakes up after the Purple Sky Event back in the UK (really it was before the Purple Sky event obviously, but in the show's flow of story), one theory is that his consciousness has "traveled" back in time. He has full use of his free will and can actually remember his past and future. Therefore, he has the ability to change the past but inevitably makes the same major decisions to get back to the island (small changes in his life timeline aside). My first impression of this episode was of this theory. His consciousness goes back in time repeatedly every time the Purple Sky Event happens and he keeps on creating the same major path back to the island to fulfill this loop, even though he has memories of these past existences throughout these iterations.

2. Further thought put into this, I realize the aforementioned theory is absurd. First off, who wants to live the same existence over and over again, even if you don't remember everything about those prior trials through this loop? That sounds like lazy story telling, anyway. The simpler theory is to say that Hawking was there to make sure Desmond always buys the ring. Yes, that's right, buy it, not put it back. This is where the set-up is made in the story. It looks as though Hawking is aware of the past and future like Desmond, but she's not really. She has been told--most likely by her son, Faraday--that she needs to teach a valuable lesson to Desmond on such and such date to ensure Desmond makes it to the island. Since Faraday knows that Desmond can be aware of his and past and future, there needs to be a special way of teaching him so that he stays on the path (i.e course correction). This is how Hawking makes sure Desmond stays on his path. Not because she has to but because that's the way it always was. The rest of that episode is set up to make the audience think that Desmond keeps on going back in time again and again and the inevitable outcome is that he rejects Penny and goes off. However, those multiple times we see Penny slapping him in the face was actually him trying to get back with her after he initially said no to marriage (this was after that iconic picture of them was taken at the docks). Therefore, even though Des is "special," he's still trapped by the one timeline that exists.

As for Ethan, I honestly think he just dies without the aid of a real doctor at the DI, or Amy never makes it that far because she's either murdered by the two hostile thugs, kidnapped by them, or joins them (remember Sawyer saves her from them). Either way, she never gets to procreate with Horace.

Brian Douglas said...

I think that when Desmond's conciousness traveled back to 1996 (?), he didn't change anything. He only thought he was changing. Memory under normal circumstances is rather unreliable, and when your 1996-consciousness is trying to remember what his flash-backed 2004-consciousness did, it's probably more like trying to remember a dream. 1996-Desmond probably just wrote off any fuzzy memories he had to his head trauma.

oldrunner262 said...

Off the wall question:
When Ben gives Michael the list of Losties to bring to Dharmaville, why are the names: Hurley, Jack, Kate and Sawyer on the list while Jin and Sayid off of it? Ben knew who was in Dharmaville when he was a boy. Why did he only ask for those 4?

NanX said...

adrian said..
"How does Ethan exist if Juliet's not there to deliver him?"

Adrian, I was disappointed that Amy's baby was Ethan. I could see no purpose since we know Ethan's story. But then something dawned on me. We knew Ethan had been. Even if Juliet had not been there, Ethan would still have been born on that day, it was his time to be born. The one delivering Ethan might have changed but this to me proves what Daniel said. Daniel said, "It does not matter what we do. Whatever happened, happened."

I rarely see anyone quote Daniel's first sentence, "It does not matter what we do."

Benny said...

@NanX: But if Juliet and Sawyer hadn't traveled back to 1974, Amy would have likely been captured by the others and maybe killed/transformed. So they were always there to do so.

Daniel's statement of "It does not matter what we do. Whatever happened, happened." is to be taken as what we do here and now, we've always done, in an objective past kinda way. They didn't know it.

Brian Douglas said...

oldrunner: Jack was on the list because Ben needed a spinal surgeon. Kate and Sawyer were on the list because Ben needed them to manipulate Jack. Hurley was on the list because they needed someone to send back with a message to the survivors, and he was the least likely to cause trouble.

Teebore said...

*blush* Thanks Nikki! Glad I could help.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around course corrections in the 70s. It's tough because we don't know the entire "course" yet, so it's hard to know which details are getting changed along the road.

We knew Charlie was going to die, and we knew Desmond was going to the island, but we don't know yet what the Losties experience in the 70s.

NanX said...

Benny - I understand your supposition but I can make one too. Amy is captured by the others, turned over to Horace because she killed Paul, not the two others. Amy gives some convincing argument to why she killed Paul, maybe even Horace is in on it. They get married and three years later she has Ethan.

Time travel exists only in the imagination at this moment in 2009 - You can make your own kind of music, ie - your own kind of rules, which was the whole purpose to me of Miles and Hurley's conversation.

Anyway, if you believe what Miles said about one section, why not believe him about the other section and Ben can't die in 1977. Therefore, Jack did the right thing and Juliet, Kate and James did not. To me this just screams that Benjamin Linus is trying to change something. Something is up anyway. When Sayid shoots Little Ben, it is in the heart, on his left side. I just rewatched that segment. In WHH, Jin turns Ben over and the wound is on Little Ben's right side. When Juliet has him on the table bandaged, the bandages have moved when Sawyer picks him up. Is this whatever happened, happened?

Benny said...

NanX: That's exactly what I said last week and this week in reply to some posts. In fact I made various supposition turn theories last week.

You don't know what exactly has happened. So make the supposition you want, you can defend anything at this point.

The argument that stands to reason that nothing can be changed is Charlotte's statement that Daniel had warned her not to come back or she'd died. Her memory of that happens before they are stuck in 1974, suggesting their presence there was pre-conceived.

miranda Roberts said...

