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Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost

When I was a boy, I had what was an epiphany for me. I was waiting for my cousin to come over to visit, which was always fun for me, and it came to me that I was always in "now." What I was waiting for was in the future -- not yet real. I'd experience what I'd been waiting for, then it would pass, and all I would have left would be memory. Further, as much as I lived in the "now," the vast, vast majority of my life would exist only as memory. To a certain extent, we're all storage devices for our own experiences. Most of your life is fixed and unchangeable, the decisions made and the surprises spoiled. Your future is hypothetical -- all that's real is what's happening and what has happened. You're an observer of your own life, as much as -- if not more than -- you are a participant. For a kid, it was a pretty important revelation. Not that I put it that way to myself at the time. It was more of a full-blown realization. I suddenly knew my place in time. It's the first philosophical thought I remember ever having.

Jack's closed eyeI know I usually write about politics, but give me a day off here. The only thing rolling through my head at the moment is last night's finale of Lost. An anticipated event has passed and all I'm left with is the memory. It's stored away in the same place I store my other personal experiences. I was prepared for a much more mindbending conclusion than the one we were treated to -- something like the final lines of Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility series -- but, to be honest, I thought that would be the worst case scenario.

What I got instead was a lot of what I really would've hoped for. Like it or not, the story resolved itself neatly, although some questions remain. For those who've paid attention to the series, however, these are not the questions being asked by most. For an example of a real unanswered question, when Sawyer found Juliette in the wreck of the Swan station at the beginning of the final season, she told him the bomb "worked" before she died. Everyone assumed she was talking about the flash-sideways storyline, but this is obviously not the case. Did she mean that it brought them back to a point in time that they needed to occupy? How would she know that?

Also, in reading through some of the reviews of the show, I noticed that the consensus seems to be that there the series left little possibility of a movie. While a movie may or may not be in the cards, the island storyline leaves Hugo taking Jacob's role, Ben in Richard's, and Desmond stranded. Hugo wonders how they're going to get Desmond home and Ben tells him, "Maybe there's another way off the island." Hugo and Ben may have been on that island for hundreds or even thousands of years. Seems like plenty of time to fit in some sort of adventure, even without the man in black. Also, Hugo, Ben, and Desmond are all very popular characters. Leaving them with a thread that could be followed probably isn't coincidental.





But the questions that I'm seeing asked most in comment threads and twitter are, for the most part, easily answered.


Q: I don't own a television and/or I've never seen the series. I don't understand how you can waste your time with some stupid TV show.

A: You can translate this as "my ignorance equates to knowledge." It's illogical. You're dumb. Go away now.


Q: We've got global warming/an oil gusher in the Gulf/an economy in shambles. How can you care about TV? Don't you have priorities?

A: "We've got a Civil War/the bubonic plague/a huge World War. How can you care about Mark Twain/John Milton/Ernest Hemingway? Don't you have priorities?" You're dumb. Go away now.


Q: I hate Kate. Why didn't she die?

A: Because you suck.


Q: What was the deal with the numbers?

A: OK, now you're asking a real question. The meaning of the numbers became clearer and clearer as the series went on. They were the people -- the "candidates." When MIB showed Sawyer Jacob's cave, we see names written on the walls -- with accompanying numbers. Then, when Jack and Hugo are in the lighthouse, the coordinates equate to each candidate's home -- point the mirror to the right coordinate and the home is reflected in the mirror. You can point out that these numbers have other significance -- that Hugo wins the lottery with them, that other people use them in similar ways with the same good luck/bad luck that Hugo has, that they're stamped as a serial number on the hatch -- and you'd be right. That's still not extremely clear.


Q: So they were all dead this whole time?

A: What? How did you even get that? At the end, Christian explicitly tells Jack that everything that happened to them was real. They're meeting in a sort of afterlife of their own making -- a sort of family reunion -- in a place where time has no meaning. Christian tells Jack that there is "no 'now'" there and that he's meeting all those people after he died because what happened on the island was the most important part of his life. His death isn't his life. Jack died in that bamboo grove where the series began and -- say it with me -- Vincent is a very good dog. Jack didn't die alone.


Q: So what was the island then?

A: I'm pretty sure it was a freakin' island. In a broader sense, it's a barrier. Jacob sat Richard down and explained this point to him; the island is a stopper keeping evil bottled up. The light was the light of life, the source of all life in the world. Perhaps even all life in the universe. When Desmond pulled the cork -- he literally pulled out a giant cork -- MIB was freed of his curse, but also made mortal. This allowed Jack to kill him. The light only seemed to go out, but when Jack replaced the cork, there it was again. MIB was obviously wrong about how to put out the light (though probably not about how to get off the island).


Q: So what was with the elaborate storylines in the flash-sideways?

A: See? Now that's a good question. The flash-sideways was sort of a narrative head fake, but it still has to make some sort of sense. Wish fulfillment maybe? Sure, Sayid and Kate weren't doing so well in their storylines, but Sayid felt guilty about the things he'd done -- who's to say he didn't think he deserved to be there? And Kate, in her flash-sideways, seemed to be innocent. She was done running and, you'd assume, would eventually be cleared in court. She seems to have wished her crime away.

