Thursday, February 4, 2010

What a Christian sees in the Lost mythology

I know that when you hold to a certain worldview or philosophy strongly, you start to see it everywhere. Like say... evangelicals watch the Matrix and see all kinds of Christian theology there, when really it's mixed with all kinds of philosophy and not making and particular point. So... I recognize that I'm seeing things with very biased eyes, but for what it's worth, this is what I saw as a Christian as I watched recent Lost stuff unfold. I'm not saying this is the POINT of the Lost story, I'm just pointing out the metaphors, however convoluted they may be.
*SPOILER ALERT - don't keep reading if you're not caught up*
Lost - Jacob, Esau, Locke and BackgammonIt appears that before anything else on the show happened, you start off with a guy named Jacob and a guy I call "Esau", since they are protrayed as the antitheses of each other. Jacob says they were "old friends", but now Esau hates Jacob and wants to kill him. They also have different ways of viewing and dealing with people. Jacob is a leader, a guide, and he says that everyone and everything is leading up to one ultimate end of this whole story. Esau manipulates, uses, casts guilt and doubt, and says that people only corrupt and destroy and it's a vicious cycle. Jacob is portrayed as light and good. Esau is portrayed as dark and evil. At least..... so far.  So far.... it looks like Jacob is our God figure, and Esau is our Satan.

Esau looks for a loophole in the rules of the Lost universe in order to kill Jacob, and he succeeds by manipulating Ben (Judas?). And yet - Jacob seems unsurprised by this development, and his death seems more like a sacrifice - he goes into it willingly, though his followers are surprised and despairing. And now we all speculate that Jacob is back in the form of Sayid, who died and was carried away with his arms outstretched like a cross, was washed in blood-colored water, and at the end of this episode came back to life. And, even as Esau seems to be in full control, Jacob has had a plan in the works for generation, when he found and touched each of our main Losties.

Meanwhile, Esau is confidently taking over and wrecking havoc in various forms. What is his objective? He said in this past episode that he wants to "go home". If you follow the Satan line of thinking, is he trying to get back to the home he was cast out of when he started attempting to compete with Jacob? Some kind of heaven metaphor?

Then there are the various island inhabitants. Most don't see Jacob, and yet he guides most of them. Interestingly, Richard's answer to the question "What lies in the shadow of the statue" was "him whom we all serve".  Their lives are a mix of redemption and pain and suffering. We've continued to debate if "whatever happened, happened" and all is pre-destined, or if Jack is right and they can change the past and future and correct their mistakes. What SEEMS to have been in play so far is this concept of redirection. The characters do have free will - they can make a choice one way or another, but ultimately the universe course-corrects towards that one ultimate end that Jacob mentioned. It's sort of a beautiful metaphor for one way of viewing the relationship between free-will and sovereignty. 

If the show is following this line of thinking, then the new parralel universe that is "reset" to before the crash seems to be making a crucial point. Even if things are different, even if you could undo some awful things, that altered world is NOT better than the one they were already living in. Their reset lives appear to be empty, meaningless. It appears that the island story, despite all of its tragedy, is ultimately redeeming. Just like our lives? One article compared this idea to Leibnitz's response to theodicy, the struggle of reconciling the idea of a good God with a suffering world. Leibnitz postulated that this is the best of all possible worlds despite the suffering - that ultimately THIS is the best story of all, and that the suffering is a part of that story.

And here I can't help but quote Sam in the Return of the King:
It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. 

[Fairy tale] does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

I have lots of questions about Lost. I have no idea what the final end will look like. This premiere didn't help at all in that sense! I'm sure it's not meant to be a display of Christian philosophy, but sometimes you find unusual glimmers of truth in places. In any case, I wonder... why is Christian Shepherd's body missing? I'm sure that's crucial, but have no idea why. Now that we have two story-lines, is one just to show how pointless it would be if it all restarted? Or... will the two stories course-correct and somehow end the same way? Or... will they converge and somehow merge into one (dang that would be confusing).

Oh... and as for Locke being the Monster ... dude. Isaac and I totally called it. Check out this post from APRIL of last year. Yes, we are awesome.
  • Isaac also totally predicted way ahead of time that the Shadow of the Statue gang is ageless like Richard, and that they were original inhabitants of the island. You can read that post here, and I think we'll have it further confirmed in future weeks.
  • I also wrote last season about this conversation between Jacob and Esau.
Esau: "They come, they fight, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same."
Jacob: "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that--it's just progress."
  • You can read my thoughts about it here.


Togenberg said...

Don't tell my friends who don't like Lost, but I was underwhelmed by the premiere.

I loved the first few seasons of Lost but I think it's been unraveling, getting sloppy and less interesting. It is much better at setting up and asking questions cinematically than it is in answering these things or denouement.

I LOVED the first few seasons but intellectually I can see that I'm getting bored and even starting to roll my eyes although I just don't know this emotionally yet. I am too much of a fan to let go. As it's the last season I don't have tomake a choice and it'll be fun no matter.

Jaimie said...

You talking about Lost is infinitely more interesting than Lost itself. Keep writing about it.

Jaimie said...

Haha, I am getting insane gratification at calling the fan disillusionment that is showing up in people like Troy up there. I am Esau! Rejoicing in chaos! (Or is that Jacob?)

But of course, Biblical themes are cool, and the Jacob/Esau arc is wonderful. Unfortunately it's such a small focus of the show. They should've started with it, had it in the first season.

everydayMOM said...

I love trying to decipher those Christian analogies, as well. It definitely is a theme that is running through the show, and it's impossible to think it's accidental. Can't wait to see how the parallel timelines will collide. Did you see that trailer with the chess board? That was creepy!

Hans said...

Hey Kacie... completely unrelated comment (I don't watch Lost so it's all errrr lost on me....groan...)

...remembered last night that when I was a kid we used to know a missionary family who worked in Papua called Heather and Joe Patrick. Knowing how small 'expat' and Christian communities can be, I just thought I'd check if you knew them!

That's all...random and a bit of a long shot but you never know!


Kacie said...

Jaimie, you speak heresy. :) The first season was (mostly) amazing. I think it was needed because of the insane character development that went on. They needed that to build a loyal viewing group so they could take us all on the ride we've been on since then. Most people wouldn't have had the patience for it all without first feeling so connected to the characters, I think.

I'm just like you, Troy. Didn't enjoy the premier so much, mostly because I want more information now! I'm in too deep, though, I'm totally loyal. :)