I think of it this way:
Let's say Sawyer was 35 in 2004. He got on the plane, lived on the island, etc. as a 35 year old.
He went back in time and lived as a 36, 37, 38 year old in 1974, 1975, 1976.

Of course a 35 year old doesn't remember what he did when he's 38. Just because the overall time got turned around doesn't mean his reality did. 35 comes before 38. Killing a 38 year old does nothing to the 35 year old he was 3 years ago.

Ben, however was (let's say) 40 in 2004. He was a teen in 1977. So killing a teen in 1977 would make the existence of him as a 40 year old impossible. A 40 year old should remember what happend to him as a teen. Unless there's some sort of amnesia, which from what Richard said, there may be.

NanX said...

[Charlotte is lying on the ground coughing while Daniel kneels beside her.]



CHARLOTTE: I’ve been here before.

DANIEL: You’ve been, been here before?

CHARLOTTE: I grew up here. On the Island. And there was this thing… this Dharma Initiative. I moved away with my mum. Just my mum; I never saw my dad again. Then when I got back to England I asked my mum about this place, yeah. But she would say that it wasn’t real and that I made it up. That’s why I became an anthropologist. To find this Island again. It’s what I’ve been searching for my whole life.

DANIEL: Charlotte. Why are you telling me this?

CHARLOTTE: Because I remember something now. When I was little, living here. There was this man, crazy man. He really scared me. And he told me that I had to leave the Island and never ever come back.[excited] He told me that if I came back I would die.

DANIEL: Charlotte. I don’t understand.

CHARLOTTE: Daniel. I think that man was you.

Benny - thank you for replying. Let's talk about Charlotte some. I got the above from a transcript but I want to tell you something. When I was a child, I heard adults talking and what they said scared me. That is still with me today. I stayed in a scared position for a very long time. I never forgot it, never will but when I got old enough, mature enough, I knew what I heard as a child was only scarey through a childs mind.

Charlotte talks about chocolate and Mum being mad at marrying an American and knowing more about Carthage. Charlotte's mind has been traveling same as her body to different regions. This is not an old memory of Daniel but a new one - BUT - she is not sure it is Daniel. She thinks it is Daniel. We think it is Daniel. But what if it isn't? Will this change anything? I have a hard time believing Charlotte would just remember something so scary as This Place is Death.

Lost is so much fun because you can speculate in so many different directions as you said, until the next chapter is actually shown.

Thanks again for the good discussion! :)

pete said...

One more time, please, for the dim-witted: Why doesn't Richard Alpert age?

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Richard Alpert feeds on the adrenal glands of Dick Clark.

pete said...

Thanks, Colleen! Now it all clear to me.

Bruce said...

To Brian Douglas:
You missed the point of my question. I think Ben remembered who was on the island when he was a young boy. His list to Michael was written in 2004. Why weren't Sayid and Jin on the list. I know why the other 4 were on it. I believe they were there because he remembered them from 1977.

Benny said...

@Bruce: I'm pretty sure the reason for Jack being on the list is because he is a neurosurgeon.

This makes sense because of the circumstances. As Ben says (even though he often lies), he found out he had a spinal tumor and the next day a surgeon crashed on the island.

Whether he remembered Jack or not, that's likely the main reason he was on the list. As for Kate and Sawyer, Jack would not have operated on Ben otherwise. Jack tells Kate that she once asked him to save Ben to protect Sawyer.

As for why Jin and Sayid were NOT on the list. My question is this: what would have been their purpose there. In the same vein, why would he have let Hurley go? He didn't need all of those he remembered from his past, just the surgeon, the girl that could manipulate him and the guy that could trigger feelings in the girl.

SonshineMusic said...

I just rewatched "The Constant" and now my head is literally spinning with time travel thoughts, especially in connection with this season. There's one thing in particular, though, that seems very connected to this whole discussion of whatever happened, happened.

In "The Constant" Daniel tells Desmond to go to Oxford as his 1996 self and talk to the '96 Daniel. However, the '04 Daniel doesn't remember this meeting as having taken place. Once Desmond talks to him, then '04 Daniel flips through his notebook and finds the note to himself that Desmond is his constant.

If time travels in a line, then why would the '04 Daniel not remember the '96 meeting when it was such a key moment for his research?
I've got two weird little theories that may not exactly answer that question, but are related :)

1- Desmond is in some way exempt from the normal rules of time travel. He is "special". He doesn't remember things from his past in the same way - we saw that when he wakes up in '07 and remembers the conversation he had with Daniel on the island by the hatch. This means that Daniel dooesn't remember the '96 meeting in'04 because it technically hasn't happened to Desmond yet. Does this mean that Desmond does have the potential to change things? How much different is he from the others?

2- The Daniel we see in '06 is actually just a consciousness jump of Daniel from a time between '96 and '04. He seems to specialize in mental time travel rather than physical time travel. Did he find a way to control sending himself forward in time so he could send Desmond to himself in '96? And is that why he seems to have disappeared from things in the 70's? Something to that effect.

In "The Constant" Daniel says, in reference to Desmond's flashes, "Sometimes it's a couple of hours, sometimes it's years." He has obviously seen this happen multiple times - more than just with his now-comatose girlfriend. I think he's experienced it himself, maybe even now (whenever now is). I think we're going to need a Daniel episode. I think he (and possibly Desmond) are the keys to the whole time travel quandary.

lefty said...

adrian said:

It's odd that you use Charlotte as an example to counter that "Whatever happened happened" when, in fact, it further proves that the Losties existence in the 70's shaped the way 2004-2007 is in this series. What exactly are you getting at, Lefty?

