The Numbers

The Numbers

It seems like there has been some interest in this area, so I decided to give it a try. This is a tough one to take on, and what is written here is likely just the beginnings of a more sound theory that may come down the road from someone else. Perhaps ideas can be generated from this theory.

The simplest approach I could think of was to break it into questions with categorical answers, and to try to answer those questions in sequential order, thereby trying to arrive at some sort of conclusion. I probably did not choose the most ideal questions, and others should feel free to add those as they see fit.

1st question: Was the appearance of the numbers coincidence/chance or driving force?

Choice: Coincidence or driving force
My Choice: Driving force
Reason 1: mainly due to the sheer volume of appearances
Reason 2: the tie-in of the (non-canonical) Valenzetti equation

Discussion: In my opinion, the main number of appearances of the numbers is far too great to be considered a coincidence. And if it is not a coincidence, that means there must be a driving force behind it. In addition, the Valenzetti equation lends a certain criticality to the numbers by stating that they represent the solution to the equation for the end of humanity. This clue leads me to believe that the numbers are linked to a greater cause in regards to humanity.

2nd question: if driving force is chosen in question #1, what is the purpose of the numbers and did they have an impact on the characters?

– Non-impact: Informational only
– Impact: Course correction predestination-based
– Impact: Course correction time travel determinism-based

The meaning behind each of these choices is the following:
Informational only: the appearance of the numbers is not random or coincidence, but there existence has no bearing on the characters; the numbers are there for a reason, and that reason may provoke the curiosity of the characters but it does not influence their decisions and/or actions.
Course correction: the appearance of the numbers is not random or coincidence, and their existence has a bearing on the characters; the numbers are there for a reason, and that reason provides enlightenment, influences the characters, and/or in some way impacts their decisions and actions.
o Predestination-based: the course correction is due to the existence of Fate or Destiny — the end-game is established ahead of time, and all points must lead in that direction
o Time travel determinism based: in the theory of consistent histories or whatever happened, happened, if an individual travels back in time, he/she must perform actions that lead to results that already exist in the future (see my theory “Sundial Park” for more detail)

My choice: Course correction predestination-based

Discussion: Here’s where it really begins to get tricky for me.
(1) I disregard the first option (informational only) because in my opinion the numbers did have an impact on the characters. For example, they were the winning lottery numbers for Hurley, which played a role in his future. Also, the numbers appeared enough times to enough characters that certain individuals (such as Locke and eventually Desmond) believed that they were on the island for a reason — that the evidence was too much in favor of a design than simply chance. Because the characters took on these views, it influenced their actions and decisions.
(2) I disregard the time travel determinism because the numbers do not seem linked to the characters when they went back to Dharma. For example, the Valenzetti equation, which was discovered during the Cold War in the 60s, is pre-time travel (as far as we know based on the one time travel incident we are aware of). There is also no evidence of a link of the character traveling back in time, initiating the numbers, and then going back to the future, thereby creating a determinism factor.
(3) This leaves a predestination-based course correction. But what does that really mean? If everything is fated to occur, what would one need course correction for? That would imply free will, and then a need to course-correct free-will in a certain direction.

And this is where I am going.

Predestination-based course correction (more detail):

In order for predestination-based course correction to even exist, we have to accept the existence of a duality: that free-will and predestination can co-exist. Is this possible?

Milton’s Paradise Lost was referenced several times during Lost. It is well known for its references to The Garden of Eden (which I still believe the island is btw) and the Fall of Man. Another thing is it well known for is its discussion and outlook on free will vs. predestination.

Milton’s take on it is this: humanity has free will, but God is all-knowing at all points in time. So, from an individual’s POV, he or she has the freedom to choose his or her path in life = free will. From God’s POV, who lives outside of time, the “book” of humanity is already written. Every choice already exists, every outcome already exists. Not that God is making the choices, however — but from God’s POV, it’s said and done.

From an excerpt discussing Milton’s Paradise Lost:
Moreover, God declares that humans cannot “justly accuse / Their Maker, or their making, or their fate, / As if predestination overruled / Their will” (iii.112-115) because if predestination could overrule a human’s fate, free will would not exist. God knew that creating puppets on strings would be pointless and free will is necessary for humanity to properly operate. God reaffirms, “Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault” (iii.118), meaning that he knew Adam and Eve would fall from grace, but his knowledge did not affect their decision.

