By Christopher Schmaltz
“The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.”
That is a quote focused on, and slightly puzzled over, in the most recent tremendous episode of The Leftovers. This will be a spoiler free comment, so if you are behind in watching the show, no worries. I was struck by this quote and its usage in this current episode, and its commentary on the show as a whole.
So let’s examine the quote first. It suggests that a thing isn’t aware of itself except in relation to something else. Going further, it offers the viewpoint that the thing, namely “the foot,” needs feedback from an outside force or resistance in order to be that thing. This concept seems totally contrary to the “I think, therefore I am” classical philosophical proposition by Descartes. Or is it? The fascinating use of the “foot” quote in the context of this show continues the show’s deep exploration of emptiness, loss, and the meaning of existence.
How does it do that? IMO, the whole show to this point has been a close examination of the people who remain, and their response to the void that is created (it too remains) when they have lost someone to this unexplained event. It is the existential crisis of all existential crises. A person (or multiple people) that helped define who you are abruptly vanish. The serious theme being examined here is that the people who have lost loved ones (via the event, or because of it in its aftermath) are struggling to come to grips with themselves. The absence of their familial feedback has set them adrift. That void, contradictorily enough, provides strong feedback too. Is the absence of the “ground” also feedback for the foot, when it expects feedback from the ground, or “remembers” the feedback?
“I think, therefore I am” is about knowledge, awareness. It isn’t about feeling/being/living. Knowing you exist and existing are 2 very different things. The show continues to effectively explore that difference. But to what point? Navel gazing for its own sake is a feedback loop to nothing. The payoff is in growth – we’ll see if The Leftovers manages to communicate growth for some or all of the characters by the end of this season.
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