My point was this: the fact that any particular person is able to go back in time IS NOT ENOUGH to show that that person--or anyone else--has "always" been "in the past." Miles tries to convince Hurley that their conversation has happened before, that it "always" happened in 1974.

Unless you want to say that certain people have ALWAYS existed, you need to need concede that 1974 once came and went without a conversation between miles and hurley. For if Hurley was born 1977, he CANNOT exist in 1974--at least not the first time 1974 comes around. Perhaps it IS possible for him to go BACK in time once he exists. But 1974 had to come around at least once without Hurley in it, since he's born in 1977.

This is enough to show that the claim that "whatever happened happened" is false. Here's one thing that has happened: 1974 came and went without a conversation between miles and hurley. But then, after they go back in time, 1974 now FEATURES a conversation between them. So something has changed.

This is why course correction is a more important concept than "whatever happened happened."

Benny said...

@lefty: that's only if one assumes that time moves forward in our own chronology. That time moves with respect to the human perspective. That the entire universal history is being created as we experience it.

So in that concept, things can be changed. But the concept of being unstuck in time led to "Slaughterhouse Five". This is the main time-reality being referenced on the show, which suggests time/history is not as we experience but is something that comes into being already complete, like a book on the shelf.

The analogy of a book is simplified but works. Once you get a book in your hand, the story has been written; it has a beginning, middle and end. Human experience would compare to reading it from start to finish. That is, you don't know what will happen and you only have knowledge of what you have read. But one could decide to read chapter 7 first, then skip to the end, only to leave the beginning for last. God wrote the book.

From the human perspective, "Whatever happenED, happenED", is in past form. From the objective perspective presented so far on the show, the statement should be "Whatever is, is" without time conjugate: i.e. WWI has always happened, is always happening and will always happen, or "WWII is".

The truth is we don't know what is happening and won't know until we are told or at least contradicted on some theories. And that's all we can do is use clues and prior knowledge to theorize.

lefty said...

Books express propositions ABOUT objects and events. They don't contain said objects and events. So the metaphor is inapt. Whereas the book can easily ALWAYS refer to some object or another, that has nothing to do with whether that object ALWAYS exists.

Whether an object or event persists within a span of time depends on when that object came into existence, how and whether it persists, and whether time travel is possible. I concede all this.

What I'm saying is that in order to claim (e.g.) that the Hurley/Miles conversation ALWAYS happened (i.e., WHH, or "what happened happened), you need to claim that no one is ever born (starts to exist) or dies (ceases to exist). That will be a difficult premise to establish on the show, and I'll bet that they never try to establish it.

So I'll say it again: 1974 once came and went without a conversation between miles and hurley, and thus "whatever happened happened" is false.

adrian said...

lefty: I'm not going to concede that "a" 1974 passed without a Hurley and Miles in it. The conversation between Miles and Hurely always happened because 1974 always has Hurley and Miles in it. That's the whole point of a singular timeline theory, which is what Benny was getting at in his/her last post: There is no present tense when discussing everyone's actions in this story (major caveat being that this singular timeline theory is true). Anything that we have seen or will see on this show has already happened; it's been set in stone. There is no new or changed information in the show.

I'm certainly not saying that Darlton isn't allowed to change the rules and create whatever mythology they want, but the evidence we have seen in the show thus far points to a singular timeline theory (or what the cool kids are calling it: immutable timeline theory or Novikov Self-Consistency Principle). Read up on those if you're still confused.

adrian said...

Lefty: To your most recent post: you're mixing up points here. Just because an object exists in non-chronolgical order doesn't mean it has to exist forever. Never did anyone propose that because an object exists in two differenct time periods it is therefore infinite in its existence. You should read up on subjective and objective timelines.

Benny said...

you need to claim that no one is ever born (starts to exist) or dies (ceases to exist)

And that is the claim! Somewhat. Or more specifically that everyone, everywhere at every time is created within the same act, stamped into existence. In this sense, time is a physical dimension, and if the human mind did not have subjectivity attached to it, or rather linear memory, one could decide to visit what is happening in 2009, or in 1478, or 4590, the same as Billy Pilgrim and Desmond experienced it.

In the context of the scene, Hurley as a child is created in 1977, but there is also a Hurley at age 30 created in 1977*. In the same vein, there is a conversation stamped into existence that happens b/w Miles and Hurley in 1977, the adult version.

The suggestion is that 1977 does not happen before 2007, in fact they do not happen (event of consecutive creation) but rather exist at the same time. Using the concept of 'god', 'god' would have determined that in 1977 Hurley is born and in 2007, he goes back to 1977. That one happens before the other is only a constraint of the human mind, experiencing existence as timed, moving in one direction.

In the WHH posit, history is irrelevant, existence is the only relevant thing and everything just IS.

*In linearity, we would see individuals of corresponding age created in sequence to each other, that is not the case of Hurley an Miles (and everyone else).

adrian said...

Benny: went all the way to the non-existence of time! That'll teach 'em!

lefty said...

Benny said: The suggestion is that 1977 does not happen before 2007, in fact they do not happen (event of consecutive creation) but rather exist at the same time. Using the concept of 'god', 'god' would have determined that in 1977 Hurley is born and in 2007, he goes back to 1977. That one happens before the other is only a constraint of the human mind, experiencing existence as timed, moving in one direction.

