Friday, March 26, 2010

Genie in a Bottle

Temple door

One of the things I thought of last Tuesday night, when watching Lost, was Jacob's bottle with a cork and his one wish to Richard. This yelled "Genie" to me, though in all the reviews I've read I hadn't come across any that talked about Lost's grand spectrum of mythology to include that of the jinn or Djinn, a supernatural being existing in a world parallel to mankind. Various cultures have various views of genies (derived from jinn/Djinn), including versions of ones who are associated with the sea (marids) and those who live beneath abandoned buildings, especially ruins (ifrits). Oh hello, Smokey! There's even a mention of one being like a smokeless fire.

Genies possess free will and can be good or evil. The Islam view (their Bible takes from the same sources as the Judeo-Christian Bible) says that there are three sentient creations of God: humans, angels, and jinn (genies). The Qur'an also says that Lucifer is a genie, basically, not a fallen angel but a fallen Djinn. The etymology and background on genies is kind of interesting, particularly as it may pertain to the last episode of Lost. Word origins point to genies as being hidden, concealed in time, darkness, etc. Another meaning is hidden intellect, or being crazy. There is even hidden as in child in the womb. 

The Arabic root JaNaA means "hidden, concealed", as in the verb janna "to hide, to conceal". (This is not to be confused with the Arabic word jannat, which means paradise.) Funny that the two close words combine a lost paradise, such as what we see with Lost. Though if we look at Jacob and Man in Black, it is clear that the island is like a bottle, if we follow Jacob's wine bottle analogy. Once uncorked, it's like pandora's box or something. Something evil or horrible will emerge and go beyond the island. But is Jacob also this class of Djinn? He is the one who believes in free will, and who grants one wish to Richard (not three as in modern genieism!).

Interestingly enough, Richard's country, the Canary Islands, is one country, along with Spain and Tinerife, that believed in genies. 

Though we saw Richard reading the Bible in prison, you have to wonder if his reading the new testament Luke was just part of his religious expansion, much like his knowledge of several languages, at least I believe Spanish, Portuguese, and he had learned English. 

As Roman Catholics branched out into Latin countries in the 1700s and earlier, there was a wide conversion, though no doubt the ancient Berber-rooted Gaunch beliefs of genies, in Spain and the Canary Islands, were held onto for a while. Ideologies are the slowest point in a culture pyramid to change, and there may have been a resurgence of Catholic beliefs in lower-class or slave classes after the 1830s when Pope Gregory XVI challenged papal racism and monarchal slavery, leading in part to the end of the slave trade. Richard was actually enslaved after the slave traded ended, which makes me wonder if he was a) an indentured servant to Hanso, in an effort by Jacob to get him to the island as a candidate of some sort or b) the ship contained slaves and dynamite, and may have been a pirated ship of some sorts not following laws. Regardless, there is the big possibility that Richard's religious views traditionally may have believed in the idea of that third God class of genie, even though he was updating himself on the Catholic religion, which espoused forgiveness of sins, something Richard was unable to get, by a priest and even by Jacob.

In fact, Richard did have three wishes. One was to see his wife Isabella again. Another was to receive forgiveness and redemption for killing the doctor. Jacob could grant neither of these wishes. The third wish, eternal life, was granted.

Does this make Jacob a genie too? Along with MiB, who is trapped on the island? Remember that there are three wishes: One is that Richard wants to be reunited with his wife. Man in Black says he can do that, but we know that Jacob cannot. Another wish is that Richard be forgiven and redeemed of his sin of murder. Jacob cannot grant this wish, but can grant him eternal life. There seems to be a missing third power who can grant Richard his wish that nobody else claims they can grant, and that is forgiveness. If we follow the Bible, we know that man can forgive other men, and that God can forgive men. I'm assuming from this presumption, that neither Jacob nor Man in Black are God or Men but some sort of other entity. A genie is possible. Another possibility is angel.

This is taken from Wikipedia:

In Islamic theology jinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from smokeless fire (energy) by Allah in the same way humans were made of earth.[10] According to the Qur'an, Djinn have free will, and Iblis abused this freedom in front of Allah by refusing to bow to Adam when Allah told Iblis to do so. By disobeying Allah, he was thrown out of Paradise and called "Shaitan". Djinn are frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, Sura 72 of the Qur'an (named Al-Jinn) is entirely about them. Another Sura (Al-Nas) mentions Djinn in the last verse.[11] The Qur'an also mentions that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both "humanity and the Djinn".[12][13]

Similar to humans, jinn have free will allowing them to do as they choose (such as follow any religion). They are usually invisible to humans and humans do not appear clear to them. However, jinn often harass and even possess humans, for various reasons, such as romantic infatuation, revenge, or due to a deal made with a practitioner of black magic. Jinns have the power to travel large distances at extreme speeds and are thought to live in remote areas, mountains, seas, trees, and the air, in their own communities.Like humans, jinns will also be judged on the Day of Judgment and will be sent to Heaven or Hell according to their deeds.[14]
Iblis is just another version of devil.

