Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Lost Book Club: Fear and Trembling

I didn’t read it.

Back when I started the Lost Book Club and decided to read all the books shown and referenced on Lost, I made a decision to focus (mostly) on the fictional/literary works and leave the philosophical and religious works to others and since the philosophy was referenced mostly in certain characters’ names (John Locke, Desmond David Hume, Danielle Rousseau, and Mikhail Bakunin) and the books didn’t actually appear, it was no problem.

The Season 6 opener “LA X,” however, introduced two books to the Lost Book Club: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, the book Desmond was reading on the alternate reality Oceanic 815, and Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard, which is the book found with the one-armed skeletal remains of the French guy beneath the temple wall.

I will, of course, read the Rushdie book, which I’ve got on hold at my library, and I will post my thoughts on it once I’ve read it. As for the Kierkegaard book, I don’t intend to read it (at least not now) since it falls outside the purview of my Lost book project and I had to draw a line somewhere, but I figured I’d at least try to find and post some information about it for those who may be curious.

From Wikipedia (source of all knowledge):

Fear and Trembling presents a highly original and provocative interpretation of the Binding of Isaac story as told in Genesis Chapter 22, and uses the story as an occasion to discuss fundamental issues in moral philosophy and the philosophy of religion, such as the nature of God and faith, faith’s relationship with ethics and morality, and the difficulty of being authentically religious.


In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard introduces the “Knight of Faith” and contrasts him with the “knight of infinite resignation”. The latter gives up everything in return for the infinite, that which he may receive after this life, and continuously dwells with the pain of his loss. The former, however, not only relinquishes everything, but also trusts that he will receive it all back, his trust based on the “strength of the absurd”.

From Lostpedia (source of all Lost knowledge):

The book encountered in the Temple is “Fear and Trembling” (original title: Frygt og Bæven), an influential philosophical work by Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio (John the Silent). In the book, through alternative retellings of the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac, Kierkegaard examines the role of faith and its relationship with morality and ethics. The title is a reference to a line from Philippians 2:12, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac has been referenced on Lost several times over the years and almost works like a background hum meant to remind viewers of how far certain characters will go to protect the island. It also reinforces the tension between faith and reason, one of Lost‘s central themes.

Based on this limited reading about the book, it seems a logical book for Lost considering that we’ve now delved into at least one alternate retelling of the story. Perhaps we should be expecting a few more alternate realities? I hope not.

The Knight of Infinite Resignation and the Knight of Faith read like descriptions of Jack Shephard and John Locke.

That’s probably enough for a post about a book I didn’t read.

Here’s a link to a post on The Fish: A Christian Look @ Pop Culture about “LA X”  that includes excellent analysis of the episode as well as some more thoughts about Fear and Trembling.

Enough about the book I didn’t read; it’s time for some half-baked theorizin’.

For nine months, Lost fans wondered whether the show would reboot to an alternate reality after the detonation of the jughead or if the 1977 survivors would be blown back to the “present.” I don’t think I’m alone in being surprised by the writers’ dispensing with the or and doing both.

Here’s my half-baked theory. In the alternate reality, the jughead destroyed the island in 1977, thus leaving the Dharma Initiative’s save-the-world work unfinished and undone. Ben, Widmore and Eloise all died, which means Penny and Daniel are never born, which means Desmond never sails around the world, winding up “just saving the world, brotha.” Come to think of it, nobody is saving the world from whatever electromagnetic anomaly now lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, which means someday (I’m guessing someday soon in the alt-reality of LA X) something will happen that effectively destroys the alt-reality world because Dharma hadn’t been able to do whatever it was it was supposed to do.

The alt-world ends, but not before alt-Juliet, who will have memories of both worlds just as Desmond did when he detonated the Swan Hatch at the end of Season 2, explains to the alt-survivors that there is something that must be fulfilled by them to help Jacob. After that, the two realities will reconcile with the end of the alt-reality and everything that has risen will converge.

Maybe, that’s only a quarter-baked theory. Hell, it’s barely cooked and you’ll probably wind up with some kind of mental salmonella poisoning, but that’s what I’ve got and it reminds me why I love Lost so much. It’s one of the very few TV shows I’ve ever watched that has consistently surprised me and kept me guessing. I love not knowing. I hope I’m wrong. I hope I find out how wrong I am after tonight’s episode “What Kate Does,” so I can come up with a new theory.

Here’s the link to the list of all the Lost books I’ve read. Look for my take on Haroun and the Sea of Stories in the next few weeks. I intend to read that one.


  1. Your interpretation of the book is pretty off. The main (relevant) point of the book is that the knight of faith, Abraham carries out the sacrifice without knowing the reason why. The title comes from a passage in the bible in which God comands his disciples to work toward their own salvation in his abscence.

    In the context of lost; lock is definitely not the knight of faith; not only does he constantly demand answers, guidence etc, he also sacrifices to the island (to God?) for a knowable reward, i.e. the use of his legs, a purpose, etc. Abraham, in contrast, sacrifices that which he loves most, his son, for what remains secret, God’s reason for the sacrifice. That is his faith that he sacrifices without knowing why, he scrifices in the name of absolute faith.

    If you contrast MIB and Jacob, what you get is; a God who offers answers and rewards in exchange for aliegence and a God who demands faith in the service of a secret, a God that requires his followers to work toward their own salvation.

    In this sense Hurley is possibly closest to the knight of faith, but even this is tempered as Hurley can speak to others about his relationship to jacob. For in Kierkegaard’s book, the knight of faith cannot speak of his relation with the absolute, speaking is the tempetation that would break his absolute relation with the absolute. The knight of faith must remain silent, so that his responsibility remains absolutly his and his alone. He is doubly in secret, he must keep his relation with the absolute and the sacrifice demanded secret, and the reasons for the sacrifice are in themselves secret.

    The underlying theme that seems to be emerging is the idea that the FSW timeline is an illusion that can only be reversed if the candidates are willing to sacrifice that which love most in the name of faith in Jacob and the secert of his reasons.

    • Thanks for your comment and thorough explanation of Fear and Trembling. Like I said, I didn’t read the book, but felt obligated to put up a post about it, so I’m not surprised that I’m off on this. Thanks again for your comment and thoughts.

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