Well, I guess that's the way it would HAVE to be, for all this mumbo jumbo to make sense. Too bad that's just too rife with counterintuitive implications to be persuasive. That is, the evidence we have that events CAUSE other events is much stronger than any evidence we could have for the vision of time you're limning. Not only does that vision entail the non-existence of time itself, but it entails the non-existence of persons, toasters, and other standard objects. Perhaps this is precisely what string theorists want you to believe, but it's not what we normal viewers can believe.

Last summer I was the biggest fan of Lost out there. Now I'm a fan that Lost lost.

lefty said...

benny said: Using the concept of 'god', 'god' would have determined that in 1977 Hurley is born and in 2007, he goes back to 1977.

Sorry, does that mean that your "timeless," WHH framework, events such as being born still occur? Or are events eliminated from this metaphysical view as well? I can't understand how events can occur without the flow of time as we mere humans typically conceive of it.

Brian Douglas said...

Time is not objective, but rather subjective. Einstein proved this with relativity. If I were on a high speed jet, and you were say, walking to the store, 5 minutes will pass for me, while 5 minutes and change will pass for you.

The implication of this is that there is no objective passage of time. Now, for you and me, 1977 happens before 2007. For Hurley, 2007 happens first.

Now if you assume that time travel is possible, then by extension all points in time must exist. You wouldn't be able to travel to the past if it no longer exists. You wouldn't be able to travel to the future if it doesn't exist yet. You can't travel someplace that doesn't exist.

Since nobody (to our knowledge) has traveled backwards in time, you might suggest that the universe creates each moment to time as it comes into being, then destroys it again. That is, afterall, how we experience time. But if there were true, then we would all experience the passage of time at the same rate, but relativity shows this false. Relativity is not just a theory, it has been experimentally proven to be true.

All points of time exist. As you read this, 1977 still exists. 2009 currently exists. 2050 already exists. To the universe, 1977 doesn't occur before 2007. Cause and effect is a human perception of events. If we viewed time backwards, it would be effect that resulted in cause.

Your argument that this is counterintuitive and thus cannot be holds no weight. Physics is full of things that our counterintutive. It is counterintuitive for a object to spontaneously move in a direction with no visible force on it, yet I don't think anyone doubts the existance of gravity. Its counterintuitive for an object to exhist at two points at the same time, but all electrons do this all the time. We look at the universe with blinders, and we cannot simply assume that the way we see it is the way it exists.

adrian said...

lefty: *sigh*...sorry, Lefty, that you can't wrap your head around this, but it's really not that hard to understand. Benny's theories do not have any holes in them. There is no counterintuitive logic in there. You're still not thinking about it in the correct manner. Benny only brought up the absence of time, so that you would step away from the temporal aspects of the actions of our Losties. When discussing time travel, you should look at the events as part of a static picture (i.e. no time involved)...more or less like a graph with an equation already plotted out.

Again, you should read up on the immutable timeline theory, Novikov Self-Consistency Principle and time travel in general. Real physicists, philosophers and other very intelligent people have discussed time travel and its implications ad nauseam before Lost was even conceived as an idea for a show. Lost is not breaking new ground here, but, in fact, keeping consistent with these more sound time travel theories than any other form of mainstream media. I'm saddened that you consider yourself a lost fan simply because you're confused about how they're setting up this time travel.

Benny said...

Brian/adrian: thanks for stepping in, didn't have time to do reply yet. But that's right, the human perception of time is what some individuals have trouble liberating themselves from.

In the same sense, causality is how we, as linear beings, perceive the existence. In many predestiny-based faiths, causality is only a higher being in disguise so that the things we see/experience make sense to us.

And Brian, to the effect of objective time, we should probably concede that the use of the word may not be completely accurate. I certainly understand about relativity. My own reason for its use is to designate the perception of existence by someone who is indeed not affected by the laws of the universe/physics/time/etc., someone who is not part of the event. Or, one who has an objective view of our universe and existence.

lefty said...

All, I concede that I may be too think to comprehend all this. My point is that it's a shame that I need to go through this for y'all to edify me. Not that it matters, but I am literally a phd professional philosopher. Yes, I work in moral and political theory, so I have long ago dropped the pretense that I might understand metaphysics.

@adrian: It's one thing to offer arguments (as you have been doing), but it's another to claim that these matters have been settled by "Real physicists, philosophers and other very intelligent people." There is plenty of debate about the A theory and the B theory, and all I've been doing is invoking the intuitions behind the A theory while the rest of you beat the drums for the B theory. Perhaps the B theory is right--and if it's wrong, it's true that something must be said about relativity--but it's not crazy to think that the passage of time is an objective feature of the world.

lefty said...

I said: All, I concede that I may be too think to comprehend all this.

Too thick, that is.

Benny said...

@lefty: it's not that we're unconditionally beating the drums on a single theory. We're just defending something that, on repeated occasions, you've attempted to discredit. And we find it worth it to rise to its defense.

Some of my earlier posts defend the idea that time can be changed or altered, or even reiterated. And I believe that in the grand scheme of things that is what may happen.

But you've just written that the WHH theory is wrong, unfounded and impossible. We're suggesting that it may not be so and present our own defense of it.

Nikki Stafford said...

:::sniffle::: Just when I thought I was starting to get all of it, I just plowed through this list of comments, and... gulp.

To quote Buffy: "Fire bad. Tree pretty."

Jazzygirl said...

