Walkabout is the title of the fourth episode of LOST. Here we see the first episode that focuses on the character John Locke – whom we later discover is the man behind the number 4 in the series 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. In that episode, John Locke explains to his skeptical boss…
A Walkabout is a journey of spiritual renewal,
where one derives strength from the earth.
And becomes inseparable from it.
John Locke gets his walkabout, but not in the Australian Outback as he hoped. He gets his spiritual renewal on a mysterious island – and he becomes inseparable from it.
This emphasis on the walkabout and the number four were foundational to LOST, and I believe that J.J. Abrams carried that same substance forward in Ship of Theseus.
The Opening Act of Ship of Theseus - the Journey Begins
What do we see S. doing when our story opens? He is walking about…
A man in a dark gray overcoat walks the Quarter’s streets.
And, as shown previously, there is a heavy emphasis on the number four in that opening sequence.
S. walks about, in an apparent fugue state, turning corner after corner, until he reaches the tavern, where he sees the symbol S. for the first time and meets Sola for the first time.
The Return to the Ship after The Winter City
After S. spends an unknown length of time in the Winter City, Sola meets him and then leads him on a very long walk on water – across the ice from the shores of the city and back to his ship. On p393, we see that the distance S must walk is miles. At first he is terrified that he will fall through the ice, but by the journey’s end, he wishes he could take the same walk again.
In the climactic scene, we find S. about to confront Vevoda, walking through the labyrinthian tunnels in the wine cellar.
He passes a barrel on which no mark is visible, as its contents have leaked through a split stave and blackened the wood below. He can still see an outline of the spill across the earthen floor. He kneels down and touches a finger to it, and all at once, the mad chorus of voices in his head goes silent. Silent. Settled. Returned to the earth and settled. Voices and narratives, re-absorbed into the ground on which we walk.
And this is the key, he realizes…
In the moment that S. places a single finger into the spilt wine that has re-absorbed into the ground on which we walk, his life his changed. His spirit is changed. He has discovered the key. His hate and murderous intent for Vevoda vanish in that instant.
In an Australian walkabout, the aborigines would leave their homes and enter the Australian Outback to follow the songlines. Singing the songlines allows the singer to navigate otherwise complex routes across the land by calling to mind landmarks, water holes, glyphs, and other visible indicators. The song, repeated at the proper pace, is a musical map. We have already seen the importance of Australia in “S.” Now we are seeing the importance of a walkabout through its lands.
On S.‘s ship, we have whistling crewmen. The whistles indicate changes to direction of the boat or the sighting of land. Inside the tunnels of the wine vineyard, S. and Sola navigate the tunnels by whistling back and forth to each other to help each other find their way. The interlude of Ship of Theseus is entitled Toccata and Fugue in Free Time. This chapter sends us on a journey through S.‘s complex journey of agent assassinations. We also appear to have an unsolved cipher based on Fn5.
And there are a host of other musical connections in “S.“
S.’s journey is a walkabout, and whether he or we realize it, he is following one or more songlines – which we must somehow discover in order to find our way through the otherwise unnavigable challenge we have before us of understanding “S.“
The story of “S.” is a mysterious synthesis of music, philosophy, mathematics, love, literature, and more. The songlines, I believe, are the key. We just have to find them.
This line of thinking has lead me to Bach’s Art of the Fugue…
Bach was one of four distinguished dedicatees of Mizler’s 1734 doctoral dissertation on Music as part of a Philosophical Education. Mizler founded the Korrespondierenden Sozietät der Musikalischen Wissenschaften (Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences) in 1738, which Bach joined in June 1747, and of which Handel and Telemann were also members. The society was concerned with the union of music, philosophy, mathematics and science in Pythagorean theory, and required each member to contribute a practical work in demonstration of this approach…
This astounding work by Bach has 19 parts, with one missing page that has since been lost, referred to as Fragment X. Is S., once called Agent X in Chapter 4, the missing fragment to this puzzle? Is Bach’s Art of the Fugue, which depends heavily on counterpoint like its literary counterpart The Glass Bead Game, the songline we are to follow? Or is there another?