Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Spiritual Interpretation of LOST

OK, I’ll admit. I’m a big LOST fan. And I mean big. It’s the only show I watch on network television, or any television. And I’m going to join the hundreds, maybe thousands of other people who have blogs and websites about the show.

A spiritual interpretation of LOST? A Christian-based spiritual interpretation, no less? Well, since I’m a fan and since I’m a Christian, I’ve got to blend the two somehow, right?

Seriously, I believe there is an apologetic in the show, somewhere, since I think anything that appeals to so many different types of people must be connected to what we are as human beings, and what we are as humans is beings made in God’s image who lost that and need redemption. So you can see where this is going.

In short, LOST is not what these people are on the island. LOST is what these characters were before they arrived on the island. In fact, they are not really totally LOST; the Others, whoever they are (and I have to say, I don’t like the whole Others angle and hope we find out something definitive about them soon and they go away) know where they are. But all the main characters were LOST in their pre-island lives. The island, whatever it symbolizes, has caused them to confront that lostness.

How were they lost? Obviously, in terms of the Christian metanarrative, they are lost outside of special, but not general, grace. They are willful sinners in need of redemption through faith in Christ. But as these are not real people, only characters created by the writers and with whom we identify, I will not push that point too far. I used to write religious dramas; I was uncomfortable when my characters prayed on stage, because they really weren’t, and that seemed to mock prayer at some level. No, these characters are also lost in terms of their human relationships and self-identity. Their “sin” (and there’s plenty of it) has not only separated themselves from God but from themselves and from others.

I’ll start with the Korean couple, as they are my favorite. At first we are led to think that Jin is a hit man for Sun’s father; he’s more of an enforcer, but he has found himself “lost” in this “career” situation because of his culture’s social class system, his love for Sun, and his self-loathing as a member of a lower class. As the story unfolds, we find that Sun is a liar. She lies to everyone, and has from childhood. She especially lies to her husband about her affair and the (probably) true father of her child.

Then Sawyer, or James Ford. He can be truly mean, as he is to Hurley and when he squishes the frog for no reason other than he can, and we know that he has committed murder. In his former life he was a con man. He is lost because his parents died due to a con man’s (named Sawyer) scam. He was a young child when this happened, and his desire for revenge consumes him to the point that he becomes “Sawyer,” taking his name.

Hurley was lost in his mental illness, Kate in her desire for true love and absolution from her crimes, Jack in his relationship from his father, Claire in her youthful cluelessness (she rates as the dumbest character, which is ironic because her long-lost, unbeknownst brother Jack is the smartest), Michael and Walt (whom I miss, although I may be the only one) in their ten-year absence from one another due to Walt’s mother’s selfishness and in their grief due to her death, Locke in his bitterness, Rose in her illness, Sayid in his war crimes, Shannon and Boone in their quasi-incest and she in her utter selfishness, Charley in his drug addiction. (Let me stop and say something about Charley. He’s my least favorite character but ironically, I started watching the show because “that actor from the Lord of the Rings was in it”!)

Of course, one of the basic mysteries of LOST is that all the characters were somehow related in the pre-island life (if there really was one, which some fans deny). Sawyer met Jack’s father before he died; Hurley was in a mental institution with Libby; Locke’s father may be “Sawyer;” Jack and Claire are half-siblings; and so on. And why is this so? Were they all children of Dharma? (No, some are too old). Are they all psychic? They don’t seem to be. Are they all just imagining it? I don’t buy that interpretation.

But one of the other mysteries is why these people who are sitting on this island for months don’t talk to each other more and find out if they are related. They are obviously not from the South, because that is the first thing Southerners do—find out “who your people are.” That characteristic, of course, goes along with the lostness. Lost people keep secrets; they have shame, and they don’t tell the truth about themselves (think Garden of Eden). The old joke about men not asking for directions is apropos here; being physically lost is embarrassing, but being humanly lost is shameful.

On second thought, maybe they are psychic and don’t have to ask each other questions. But I digress.

So, how is their human lostness to be “solved” or remedied, and therefore how is ours? Confession of secrets, which results in forgiveness and acceptance. In short, they would save themselves a lot of grief if they would just stop holding back secrets, but then we would have a lot less dramatic conflict, right?

As fascinated as I am with the show, I am far more interested in the back stories, which are extremely well written and acted for television, than I am in what the mystery of the island is. I figure it’s like the Bermuda Triangle and has special powers; the smoke is an sentry system; the Dharmas were there to study it and were destroyed by the Others; the show is going on in real time and it’s not a loop of Desmond’s memory or psychic ability and it’s not purgatory or Hurley’s imaginations in the mental hospital (see, I read the discussion boards!). I don’t know who the Others are but they are evil, not to be trusted, creepy, violent, and despicable. I’m sick of them, and would rather find out if Penny has found Desmond, if Walt and Michael got anywhere, and how Libby got out of the mental institution. (Obviously, this show would be easy to parody if someone wanted to take the time.)

I also think there have been some red herrings and there are some loose ends the writers will never tie up. And I know a lot of people are complaining and not watching the show anymore, but I will remain faithful.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

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