I'm with you Nikki...I just read through all these recent comments and I think everyone needs to take a deep breath. You're on the verge of personal attack and I would HATE to see that on here. One of the reasons I come here is because it doesn't happen on this blog.
Everyone has a right to defend their own beliefs. I have always liked how people on here amicably discuss things. This is getting dangerously close to fighting. Let's play nice, kids.
After all, it's a TV show. :)
I have enjoyed everyone's explanations and I do wholeheartedly thank everyone who has offered their best explanation of time travel stuff. After reading all this, I know who's ideas make the most sense to me, especially in the scheme of this show...but I'm not going to say because I don't want to add fuel to the fire that's burning. As Nikki said, Fire bad.
P.S. The funny thing is that I'm watchin Star Trek NG and it's an episode about time travel! LOL!

Jazzygirl said...

On a lighter note, I just checked Jorge Garcia's blog and they finished shooting the finale last week. Very exciting!

Brian Douglas said...

Benny: I was using the word "objective" in the sense that there is a single, universal time.

lefty: The Novikov self-consistency principle is the generally accepted by the scientific community. The closest thing to the alternate theory your suggesting is the many-worlds interpretation. In this case, there would be two universes, which I'll call Universe A and Universe B. In Universe A, let's say Hurley did not travel back to 1977. In Universe B, let's say he did. However, in Universe B, there always is a Hurley in 1977, just as discussed above. Even in the many-worlds interpretation, the Novikov self-consistence principle will still hold. But what if Hurley traveled from 2007 in Universe A to 1977 in Universe B? Well, that's not really time travel. He's not traveling to his past.

This may or may not be the case, but it is what some very smart people who have spent a lot of time thinking about time have to say about the issue, and is there best guess as to the way things are.

Ali Bags said...

@Benny The analogy of a book is simplified but works. Once you get a book in your hand, the story has been written; it has a beginning, middle and end. Human experience would compare to reading it from start to finish. That is, you don't know what will happen and you only have knowledge of what you have read. But one could decide to read chapter 7 first, then skip to the end, only to leave the beginning for last. God wrote the book.

I love your book analogy, Benny - and it's particularly appropriate to Lost.Remember the Book of Laws Richard presented to Locke as part of that test when he was a child? I've always thought that had some significance - maybe suggesting that the Others have always known what has happened and what is going to happen.(although that seems to have been disproved with Richard Alpert's surprise at Sawyer's appearance in LaFleur)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Now if you assume that time travel is possible, then by extension all points in time must exist. You wouldn't be able to travel to the past if it no longer exists. You wouldn't be able to travel to the future if it doesn't exist yet. You can't travel someplace that doesn't exist.

Exactly. I think this theory would be cool to explain the idea of ghosts - people don't see the spirits of the dead, they see glimpses into another time.

I think the important thing for Lost is that they remain consistent to the time travel theory they embrace, whether it be whatever happened, happened, or parallel universes splintering off when time is changed etc.

In any case, I'm enjoying the ride. Even if they don't have a Tardis (or even if the Island is a big Tardis). :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Jazzy: LOL! Actually, I was referring to Buffy when a concept has gone over her head or when her mind has gone numb, and she says all she can think is Fire bad, tree pretty to try to get her head back on track. :)

But yes, this is definitely a nice place to visit, and I like it staying that way.

That said, I think this conversation has been pretty respectful so far. There's some frustration, but no one has resorted to name-calling or sounds exasperated with another person. We've had some of those commentators on here before, and this thread isn't anything like that. So bravo, everyone, for discussing a frustrating and difficult (and dividing) concept without flaming each other.

I think it was adrian up above who brought up the Slaughterhouse-Five concept, and to that I say EXACTLY. Ever since I read that book in the context of The Constant I think it's pivotal to understand this show. The protagonist is unstuck in time and keeps blooping around to various points in his life (unlike the jumping on the island, he never jumps to a time outside of his life) and there's no other version of himself, it's just him. The difference is, when he goes back 10 years, he's 10 years younger; his subjective timeline and objective timeline are one and the same (sort of... while his body is younger, his mind still knows what's happening and remembers seeing this before, so his mind is older than it was before), he just keeps visiting them. But he KNOWS what's going to happen, and has decided there's nothing he can do to stop it. Stepping onto a plane that's going to crash into a mountain, he steps on it anyway, figuring it's going to happen, it's always happened, so why try to stop it?

Anonymous said...


Nikki Stafford said...

Anonymous: Well said!!

Brian Douglas said...

Nikki: I think it's because we all realise that it is a tricky concept to wrap your head around. As lefty said, it is counterintuitive. Learning to go against your intutition is what I think the hardest part of physics. As a little green man once said, you must unlearn what you have learned.

Hisham said...

@Brian Douglas:
Interestingly enough, I was just thinking about the possibility of more than one universe. Call it parallel universes if you will.
I remember reading about a theory that suggests that "similar beginnings lead to similar results," and assumes there are several other Earths in the universe, all going forward in time, and maybe with the same people. Only slight differences can be found here or there. For example, on Earth 36, Germany actually developed a nuclear bomb before America and bombed, say, London, Washington, and Moscow and won the war. On Earth 4, Nikki is South African not Canadian, and I am Italian not Egyptian. You get the picture.
I find it very interesting that you suggest that the Losties traveled back in time "to a different universe," which is a cool way to explain a lot of things. I once read an Arabic sci-fi novel where that exactly happens.
Ms. Hawking said that the Island was always moving. It can't be moving around the world with a tour guide of course, so it is moving in time. This suggests that the Island itself can't exist twice in the same time; there can't be two Islands. So what if the Island (a unique creating of God or a self-created place or whatever) is the only "thing" that can travel back and forth between universes?
I hope I'm making sense and I'd like to know your thoughts.

