A few thoughts to ponder as the final season of LOST comes upon us….
While the themes of faith versus science, belief versus material has permeated LOST since its earliest shows, I have often waited anxiously for the resolution. Following the blogs interpreting the various “easter eggs,” the literary reference here, the theological theme there, the scientific theory everywhere… the fun was in trying to piece everything together, to make it fit. But then it hit me. There is no resolution. LOST is not trying to land us on one side or the other. We are all LOST. We are lost in a world of beliefs and beliefs in information.
The world of LOST represents a modern moment where the religious has not given way to the scientific, but rather the two have collided leaving us to muddle our way through a space in between. On this island we find a convergence of certainties, science and the physical world, faith and a world that cannot be seen but still known. The inhabitants of this world begin on one side or the other, interpreting the island as either:
1) A world bound to a phenomenon of nature
- To be studied
- To be used/utilized
2) A world that can only be understood through the religious/philosophical
- To be believed
- To be followed/obeyed
The characters/inhabitants become immersed in this world and exhibit a disoriented desire for faith or science, but also the pervasive disturbances brought on by the science or faith. The people of faith, must acknowledge the physical properties of the island while the people of science must account for happenings that are beyond scientific comprehension. The world of LOST resists a dichotomy and in so doing shows us how much we depend on those dichotomies to give meaning to our lives.
The constant streaming of references (theological, religious, philosophical, scientific, etc.) become keys or sign posts of interpretation, but ultimately begin to echo off one another, destabilizing the certainty of any claim other than the fact of the island, its inhabitants.
The island’s inhabitants though cannot discern the significance of the sign posts but suffer a dizzying disorientation as they grasp onto the certainty of a transcendent or the material world. These certainties become fragmented upon the constant appearance of the other invading/refusing any notion of certainty.
Through its gluttony of information, the utter disorientation of its inhabitants in the face of a world of material and transcendent certainties, LOST expresses the dissonance of our present moment. Far from being “post” we exist in a wreck, “lost” in a cacophony of competing claims and their material realities we, like the survivors must piece together a sense of hope and purpose and yet cannot do either apart from the fact of the island and its inexplicable hold on us.
In its wake we are only left with a tragic freedom that allows us to be something new in this new world. Yet these acts of being new are bound to what we deem impossible or possible and thus keep us bound, not perceiving the truth of our place.
This became more apparent in the final episodes of this penultimate season as the disorientation began to fragment the community who struggled to discern the meaning of their presence in the island. While searching for destiny they may have, like Hugo, “mistaken a blessing for a curse”… or like (the one we thought was Locke – who saw that coming!) declare his own war against Jacob (or against God). In Scripture Jacob was the one who stole Esau’s birthright and yet went on to become the medium of God’s redemption of Israel. This becomes played out again in the life of Joseph and yet in both of these moments those close could not discern their time or their place or their people in such a confluence of claims and evidence. I wonder how these events will seemingly work together?
As we saw in the final episode Jack’s certainty that if the island is gone they all have their lives back, did not account for the possibility of “the island’s” presence in their life prior to their arrival or among them after their departure. Apart from Locke, their lives on the island had been constantly marked by their refusal of the island, of the redemption it seemed to set before them. And so the question posed at the end as Juliette (poor Juliette!) pounded the bomb… have those who were redeemed refused their own redemption or finally lived into it. Or even more… could any of them have even recognized it for what it was?
On this point, what is so interesting about LOST is that it does not attack religion or science, but shows both their possibilities and their perils when those who seek to live into them mistake themselves as the totality of its meaning. As pseudo-Locke declared his intentions to kill Jacob I could only think of modernity’s march towards certainty. Yet this is painted in the final episode not as the height of a zealot’s faith or the victory of reason, but simply another mark in the unfolding drama of this island and those who have been drawn into its world.