This invisibility or concealment to humans would make sense in some cases, such as Ben never having seen Jacob. Perhaps Man in Black was a Jinn, but now is Shaitan (satan), trapped, and Jacob may also be a jinn but may have been promoted to a prophet or angel? It is really hard to say. The way Lost manipulates us to see Jacob as good and Man in Black as evil makes me think there's something else going on.

The other part of jinns is that they are assigned as a guardian spirit to humans. The Quareen and other Muslims believe that some of these spirits whisper into your soul to give you evil desires. Could this symbolize the whispers on the island?

Interesting note that may also deliver the more scientific energy field/electro-magnetism aspects of the island in Lost with the magical and mythological ones: In 1998, Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood proposed in a Wall Street Journal interview that djinni (described in the Qur'an as beings made of re) could be tapped to solve the energy crisis. I think that if we develop our souls, we can develop communication with them. . . . Every new idea has its opponents, but there is no reason for this controversy over Islam and science because there is no conflict between Islam and science."

If you read the Wiki article on this guy, he could've been easily written into Lost as another Dharma Initiative type of character. 

Going back to how this may relate to the island, this idea of genies, well a few things:

1. The whole evil in a bottle metaphor that Jacob gave.

2. Richard has three wishes, and one of them is promised by Jacob and the other by Man in Black. The third is unresolved until Hurley comes along and helps Richard to come to peace and possibly forgive himself.

3. There is the possibility that there are two jinns currently on the island: Jacob and Man in Black, and one is good and one is evil. One has free will, yet one is trapped. How did one become trapped? Well, that's a good question. My first thought is that Man in Black (along with humans, the only other of God's sentient creations) has died and is in the limbo state of being judged before entry to heaven or hell. Where his home is, we have no idea. Maybe he is desperately seeking redemption. He said that Jacob had taken his body and his humanity. We also know that Smokey judged Eko, killing him, and that he took Alex's form in judging Ben. However, this was before Jacob was killed. Had Jacob and Man in Black both had access to Smokey?

When Jacob died, due to a loophole (which I believe was actually human intervention of either Desmond not pushing the button on the computer or Juliet and the bomb) and John Locke's body, or vessel, coming back to the island, most certainly Man in Black had a human form. And some argue that Jacob had used Christian Shepherd's body, which makes sense (both John and Christian's coffins were the only two on the island). Regardless, Man in Black is now trapped, enacting revenge as Smokey, and plotting the cork removal so he can "go home". At this point, I'm thinking home is not a place but his previous body and previous humanity. But he does seem to be trying to get off the island too, and so if he carries with him his corruption, he could cause a final end to humanity.

4. Reaching a bit far out, I see Jacob as being a jinn related to the sea, and Man in Black being related to the kind that live beneath abandoned ruins. Water and fire. An interesting dichotomy where both are needed in life, but one is seen as life-giving and the other as life-destructing.

5. Furthermore, Man in Black represents the smokey fire jinn, with actual powers of the earth (scientific as opposed to Jacob's magical healing powers).

6. Aaaannnd, Widmore sees Man in Black as a scientific power, and Charles Widmore wants to tap that just as he wanted to tap the island's magical properties of healing and whatever else. Perhaps he failed before when his Dharma were purged by Ben, who was acting on behalf of Jacob, but now maybe Widmore is aligned with the dark side? It is really hard to tell, since he and John Locke are seemingly plotting against each other right now, though, then again, they may be on the same side and just using Sawyer to provide the background upon which they meet. I know Sawyer is supposed to be a con, and he is playing both of them, but did you see the look in Widmore's eyes, and in Flocke's eyes as they made these "deals" with Sawyer?

All along I've argued that there really is no evil side nor a good side, but that there are simply two opposing sides that represent a needed balance for the world to exist. Both sides do good acts and evil acts, dependent on their idea of "greater good". But now I'm wondering harder whether Lost is really making a good/evil statement with the show? I still have to see more to get convinced on that. The other ideas I have surrounding the jinn are that this island has been in existence for possibly since the beginning of time, and I think Jacob and Man in Black are simply two historical figures but perhaps not the original ones. There may be a power working above them that we have not yet seen. With all the biblical references, you might think so, unless Lost is making a statement about the lack of a need for deity and that all of people's grand ideas on gods or a God is just over-dramatized, when all there have always been have been men. I believe there have been many players in this "backgammon" game, but with that numerical equation dating mankind's self-extinction, there is something big about to happen. 

The chain of command, if you would go by the "genie" idea is that, in Islam, the Djinn sits behind the learned humans, who sit behind the learned prophets, who of course look to God. Djinn were given "parsangs" (an old unit of space) of dominion. These Djinn in turn serviced King Solomon, and at times carved their acts of service on stone, as a way of enumerating their deeds (similar to Jacob).