Jazzygirl said...

Nikki, I agree completely. And I don't think anyone was attacking anyone else. Perhaps it's the teacher in me, but I just wanted to throw water on the smoldering embers before they erupted into a fire. :) And I thought that was a Buffy reference (sorry, I never watched) but it was appropriate to use. LOL!
Can't wait for tonight!

Anonymous said...

ok so I have read through these comments twice and would it make me a total idiot to actually say that I still dont get it??? SIGH :-(

Benny said...

@Anonymous: I don't think it would. I think there are more than just two opposing views in here and I don't think that being a fan of time travel science fiction would help a lot.

The debate has gone beyond the realm of 'context' and has taken a turn for the more philosophical implications and physical possibilities (and probabilities). I think it might be worth it to write a simplification of the various points of views, and graphical representations, being discussed here. I certainly wouldn't mind doing so.

@Jazzgirl/Nikki/others...: I feel that the embers analogy is somewhat apt. I don't think anyone was going to resort to name-calling, we're all smart enough to avoid it. But this is evolving into an interesting and passionate debate topic and is likely not going to be resolved by any of our arguments.

The truth is, we don't know which way the writers are taking it, and if they want to stick to the realm of current physical possibilities and proof, the WHH route may be best. If they want to take it to a different, more philosophical/metaphysical direction, than that the past can be changed would be one possibilities.
There are certainly other versions of each (the one lefty presents being one). And whichever way they take it should be fine by us if explained, after all it is a fictional TV show, as Jazzgirl said.

lefty said...

OK, I've been trying--in between work tasks--to wrap my head around some of the implications of the view WHH framework. Let me see if I can articulate some of things that still puzzle me.

I have two main sets of questions. The first concern numerical identity (i.e. what makes an entity the same entity over time, or what makes two putative entities actually one in the same entity [e.g. "the morning star" = "the evening star" = venus, to use Frege's example]). The second concerns the paradox of self-infanticide.

Let's start with numerical identity. One of my main concerns was that if we go with the WHH/All-times-Are-Ontologically-Real framework, we would--if we allow time travel--lose our ability to individuate objects. For example, although I can change my hair-color (or my body build or the shape of my nose, etc.) and still be me, this is because who I am essentially turns not on those accidental features of me, but rather on the fact that I am the product of THAT sperm and THAT egg joining all those years ago. If a different sperm had joined with the same egg (or the same egg with a different sperm, or two different sperm and egg), the entity that would have resulted would not have been me--it would have been someone else (just as my brother is not me, but rather someone else). (This is the most commonly used conception of numerical idenity used in academic philosophy today. See Kripke's _Naming and Necessity_)

OK. Now. I was worried that if this is the way we go about individuating humans (i.e. by treating some HISTORICAL fact setting the conditions for numerical idenity), then we face difficulties if we allow time-travel within a WHH framework. For if Hurley successfully time-travels to 1974, he has ALWAYS been in 1974. But his parents have not (let's assume) gotten together before then, and so cannot have produced Hurley before 1974. The WHH framework seems to lead to the view that he just--POOF!--pops into existence in 1974 and out of existence in 2004.

Now, I guess I'm fine with that in general. But I'm consumed by the following questions: So where does Hurley come from? What makes Hurley Hurley (in 1974)? What are the criteria of numerical identity in the WHH framework? Unless we can answer these question--and I really hope you guys have some cool answers--then I have a hard time seeing why we have reason to treat Hurley-2004 and Hurley-1974 as THE SAME person? The connection between those two entities seems so tenuous and bizarrely linked that it drives me toward wondering if there is any reason to think Hurley-2004 is more linked to Hurley-1974 than he is to (e.g.) Me-2009. Here's why: imagine that Hurley's hair had changed color during the trip from 2004 to 1794. We would not treat this change as implying that the identity of the underlying person has changed. And this is for the Kripke's reason that we rightly trace underlying identity back to the event of sperm-egg unification. But in the WHH framework, the idea of "tracing back" seems utterly misplaced. In what way, within that framework, does it make sense to trace the identity of Hurley-1974--a Hurley who has, it is claimed, ALWAYS existed in 1974--"back" to an event that occurs nine months before his birth in 1977? But if the WHH framework does not allow this form of "tracing back," it is unclear what criteria of identity we are using. And if we have no firm criteria, it is unclear why we are entitled to say that Hurley-2004 and Hurley-1974 are THE SAME PERSON. It seems equally valid to say that Jack-2004 and Hurley-1974 are the same person. Yet that is obviously absurd.


Finally, a question about self-infanticide. It has been claimed that the WHH framework requires the truth of the self-consistency principle. This entails (it is claimed) that you cannot travel back in time and kill yourself as a baby. You can't do this because if you die as a baby, you won't be alive later and so cannot later go back in time at all. But now note that in traveling back in time, you are essentially popping out of existence in 2009 and popping into existence in (say) 1977. So now my question: in the WHH framework (assume it can answer my first set of questions), the idea of "ceasing to exist"--which we typically associate with death--is quite slippery. Could we therefore hold onto our idea of death as ceasing to exist here and now, and allow the possibility self-infanticide as long as the person who is killed eventually pops back into existence (i.e., is "born again") at some point between being killed and going back in time to do the killing?

(i realize that a new episode is upon us; but I hope we don't lose the thread of this discussion. if these questions are still relevant after tonight's episode, and if attention turns to Niki's new thread for that episode, I may repost this in that new thread.)

adrian said...


