My Grand Theory of Everything

Mad scientist working on a Grand Theory of Everything

Mad scientist working on a Grand Theory of Everything

This is my grand theory of everything — from time travel to destiny — in LOST.

I’m starting with the premise that the writers want to avoid major time-travel paradoxes, that they don’t want to deal with problems such as a character being his own grandfather, or killing his mother before he was born, etc. Damien and Carlton have said as much, in one of their interviews (see this video starting at 4:05), and I’m going to take them at their word.

As part of that premise, I’m going to assume that the characters that we know were on Flight 815 cannot be killed while time-traveling in the past to any time prior to Flight 815.

For example, in LaFleur, Sawyer, while trying to rescue Amy, narrowly escaped being shot by an Other. Juliet killed the Other and saved Sawyer’s life. But what if Juliet hadn’t been there and instead, Sawyer had been killed?

It couldn’t happen. If Sawyer was killed in the 1970s, he could not be alive in 2004, and the future would have to be altered. That would create the kind of classic time-travel paradox problem that the show wants to avoid.

Therefore, even if Juliet hadn’t saved Sawyer’s life, his life would have been saved in some other way — because Sawyer simply could not be killed. No one would be “allowed” to kill him, and he would not be “allowed” to kill himself.

That means the characters, while they are traveling in the past, do not have total freedom. They lack, to a certain extent, free will. And that is because they are in the past.

Now, think about how this compares to the way the characters act in the present, and something very strange emerges. Even in the present, the characters appear to lack free will. Locke talks often about “destiny,” about what the Island compels them to do. Even Jack is starting to come around to that point of view. Christian Shephard told Locke that Locke was supposed to turn the wheel, not Ben. Ben said they all had to go back. Eloise Hawking said they could do it only in a certain specific way.

All these characters believe that their actions are constrained. But this is exactly the same thing that happens to characters who are time-traveling in the past!

So why should this also be happening in the present?

How about this: Perhaps the present may not really be the present.

Think about how we watch the show. The show started with the crash of Flight 815, and that became our reference point for the timeline of the story. We saw Flight 815 and the subsequent events on the Island as being in the present. We saw the flashbacks as being in the past, and the flashforwards as being in the future.

But what if Flight 815 is not really the present, for the characters? What if their actual “present” is really decades after Flight 815 took off? What if all their experiences that we’ve seen, including the crash of Flight 815, are all part of the past to the people involved? What if they have been time-traveling in the past all along?

That would explain why their actions are as limited as the actions of the time travelers — because they are time travelers themselves. It might explain why all the Oceanic 6 had to go back, and why the conditions on Flight 315 had to replicate the conditions on 815 so closely. It would certainly explain Locke’s preoccupation with the idea of “destiny.”

If this theory is right, what happens to Locke on the Island would, in fact, be predetermined – because it has actually already happened. But what if Locke didn’t know that? What if he wasn’t aware that he was time traveling in the past?

Then he would have to grope for another explanation for why he sensed that he couldn’t exercise free will. He’d have to use concepts that were familiar to him — concepts such as destiny and fate. To Locke, it would appear that it was destiny that was pulling his strings.

Cool picture of the mad scientist via Wikiepdia. GNU FDL.

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13 responses to “My Grand Theory of Everything

  1. They can die this was all explained in season 5 episode 12.

  2. Michael tried to kill himself when he left the island but he couldn’t do it – the gun wouldn’t fire. That ties in with the theory of them not having freewill and that they are following a pre-destined route…

  3. Michael couldn’t kill himself because he had to save the Oceanic 6. If the Oceanic 6 died, then they would never have travelled back in time and contributed to the past that brought Michael to the island (I’m assuming that the incident that necessitates the Swan station’s button involves Kate and Jack), back home, and to the brink of suicide.
    Sawyer couldn’t have died, because he had to partake in the past which caused the 2004 events, which in turn, allowed then to time travel.
    As there seems to be no time paradoxes in Lost, these things are destined to happen. However, people are variables and they make decisions contrary to destiny (or constants). Their efforts will always fail to change the constants. Locke was miraculously healed because he had to be able-bodied in the past to do what he did. Anthony Cooper (in an unintentional sense) tried to alter the past, by almost killing Locke. He failed, as Locke travelling back in time is a constant.

    • Welcome, Paul, to ‘Lost for a reason.’

      It certainly seems that many have tried, and failed, to change destiny. To that extent that is always true, then any free will they might have would be insignificant.

      What’s changed, though, since the time I wrote this post, is that we now know for sure that characters who were alive in 2004 can be killed in the past. That’s assuming that Faraday is really dead, as he appears to be.

  4. Hi,
    I broadly disagree with yr hypothesis. For the Oceanic Six, Sawyer and his DhaRMA party1977 is thier present.

    The basic underlying principle is that what may be your present is a past for somebody else at a different point of time. So events in season 5 have been mostly what was always supposed to happen. its an endless time loop. if you understand what i am trying to say.

    Michael couldn’t kill himself coz the island didnt let him. he had to save the survivors. So faraday can be killed cox this is his presnt,not his past. ppl like ben cannot be– as their future self are supposed to be there. so it may seems that events are preordained. but they are not. Like faraday said, this has happened before, it is just that it is happening to them now

  5. Welcome, Siddhartha!

    So are you saying that after Faraday was killed in 1977, then he was reborn several months later, and followed the course of his life just as we’ve seen it, not being allowed to play the piano, going to Oxford and then the Island and then flashing back in time and being shot, and then being reborn again, over and over?

    If there is an endless time loop, then wouldn’t everything be preordained? Unless things could happen differently each trip around the loop.

  6. yep… that is what happened.

    There is a catch here. Its not preordained. It has already happened. Think of it like a scheme of things which has happened. there is no way to change it. u change yr future by yr actions but u cannot change yr past.
    a line drawn is drawn. u may circle back to any pt back in the line but u cant change the line. 😉

    Eloise, faraday’s mother realises this and thats why she lets him go for the trip.

  7. also faraday wd not have memory of his actions in the past, so the loop stays. 😀

  8. As far as I can see, if something has already happened, and then it happens again and it has to happen the same way as it did before — then it IS preordained.

    You see what I mean?

    If Faraday, on a previous trip through the loop, went to 1977 and confronted Richard, then on his next trip through the loop, he would have to confront Richard again, because it already happened, right?

    So it would be preordained that he confronts Richard, each time he passes through 1977.

  9. hmmm. as far as i understand, preordained means that a path is set for u and u follow the path.

    So in a way u can say that this is true for faraday, but its not true for others (locke and his current party if they dont go back in time, jack and party if they come back to normal time)

    What they are currently doing in the show is living in the past (1977, but not their past), acting in their present which in a way would shape both their past (post crash time) and present and possibly future (if they ever escape back to 2007 and later on)

    So the show in no way advocates destiny. Its more like filling the hole in the event timeline. Once that is done, these characters may possibly move forward.

    At this juncture, i do not foresee any happy ending for all of them. Their lives, minds are scarred by the island and the timeloop and it wd be impossible for them to recover to a better lifestyle. Maybe we wd have these guys form the others in the past or the future. But most of them are gonna stay on the island, dead or alive.

  10. I’m trying to wrap my mind around all that … 😉

    What made the holes in the event timeline?

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