As an example, take the series of Lost. If you owned the DVDs to the entire series, you could put them and watch them at any point you wished. This can be viewed as similar (for example’s sake) to how God would watch humanity’s existence. He can see all points, all times. They don’t have to be in linear order. He can see how humanity ends, how it begins, what choices were made along the way, etc.
As the viewer of the Lost series, you can view Lost in the same fashion, but you are just that — an observer — you cannot make the characters choices for them. That is how Milton viewed God’s role as well: designer of time and space, but then observer of the free-will of man. Because God lives outside the dimension of time and is not bound by it like humanity is, he knows all points in a non-linear fashion, and therefore, at any one point (other than the end), it is pre-destined. It would be like you as a watcher tuning in to Season 4, and then the end of the Series. Everything in-between is driven by free-will of the characters, yet is also predestined from your POV because you know, as a whole, how it will end.

So how to the Numbers fit in?

If the Numbers are truly an indicator of a major milestone in humanity that is pre-destined to occur, whether it be the destruction of humanity, or the possibility of destruction, or what-have-you, then one can argue that the numbers are a natural phenomenon (like gravity so to speak) that act as course correctors to ensure that the end that is pre-destined comes to pass.

What this means to me is that the numbers appear to our Losties because they play such a significant role in humanity’s fate (based on the Valenzetti equation and several remarks regarding how the release of “evil incarnate” will bring about the end of humanity, or as Widmore puts it, “everything you care about will cease to exist”).

In other words, their decisions and actions have such a large impact on how humanity ends up, that they in fact exposed to bits and pieces of fate and determinism, they are “course corrected”, and one of these natural factors is the numbers — and, to clarify, it is not God course correcting, but the space-time system that exists as a singularity, the reality that from a certain vantage point (where time is not linear), the beginning and the end were formed at the same time, and thus, pre-destined.

To get into the weeds a little bit more: a normal individual whose day-to-day decision making will have no impact on the fate of humanity would have no reason to be course corrected towards a pre-destined ending for humanity; but an individual whose sole decision-making may cause the ending of humanity would certainly be influenced by fate if that free-will decision-making was in contrast to the pre-destined ending of humanity.

So — to attempt to summarize this in a fashion that makes at least a little bit of sense:

1. Based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, we have free will but live within a pre-determined destiny (overall to humanity. we can play however we want in the playground (free-will), but recess ends after an hour (predestination)).
2. Decisions and decision makers that can effect the end of the story directly will be course corrected in the direction of the pre-determined destiny even though they do indeed have free will; whereas an individual with no impact on the pre-destined ending will have no reason to be exposed to course correction
3. The numbers are an example of nature’s course correction device, and this is based on the Valenzetti equation which related them to the fate of humanity, and also on the many appearances where they had a direct impact on the characters, many of whom made crucial decisions leading to the continued existence of humanity

Well — I hope that made some sense. And I am sure there are plenty of holes in the theory, but worse-case perhaps it’s a starting point for some discussion. I would have liked to have added more logical examples (such as the Milton’s Paradise Lost) and less speculation; perhaps there is more out there that can be brought up.

Thanks for reading.

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The views of space and time that I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality. Hermann Minkowski

9 thoughts on “The Numbers

  1. Great post…Ill start out with a comforting thought for you CPB…

    When Desmond hears Penny’s name said by the man with the list at the place where the event/concert is to be held, her name is listed as “Penelope Milton”…fun fact for you…and nice call on “Paradise Lost”…

    On to the numbers…great approach and organization…very easy to follow…

    I agree with you decision, but have to keep number one for the case of Jacob and the candidates…but that may be more obvious than where you were headed…

    I LOVE the idea of Predestinational(is that a word or spelled correctly?) devices…

    Pre-des plays a role throughout the entire show, and ultimately is why they are the candidates in my opinion.
    Jacob found his own loophole by learning who the people were that were going to crash, and touched them making them an integral part of the story of saving the world, and allowed them the opportunity to stray from the flawed and destructive path they were on…and save their own souls…

    BTW…one last thing…I WHOLE HEARTEDLY believe, ESPECIALLY now that he stayed as the islands new “number one” (sounds like a bathroom code)…that Hurley IS the one who ORIGINALLY records the mubers in the past…ensuring that everything that happens happens EXACTLY the was it did before…and that will be the key to why the losties arrived, MIB was killed, the world was saved, and all Losties go to heaven…

    great post again…got me thinking….