For point 1: I can't add anything else to this question except: this is the essence of time travel. To the folks in 1977, Hurley did, in fact, inexplicably pop into existence from nowhere. Does that make him essentially different from the Hurley that existed in 2007? No. Hurley's subjective timeline is always continuous (and I think that's where you're having the largest issue with all of this) even though his objective timeline isn't. All Benny and I are trying to say is that, because Hurley always existed in 1974, he always has to travel back in time 2007. Without one, you can't have the other. Everything is interconnected even though it seems discontinuous on the an objective, linear timeline.

For point 2: No, it's still assumed that causality is an essential part of this time travel scenario. Killing yourself as a child will form a paradox. This is why I believe the writers set up this show's form of time travel the way they did. No one in the story is in control of when they pop up. They have no conscious decision to ever time travel. They're simply dragged along through time. This sets up a simple yet very important constraint on the time travelers' actions. If someone were given the control over time travel and were able to do it whenever they wanted, all of these paradoxes would come into play. However, since the Losties' time travel is set up in a way where they have no control when they time travel and when they end up, we can have slightly more confidence that the immutable timeline theory holds well in this mythology. This obviously means that these paradoxes can still happen. Faraday may have tip-toed on the paradox side by prematurely talking to Desmond when he was still holed up in the Swan station (it's still arguable that this is the way it always was), but now there is really no opportunity for the Losties to interact with their younger selves (or even parents, grandparents, etc.) given the time of their time travel and their relatively secluded location.

Benny said...

@lefty: to further adrian's explanation of point 1, you have to stop thinking of time as actually progressing. In the WHH scenario, time does not exist, let alone time travel. The name of 'time' comes from explaining how we, as humans, perceive existence. So time travel is neither time nor travel, it is the natural existence of the whole, one's existence spans those seemingly disjoint [temporal] spaces.

When you travel from New York to London, your existence in NY stops randomly and you disappear. In London, you just seem to appear. In this case your travel (plane ride over the Atlantic) is visible as people from NY see you take off and those in London see you land.

In the case of time traveling, the same is true, replace the name of the cities with timestamps and the Atlantic (void of land) represents the period b/w the two stamps.

The numerical identity of an individual is not created at one specific point in time, it is created at all points in time at the creation of the universe. From year 0, the universe/god has decided that Hurley will have the num. id. X and his presence will span 'birth'-2007/1977-'death' (assuming he dies in the past). The 2007/1977 physical existences will be linked by a singularity which will be perceived by said individual as time traveling.

From Kripke's perspective, time is thought of as moving in one direction and causality as being significant. Cause=sperm+egg, effect=someone's existence. But the entire history should be perceived as a block. Think of a word you write in cursive, starting with the first letter and chaining every other letter consecutively. When you write a sentence, you write a set of joined words. But if you have a stamp of that word, you can't tell which art came first, the word just appeared on the page. That stamp is existence as it is and human life in time is tracing over it. You do it from beginning to end but in fact you're only following what's been determined.

As for point 2, the idea is that even if you thought your intentions were to kill yourself as 10 yr. old, you wouldn't be able to, it was determined that you weren't successful, since whatever hapenned when you were 10, you didn't die.

Benny said...

Sorry if it's a little be chaotic, I was in a hurry before the airing.

Blam said...

I think that Miranda's explanation is the best yet: "Let's say Sawyer was 35 in 2004. He got on the plane, lived on the island, etc. as a 35 year old. He went back in time and lived as a 36, 37, 38 year old in 1974, 1975, 1976. Of course a 35 year old doesn't remember what he did when he's 38. ..."

Go back and read the whole thing if you missed it. Everybody forget my analogy and listen to her. I brought up character's ages when trying to explain things to a friend, but I was tired and it didn't come off nearly as elegantly and simply as this.

What seems to be the final hurdle for some folks, Lefty most vocally, who can't quite understand or "accept" the way that time and time travel appear to be set up on Lost — and no offense; that's just for lack of better words — is that while time is linear, in that it's a line, it's not progressively linear, as it would be if the "right" side, a.k.a. the future, were actually dependent on the "left" side, a.k.a. the past, the way most of us read or draw number lines.

The events of 2007 follow the events of 1977 on Lost for most people, just as they do for us, on both conceptual and physical levels. Indeed, thinking and moving bodily backwards through time — or even forward at any rate other than that at which we live — in our 3D world is as impossible to us as moving up and down through the height dimension would be for people in a 2D world who can only move forward and back through length on their world of a flat sheet of paper.

[Let me interject that the moving backwards part isn't like rewinding or walking backwards. It's actually blipping out and blipping in years before — or ahead, as happens when exiting the FDW chamber, which has been largely ignored in this discussion — and moving forward again. Memento isn't really told "backwards"; we just use that as a shorthand, because it skips to scenes set progressively earlier.]

For Lost, or so it would appear, this line was called into existence all at once. It's not like a line of dominoes or railroad tracks where the "future" is predicated on the past being built. (Okay, I know railroads were actually built to meet in the middle so work could be done on both halves simultaneously. And I realize that when playing dominoes you can shoot out from the side, but it's useful to think of what we normally imagine when thinking of the timeline as relying on causality like dominoes, where the next piece depends on having a number matching the previous piece.) The timeline of Lost's universe was created by God or the Cosmic Whatever all of a piece. Hurley did have to be born like everybody else, but all that matters for agreement in this absolute equation is that there's a birth point, a death point, and, for the few people who are shunted from one point in time to another abnormally, that you can connect the dots.