Solomon represents a patriarchal line of kings in the Bible (no less than the mysterious heredity markings in Lost--Christian and Jack Shepherd, the Hansos, Charles Widmore and Daniel, etc.). He was a great king, of Israel, son of the infamous King David. King Solomon is credited to have built the first temple in Jerusalem. He was described as wealthy, powerful, and full of wisdom, but fell into corruption and idolatry, and a fall from God/grace. The Bible's the Songs of Solomon are the Bible's prose of sensuality and sex, of which, I find funny. none of the Conservative Right seems to ever talk about, regardless of the fact they are a big part of the Old Testament, much bigger than any misunderstood tiny references about homosexuality, which of course everyone focuses on.

Well, all this is fine and dandy, but is Lost about two genies? Or there is the possibility that Man in Black is a genie and Jacob is an angel? Or what's going on here? 

Well, I believe there are just too many references in Lost that the writers have built in for us to believe that Lost is one central idea.

Lost is clearly a cornucopia of mythological and literary and other media references that speak to nearly everyone: Star Wars lover (as in Hurley's funny quotes), biblical scholars, ancient Mesopotamia scholars, even Stephen King fans. Not to mention historical philosophers and scientists like Hume, Locke, Kelvin, and Faraday. I think the reason I'm so impressed with the writing on Lost is that they manage to get so many things in the show.

The genie aspect is just one more thing, but not having really heard anyone else discuss that mythology, I'm sure I'm just having fun exploring it but it was probably not intended.

I guess at this point I am convinced of the basic principle in Lost, and that is the modern story of some people needing redemption who crash on a place lost in time, and, through their actions and those (gods and others) around them, we are given a taste of our own lives and how we parallel every single civilization before and possibly (with time travel!) after us. And that we are destined someday to self-destruct, unless some divine power or other of intervention takes place. So what should we do? I think the epithets presented in Lost, with plot and other devices used to exemplify these forces/decisions/actions through humanity's time, are what should make us look more closely to our lives, our existence on this planet, our greed versus charity, and so on.

I personally believe that, given the nature of Lost, there is an endpoint, and given What Happened, Happened, the final show will probably break our hearts and prove that our destination, like the people in Lost, is not going to be good. I mean, it's a given. Everything will end someday. Lost is about that end, in my eyes. I think, however, given the more positive points of the show, this ending will be a new beginning. Just like all endings are. And that is the hope. 

I'm going to guess some endings now:
1. The planet is destroyed because Smokey makes it off the island, and there is some big disaster that follows. It's like evil manifested--my guesses are natural or scientifically created catastrophe, like a bomb. Yet, in the end, we see a sign of some new life. A sprout in the parched land?

2. The planet is destroyed, but the island still exists, and now instead of Jacob and Man in Black sitting on the beach philosophizing, it will be someone like Jack and John. And perhaps they are playing Backgammon. Could also be someone like Aaron and Walt, or Aaron and little Charlie, given the pattern of chain of command and chain of offspring.

3. The island is free of Smokey and therefore is purified somehow, with new couples able to produce new life (Sawyer and Kate, Jin and Sun, etc.), and finding a way off the island to start life again in the world. Their children will eventually remember their parents talking of an island, and create yet a new breed of generations that will forever be trying to figure out how to get back to the island, how to harness its powers and magic, how to find enough money to fund projects.

Whatever Lost is, it just tells a story of time. And there's a lot of cool characters and plots and other stuff going on. The reappearance of age-old mythologies shows that our modern age isn't really so different than older times, except by technology, economy, and the slower moving ideology. The same lessons and parables come up again and again, told by different fashion, whether by Able/Cain or Horus/Anubis or Jacob/Man in Black or God/Satan or Jacob/Esau or Democratic/Republican or any other opposing teams. It's the continuance of continuity. But when it comes down to it, we're still a people of duality of nature, yin-yang in everyone, and we can seal our fate by doing the wrong things, such as we can build bombs to destroy the world or participate in continuing to destruct our natural world and rid ourselves and future generations of the beauty and resources involved in living or we can spend days doing things that promote life and its goodness. 

I think our destiny has been chosen. Wait, chosen is not the word. Fated, perhaps. We'll die out someday, along with every other species that ever has. But what counts is not the final fate, but how we make life while we're here. Is that what Lost is saying? We can do the "right things" and make every day more special, or we can do the wrong things and suffer ourselves or others. 

Ultimately, we also can play a role in our fate, as I noted above, by preservation and respect and goodwill. We can help to prolong human existence on our "island", though we probably can't prolong it forever.

Well, I think I'm written out--been writing on this subject all afternoon. It could be nothing but babble, and I'm good at that! But I just felt a need to get it all written down and organize my thoughts.

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