  2. This was a very heavy read for the first thing in the morning. But I think I can keep it down.

    I too must agree that there’s no coincidences with the numbers. It’s like saying that it’s only a coincidence that Christian ran into so many losties before the crash (there’s 4.2 million people in Sydney alone). The odds of those things being coicidences are beyond minute.

    The “driving force” is more up for debate than anything, but I think your explanation is really worth considering.

    Also, let’s not forget about Jacob’s knowledge. No one would know that Jack was going to break the mirrors solely by turning the dial to 108. I believe Jacob knew everything ahead of time (much like most of us). So whatever his infatuation to these numbers is, I believe is the key to figuring this out.

    AES – I like your thinking about Hurley going back in time and incorperating the mubers 🙂 into everything in order to get the same result when it’s all done. I’d still wonder what caused a meteor to nail a chicken shack, what caused all the misery as well as all those untimely deaths.

    Maybe course correcting is what they do. I know it’s impossible to put that as a definitive answer. but look what the numbers did……They set in motion a path that placed an individual onto the throne of the island. Perhaps the numbers and the light are in cahoots of some kind?

  3. @AES – thanks for the Milton reference with Penny, adds some valildity to the reference!

    I have to admit – I’m pretty open to any of the options, and Jacob’s role definitley throws a curveball in there to consider. I like the idea of him discovering a loophole within the determinism that he can use to his advantage.

    I also really do like the idea of Hurley being the originator of the numbers via a time travel scenario. The thought crossed my mind when I was choosing which thoery to go with, but instead of time-travel determinism option i went with the predestination because I liked the idea of free-will interacting within a story with a set beginning and end (though as we know my decision is based on scant evidence). In fact, one possbilitiy is that both options were at play.
    In any case, it is possible that Hurley lived for centuries, and within that time did indeed travel back and create the numbers and the “what happened, happened” scenerio for the future. Would be cool.

  4. @ Chief – yes, I agree completely that if we know more about Jacob, it would help solve the mystery of the numbers. Somehow he knew about destiny and his influence within it that framework, yet still fought for free will via allowing the candidates to choose their path (supposedly).

    So – was he a master of probability? Or, like you said, did he know the end game completely? It’s hard to know. I like to think that he was a master of probability with an inkling of knowledge regarding fate, but was not completely all-knowing. That means he had the ability to make mistakes, and even though his path seemed clear, it had its own bumps in the road. Tough to say for sure..

    Regarding the meteor – that to me is a course correction factor like the numbers. The reason it hit the restaurant was to stop Hurley from his enterprise, and therefore clear the path for him to not be tied down and move on (towards the island). I believed it happened to Hurley because of his affinitiy to the fate of humanity, whereas if he simply had given the restaraunt to his father so he could travel, the meteor would not have struck (because there would not have been a need to course correct him in a certain direction).

    I think one important concept to keep in mind that course correction is only necessary if you have a determined outcome, yet individuals within the story have free will to make their own choices. If every move was fated, there would be no need to course correct, because you would always be “on course”…. in the case of the restaurant business, I think Hurley was “off course” based on his free will decision to start the business and he needed to be course corrected towards the island.

  5. I cant help but feel that the numbers are more a part of Jacobs game than anything else….

    When he and MIB talked when playing MIBs game, he told Jacob that one day he could make his own game and his own rules, yadda, yadda…

    This is Jacobs “game”…except its not a game…its real life…and he knows this…(man…)

    But he thinks that by improvising a game and rules, he can actually CONTROL MIB with them…
    He knows MIB likes games, and if he is under the impression that it is a game…then he will play along…

    Its not until after he kills Jacob, and sees his young form running around that he begins to realize how much trouble he is in…this is why the child irritates MIB so easily…not because its Jacob, but because he is playing Jacobs game…and losing…

    Its quite genius actually of Jacob to do such a thing knowing the gullible nature of his younger brother. Whoever their mother was steered him the wrong direction, and he followed suite thinking he could leave the island by going to her people…and he was wrong.

    MIB hasnt had the luxery of reading books by Flannery O’Conner…hell he hadnt even gotten to read Steinbeck…whats funny is Jacob did get to read O’Conner…and he got to leave the island…

    If MIB had just listened to Mother to begin with…just followed the rules, maybe he could have left the island as well…

    Sorry, got a little off topic…but yes, I think the numbers carry other significance…but I think that the main purpose of them was the beginning of Jacobs game…

  6. I am surprised Jacob didn’t want to Global-Thermo-Nuclear-Warfare rather than 2000 year long game of kill the candidate.

