LOST: What It All Means (And Why It Was Worth It)
I’m taking a break from my usual California-centric column to talk about an Island. But before I do, I’m going to talk about LOST. Last night’s finale was in many ways, like every episode, leaving its audience filled with questions, yet this time the questions weren’t about polar bears or smoke monsters, but with questions about ourselves.
The following is filled with many spoilers for the series finale of LOST.
Now, I fully expect folks to pile on the LOST ending. After years of speculation that the Island (or at least, the Season 6 flashsideways world) was Limbo, it turned out to be just that. Or maybe it was two halves looking to be made whole. Whatever it was, the reunion of all the Losties in a big church of feel good karma all but invites a cynical response from the critical eye.
But eyes are all about what LOST is about, from the first frame to the last, and how we choose to view the world and how that view shapes our lives is a central question of the show.
To those who view the hippy-dippy faith trip that the final episode winds up being as cheesy or ludicrous, I ask, what show have you been watching for the last six years?
It’s never been the plot conceits or mystery that have made the show; it’s the human connections these strangers find that have brought us back season after season. Why are you judging the show on the mechanics of the metaphysical.
The metaphysical is the true heart of The Island. It’s mysteries are those of the human condition. How do we forgive? How do we fall in love? What can we do to not feel so damn alone? In this respect, LOST’s final moments deliver in every way. For it offers up a clear, definitive answer:
We find meaning in our lives by living our lives like they have meaning.
With a Smoke Monster pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, with our future bleak and unknown, with our lives already ridden with mistake and sin, we can survive and yes, I’m going to say it– “We can either live together or die alone.”
Whether we’re a leader questioning our purpose, a couple who no longer love each other, a heroin addict or a former torturer, we are capable of our destinies, not because of any all powerful force, but because how we live our life is our destiny. In fact, despite the clear afterlife shown at the end, the show still tells us, “Dead is dead.” It’s life that matters.
We can spend our lives chasing after Dharma stations or contacting freighters or following some neurotic blond dude who thinks he’s God, but our lives are not about that, just as the show has never been about that. It’s about who touches our lives and who we touch.
And in the end, LOST shows us the possibility of a world in which we are fully aware of our lives and how short they are. Call it Heaven or Nirvana or Enlightenment, but it doesn’t take magic to get there–it’s available to us right now.
That this message was transmitted by a network television show originally inspired by Survivor is a stunning achievement incomparable to any drama before it. It stands among The Illiad and Shakespeare in terms of telling the story of who we are as a species. But more than beautiful drama, LOST is a call to action to our own lost world.
It sends massive warning to obsessive fanboys, be the object of their obsession comics or nuclear bombs or the minutiae of a television show, that they are chasing the wrong things. That in the end, what matters is each other.
It’s a show that has always provoked discussion, but now it asks us to ask questions about ourselves and our world, which can be seen either as a horrible place of isolation and destruction or as a miraculous place in which we are all capable of redemption.
To All Survivors: So let’s all of ask the question LOST started on our Island? “Why are we here dude?”