Even if time can somehow be changed in small ways and thus "course correction" exists as some kind of universal self-defense mechanism like Eloise Hawking suggested, the very same moment that a disturbance occurred at one point, little bits of the line further down would be changed so that everything was in agreement, as if, to mix some metaphors, the whole line was a voodoo doll that reacted to itself instantaneously. You could say that it's not so much "Whatever happened, happened," as "Whatever is happening, is happening," and that any action is correct or will be corrected faster than nerves shoot through you so that your brain realizes immediately that you just stubbed your toe.

This could even work in terms of memory, so that if Daniel told Desmond something "new" in the past, Desmond would suddenly "remember" it in the future at some equivalent point that would make sense if we knew the underlying cosmic mechanism or the writers didn't screw up. (What makes the most sense to me is that equivalent subjective time is involved, although we all wondered why Desmond recalled it three years after he left the island when Daniel had only seen him in the Hatch in the past a day or so after Daniel experienced Desmond leaving. Maybe the time-displacement field around the Island messed with that.)

I tend to believe that the universe nudges us in the right direction, but not that our fates are utterly preordained. While it's comforting to believe that whatever happened was supposed to happen in the natural and cosmic order of things, somehow I can hold that belief simultaneously with the belief that we possess free will and can make choices that are not forced upon us, just as I believe in science and observed truths as well as a higher power and planes of existence beyond those we can measure.

I hope that this pops up naturally in the Comments section of Nikki's post on the new episode too, Lefty, or if that feels inorganic that we continue to talk about this here. Nikki's post just went up because I took so long banging this out, in fact, so let me post a pointer there and leave it up to her to issue an edict either way.

Blam said...

One more thing:

I'm not actually convinced that the characters who jumped into the past were "always" there, by the way. The explanation I gave above would describe how, even if they weren't there in the über-past of the all-of-a-piece timeline -- a snapshot of the whole timeline that we as a godlike being took a few weeks ago -- their arrival in 1977 would instantly trip all relevant future points, like a circuitbreaker, to positions (realities) that reflected their arrival. And by definition their arrival and whatever it did to the right side of the timeline beyond 1977 wouldn't bend the timeline beyond recognition, but rather be absorbed somehow.

Even beyond what I describe or defend above, however, I'm not sure that the past is really immutable beyond the constraints of "course correction". I still think it's possible that Mrs. Hawking was lying or incorrect, that Alex's death wasn't supposed to happen, that even if the Oceanic bunch's arrival in 1977 is acceptable reality-shifting we may yet see actions that break the timeline as it "should" be, or even that their arrival in 1977 itself screwed with things. We really don't have anything beyond Darlton's pronouncement of one inviolate timeline to go on, and I didn't even hear that myself, so we could yet see branching alternate timelines or the sort of past-changing paradox that Hurley was worried would have him vanish like Marty McFly.

Benny said...

Blam: I heard them say it. They can still come around and find a caveat in their proposition. But to the extent of who's heard them say there was only one timeline, I did.

Blam said...

I wasn't doubting it, Benny -- or suggesting that if I didn't hear it it didn't happen -- but the confirmation is appreciated. Really it was just a cover-my-ass aside because I didn't know the wording but wanted to acknowledge that I knew the proclamation had occurred.

Benny said...

Don't worry, I was just confirming and certainly not calling you out on it!

adrian said...

Blam: I was with you for a while there, but then you went back to the mutable side. If we are to have a static timeline (i.e. immutable), then the timeline cannot change, regardless of the time travel that is happening with our Losties. In order for the timeline to change, then the timeline would have to also experience time...I guess meta-time. If the Losties can change the past, then that means the timeline has a past and a future, which seems impossible if we're talking about a one and only timeline. What you're suggesting then is a multi-verse theory.

Blam said...

Adrian: Blam: I was with you for a while there, but then you went back to the mutable side. If we are to have a static timeline (i.e. immutable), then the timeline cannot change, regardless of the time travel that is happening with our Losties. In order for the timeline to change, then the timeline would have to also experience time...I guess meta-time. If the Losties can change the past, then that means the timeline has a past and a future, which seems impossible if we're talking about a one and only timeline. What you're suggesting then is a multi-verse theory.

I did refer to über-time ("meta-time" is better) and you're right about how, in a way, yet another dimension of perspective would be added.

The concept may be freaky, but -- and I'm not saying this is case -- if the timeline's big picture is inviolate but details can be changed, then you would have the situation I described: One snapshot we took of the entirety of spacetime would look one way, and then after some anomaly occurred some details throughout the timeline would instantly change and our snapshot would look a bit different. My analogy for this would be a word-processing document that is static in length, whose general subject can't be altered and to which you can't actually add any paragraphs, but you could do find-and-replace on a word with a synonymous equivalent, only by clicking the "change all" option, so that the word replacement would happen simultaneously, changing that detail but not the overall gist of the document.

I tend to favor the multiverse theory and branching dimensions where time travel is concerned, but we're not the ones creating the model here; we're just trying to complete the blueprint from what's been given to us.

lefty said...

adrian said: Hurley's subjective timeline is always continuous (and I think that's where you're having the largest issue with all of this)

Nothing in my most recent longish post suggested I was having a hard time with this. I was simply asking about how the WHH framework answers certain metaphysical questions that need answers. I fail to see how questions about numerical identity are answered in the WHH framework. Maybe that means the framework entails that those questions don't make sense. But I fail to see how that is the case as well.