Analysis: 4.5 The Constant

Mystery is a constant in Lost, but as promised we were going to start receiving answers. With The Constant we were properly introduced to not one Minkowski, but two – and the pair of them combined delivered some tremendous insight. Sayid asked Desmond what he thought he would find on the freighter. “Answers,” was the reply. So to the freighter, for answers, we shall journey. Hold on tight. This ride can be a little bumpy. . .

The first Minkowski, George Minkowski, turned out to be unable to come to the phone because he and his buddy Brandon had taken a trip closer to the Island and fried their brains in the yo-yo of consciousness time-travel. George proved useful in showing that Desmond was not unique in his mind-travel antics. He also provided a plot pressure point by dying, like a white rat, as Desmond would certainly have done had he not completed his mental circuit time loop with the lovely Penny.

Old George also managed to indicate that the saboteur on the boat – Ben’s “man”, no doubt – was quietly aiding Sayid and Desmond (after having gone crazy in the communications room). “Looks like you guys have a friend on this boat,” said George. This aiding and abetting gathers more evidence to support the idea that Ben’s man on the boat is this guy.

Quite what he’s up to, however, is anyone’s guess.

The real Minkowski of this episode, though, is Hermann Minkowski; the scientist who theorised about the oneness of space and time. Fret not, I’ll be keeping this simple. Before this brief explanation is done you’ll probably realise how it equates to Desmond. See, what Hermann Minkowksi figured out was that there wasn’t really such a thing as time. Rather the whole universe is like a photograph, just in 4-D. Everything happens/is happening/happened at once, in an instant.

That’s hard to imagine, right? Which is why we require a sense of time. Of one thing following another. We experience event after event in a linear fashion. Our brains can’t cope with the ‘everything happening at once’ concept. But working on the principle that everything is all happening at once, then Desmond’s experiences (in Flashes Before Your Eyes and The Constant) are that of a consciousness breaking loose of the linear rationalisation of time and gaining awareness of the oneness of space and time.

"Your perception of how long your friends have been gone is not necessarily how long they've actually been gone." - Daniel Faraday

Unfortunately, as George Minkowski and a white rat can attest, cramming that level of awareness into a human brain is like trying to pour an ocean into a thimble – it doesn’t fit. And so what we saw here was Desmond trying to re-connect with a linear view of time by completing the mental circuit of his ‘past’ and his ‘present’ by the one constant, Penny, before his brain overloaded. Thankfully Desmond succeeded, but it wouldn’t have been the case were it not for one man: Daniel Faraday. More specifically a younger, less of a “head case” Daniel Faraday.

As mentioned in previous analyses, Dan clearly has memory problems. The suggestion is that exposure to radiation twenty times a day for who knows how long has seriously affected his memory. On the bright side this did avoid any time paradox inconveniences. Having Desmond turn up eight years before he goes to the Island no doubt bolstered Dan’s scientific research and genius enough to make it essential for him to journey to the Island in the first place, but then he promptly went and forgot about it.

If anything goes wrong Desmond Hume will be my constant.

In a neat, circular parallel (there were many cyclical references scattered throughout the episode) Dan, who saved Desmond, himself has Des as his own ‘saviour’ Constant. I’m not quite sure I can wrap my time-addled mind around what that means, exactly, but I know I like how poetic it all feels. The beginning of the end? Or the beginning is the end?

Interestingly, this episode gives all of the other flashbacks (and flashforwards) we have seen a deeper sub-level of meaning. A sub-conscious level, if you like. As though on the Island our Losties are delving into their own previous experiences as they go about their time on the Island – they just don’t experience it as acutely as Desmond did.

One such example that springs to mind from Season One is Jack, during White Rabbit. In flashback we have the story of Jack flying to Sydney to track down his father. On-Island he follows visions of his father through the jungle. The parallels are unmistakeable.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine Jack’s sub-conscious ‘living’ the time he went to Sydney looking for his father? And that Desmond, by virtue of his high dose of electromagnetism exposure, has simply become more attuned to this sub-conscious?

And that’s a flashback example. I think of how Sayid was drawn to Naomi’s bracelet, before he humanely covered up her body, as though he was somehow aware that in a flashforward he would encounter a woman named Elsa, a woman he would eventually kill whilst she wore a similar bracelet.

How’s about that for the oneness of space and time all happening in an instant? Only fools are enslaved by time and space. I think this is a quietly astonishing, subtle layer the Lost creators have embroidered in to the show’s fabric. They don’t have to press that idea further, or do anything more to make it fit: it’s just there, existing, as a constant.

1 comment:

darkprose said...


Excellent post. I love your stuff on Lost theories, and very nice blog space.

I have a question for you: would you be willing to write a piece that concentrates just on time and time-issues related to Lost and "The Constant"? There is so much crazy stuff going around because of this episode now, I would love to see a definitive rebuttal against those think the show is altering flashbacks and all of this Back to the Future stuff. I would even be willing to co-write it with you if you wish, but, thats just a suggestion.

Great work!

Charles (prosaicdark)