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In his 1947 classic The Plague, philosopher Albert Camus used the motif of an epidemic to explore how humans respond to what he called "the absurd." Facing ruthless illness, some flee, some fight, and some act like nothing is wrong. Each reaction reveals something about human nature.
The same can be said for the pivotal event that begins ABC's new drama FlashForward (Thursdays, 8/7c). The event: Everyone on earth passes out for two minutes and seventeen seconds, during which each has a vision of the next six months. The visions frighten some, confuse others, and instill hope in others. While some attribute the event to God, one says he meant it as punishment, while another believes "these visions were … a gift."
FlashForward doesn't carry Camus' views to their pessimistic conclusion, but like The Plague, it does examine the nature of destiny and the human condition. Such themes also appear in the show's inspiration—Robert Sawyer's book Flash Forward (1999)—which tackled free will, hope, and foreknowledge. The biggest question of the show's pilot is whether the visions are set in stone: Can the characters change the events of the next six months? Are the visions warnings of what could happen, acting like A Christmas Carol's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? Then there's the classic time-travel question of whether the events only happen precisely because those involved foresaw them.
It all begs fascinating questions that Christians have been wrestling with for centuries: If you were given such information, what would you do? Would you see it as a gift from God, or as merely part of the absurd?
FlashForward airs on ABC at 8/7 Central on Thursdays.
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