The wish fulfillment idea also seems to be backed up by Desmond's reaction to pulling the cork on the island. He seems to believe he's going to the flash-sideways, where everyone is safe and happy, and is devastated to find out that he was wrong. He didn't die, so his wishes weren't fulfilled.


Q: If getting off the island would result in the end of the world, why would MIB want to do it? He'd get off the island and have nowhere to go.

A: Another excellent question. My take -- and, like the flash-sideway question, this is my own personal impression -- is that MIB was insane. Everyone who was "turned" by him got a little goofy -- Sayeed, Claire, maybe even Danielle. His obsession with escape may not have been rational. It might even have been a cosmic attempted murder/suicide. It might also be that he didn't believe Jacob and thought that the supposed consequences of leaving were all a lie to keep him on the island as punishment for killing their adoptive mother.


Q: Where were Walt and Michael at the end?

A: Michael is one of the whisperers on the island now. He told Hugo this. Walt's absence -- I'm sad to say -- is probably the result of bad planning on the writers' part. He would've been too old for his appearance to make any sense. They really should've gotten some extra indoor footage of him while he was still a kid. They'll come up with a spinny explanation, but I'm pretty sure mine is the truest.


Other questions aren't so easily answered. What was the Dharma Initiative really? Was it just a science colony on a weird island or was it part of Jacob's -- or even MIB's -- plan? What's the deal with Aaron? What's the deal with Walt? Or, as I've already pointed out, in what way did Jughead work?

You've got me. But if art is to imitate life, there have to be unanswered questions. As much as we may like to believe the contrary, we never fully understand the things that happen to us. Lost actually gave us more explanation of events then we'll ever get in our own lives. We'll all die more ignorant than knowledgeable. It's a sad fact of our existence; we'll all have unanswered questions at the end. Once again, I'm reminded of my first philosophical thought. If my life is made up mostly of things I've experienced, my potential knowledge is limited by the fact that I can't possibly experience everything. I just don't have the time.

But, to further wear out a cliche, life is about the journey, not the destination. In the end, Lost was just a way to introduce us to the characters, who were far more fleshed out than we're used to seeing on television. It may not all be tied up with the neatest bow, but it's neat enough and neater than anything we'll get at our ends. I'm glad I got to know these characters and, like I am of Desmond's obvious inspiration Odysseus, I'll be reminded of them often. Odysseus may not have been real, but he was real enough to me. I can say the same of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.

See you in another life, brother.

Wisco


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CORRECTION: Double-checked and Juliet doesn't tell Sawyer "it worked." At least, not directly. That information comes from the necromancer Miles, who reads her final thoughts after she's died. How sad is it that, in a post that talks about how much of our lives are merely memory, my own memory proves faulty? I guess a certain part of what we believe is our own lives is actually some fuzzy crap of our own creation.

See? This is why I don't write about this sort of thing often; it all just keeps getting crazier the more you think about it. Better just to take it all for granted, I guess.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You seemed to have made more sense of it than anyone. An amazing read.

Wisco said...

Thanks!

The Baron said...

Nicely summarized. You've reached nearly all the same conclusions that I did (and strangely, everyone in my peer group thinks they were dead on the island the whole time, which is clearly wrong.)

To me the only real debate is the nature of the sideways-flash storyline. My personal opinion is that the whole sideways-flash storyline is the make-believe afterlife of all the characters (rather than just the church scene.) Recall the cut on Jack's neck, present in the first episode of season 6 was given to Jack by the MIB in the finale's showdown scene. Likewise the appendectomy scar that he didn't remember later.

It makes sense that this reality exists for them to remember their existence and meanings to each other in a more comfortable context than their real lives. In some ways, their sideways-flash lives represented their true inner natures as revealed and tested by the island, not their lives that came before.

Still and all, it was an amazing journey, and I'm only disappointed that it came to an end. I wonder how long we will have to wait for another such deep and amazing fictional work to come along and surprise us. And test us.

EJAndersen said...

I like your explainations - they cleared a few things up for me. However, I found the finale lacking. I've enjoyed this show all the way through, especially the early seasons when there has an emphasis on cool retro technology and an impression that we were seeing something new - a science fiction show that was heavy on the science.

But all that changed in the final season. Science "clues" and references disappeared and were replaced by new agey soul mate mumbo jumbo. And then to end it all in a church with standard religious symbols and everyone obviously heading off to the heaven? Not for me.

I see a lot of people reacted well to this ending, and I get that. If you invested a lot of time in the show and felt close to the characters, it was satisfiying to see them all reunited and happy. Meh. I wanted to know what the fuck was going on.

Carry on Wisco, you are the shiznit.

Wisco said...

Baron,

See, this is the conversation everyone should be having.

EJA,

Carry on Wisco, you are the shiznit.

=)