    But in all seriousness, CPB and AES, I think I know you are both mostly satisfied with the culmination of Lost…have you both been able to properly reconcile some of the major unsolved mysteries like The Numbers and Walt and the Prego thing? I, for one, can’t get by the numbers and the seeming lack of meaning to them. I liked your post here, CPB, but I can’t say I came away any more convinced that Numbers were anything but a means to an end….to be a recurring “coincidence” driving people towards a possibly presetrmined goal. The numbers could have been any prop, really….like a bunch of orange bananas or a purple leprauchan that showed up from time to time. whose name you had to say backwards to send back to his home in the 5th dimesnsion.

    The idea that they represented people and totaled 108 (the # of minutes to enter the code) and were on the hatch and blah blah blah. You get the picture. We never really get any closure here. I love the idea that they’re somehow related to Jacob;s game…but how? There’s too much to fill in here. We needed a few more clues and a little less “just a line in a cave.

    BTW, CPB. The island is ABSOLUTELY the Garden of Eden….couldn’t agree more. Terrific, well-written, well thought out post as usual.

  7. good post ClairPB,
    I also believe the numbers were significant because of predestination/predeterminism..I like what you were saying about duality of predeterminism/free will.. The numbers are a mystery indeed, and I figured the show would never fully explain how the numbers were derived..and I am fine with that..

    I’ve always wondered, what exactly did the numbers do?! As Jack said, they’re just numbers.. They were put as serial number on the Swan hatch; what if the hatch serial number was NOT the numbers? Would that make the Swan less important? They were broadcast over the radio, you could hear them on the Aijira flight; did Lapidus put them in as some kind of numerical code to land the plane? No.. They did win the lottery for Hurley, pretty cool..

    All I could figure is, they were important in and by themselves, even though they showed up in places that were seemingly random.. In Hurley’s life for them to show up different places; on hatch, on island (cant remember all places), Hurley’s car; he saw them as warning signs, something to avoid, but maybe the entire time they were messages to him to let him know he is in the right place at the right time. Similar to Jacob explaining to Hurley in the cab that he’s not crazy….

    They were a signature of sorts. A signature of the end game of Predestination; whether the universe itself, God, or a person such as #1 Hurley. I love what AES said about Hurley being the one to record them in the past, because he knew the endgame, and that would ensure everything to happen as planned..

    actually also like what you said about Jacob’s game. Maybe that is truly the significance of the numbers, how they pertain to the game. I can’t imagine a game scenario..but for simplicity sake..think of checkers.. 4 moves here, 8 steps over here, 15 for this one, 16 over here, 23 gets to be kinged (Jack), 42 gets sacrificed (kwons).. oh ya? I’ll have 23 clear the way for my number 8!(Hurley kinged baby!)

  8. @boohgah11, thanks for the response. I agree, closure has not been achieved in many areas of the show. For me, that’s OK (not ideal), but OK.
    AES’s response on this site to the finale and the series said it all for me – I was happy. And yet I understand the frustrations we all have. I guess I tend to look at it this way: (1) my curiosity is still alive and well, and I can use this to drive ideas that seem relevant to the unanswered questions, (2) in the cases (perhaps few) where the mysteries may actually have answers that simply weren’t shared (opposed to the mysteries that did not have answers), I (we, actually) can dig and perhaps find those treasure (we may never get full confirmation of our ideas, but we may satisfy ourselves – similar to true science – theories are valid until disproven, and in the meantime, we have validity (3) we, in a sense, can write part of a story that most of us truly enjoyed. It’s kind of cool (for me) to be able to “create” theories and ideas and integrate them into the show, and in a sense believe they are indeed how things happened (and sometimes realize they are not), and in this way create my own version of the Lost world… so it’s a bit of mystery solving, a bit of reading on time travel, philosophy, physics, and I’m OK with that. I’m OK with the gray in the sense that I like to be creative and I’m relatively curious, and this is a great foroum with brilliant peers to test share ideas about the unexplained gaps….
    Not discounting what you’ve said at all – I completely understand… but just wanted to share my perspective.

  9. @bobt – nice post, great read. I love the idea of the numbers as a signature… nature’s calling card, or road map, “x” on the treasure map – this is the course we must go..

    @aes – Jacob has me curious still. I’m just not sure what is connection is to the numbers… I like you idea – do you think that when he numbers the 108 candidates, he knew the 6 that would be most significant? I’d like to ponder this some more…

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