Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost- We Hardly Knew Ye

Nicki is so tired of hearing about Lost. The poor child has never seen the show and can't possibly understand it, yet she has had to endure countless discussions around the dinner-table, in the car, while cleaning up the kitchen. She'll probably always hate the show just because it has sucked up so much of our attention. Don't worry Nicki! You are getting your family back!

But of course, it is a winding-down process. We can't quit cold-turkey! Permit me a moment to comment on this favorite pastime.

I started watching Lost a few months after Nicki was born. It was suspenseful and intriguing, and frequently mind-blowing. Let us pause and acknowledge what an accomplishment that alone is; TV has matured enough, it's conventions are so formulaic- "young single professionals, blah, blah, blah, hilarity ensues"- that a show which is truly surprising is a rare treat. That "no way!" moment of many episodes was a genuine pleasure.

Of course that moment usually happened at the very last minute of an episode, and for a few seconds I'd be so frustrated at being left hanging for a whole 7 days (or 2 weeks, or 2 months, or over a year). But because the show raised so many questions and left them unanswered for so long, I had plenty of time to wonder about the possibilities. I'd find myself thinking through various scenarios before falling asleep; and because the show had science fiction elements, the possibilities were far more wide-open than for a more reality-bound show. As I waited for the next episode, I found myself rediscoving the childhood pleasure of getting lost in a story in my imagination. Do you remember that time in childhood, when you had to WAIT to find out the answers to a story, or when the story was so fantastic that you had to mull it around in your mind when you were doing other things like running errands with mom, or walking to school, or sitting in class working on an assignment, and you'd find yourself staring off in to space thinking about the story you'd just read? Back before you knew what to expect from a story about magic, or monsters, or time-travel, or aliens; back when, after the story ended you'd imagined alternate storylines, or how the story would continue after "The End"; back when the ending of a book made you wonder, rather than critique? Lost brought me back to that.

Another accomplishment of Lost: it could be discussed and debated with others. You had to reason things out and come up with theories that fit the evidence, and defend those views to others. I think this was a great exercise for the boys to engage in with us. In the final days before the finale, I'd read articles where the writer would wonder if it was possible for the finale to make 6 years of TV watching "worth it". To me, it had already been worth it, just for the enjoyment of the discussions we had about it. (Sorry again Nicki!)

In the end, it didn't matter to me that every question wasn't answered. In life we rarely find out the causes of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and authors have to come up with all kinds of tricky ways to give us the information that make their story make sense. They employ narrators, "myths" told by wise old storytellers, coincidences, flashes of inspiration to the main characters, and sometimes even scenes that we observe but that happen away from the main characters. It often seems pretty artificial; and often characters don't have crucial information but have to make decisions anyway. So we never find out "why" women can't have babies they conceive on the island, or exactly what experients were being done with polar bears, or how the Dharma Initiative found the island. Those mysteries weren't relevant to the central story of what Jack and the other Oceanic survivors were there to do, and so, while they were a part of why the island was so unusual and so disconcerting to new arrivals, they did not need to be answered in order for the central story of "why this plane?", "why these people?", to be resolved satisfactorily.

I liked the discussion of the intersections of free will, faith, manipulation, leadership, power, repentance, personal growth, and our inter-connectednesshow. If we have free will, faith is not just possible, but it is not possible to avoid it. At some point you must make a choice without having perfect knowledge, you will not have enough objective facts to use reason to make a decision, and you will have to chose based on what is in your heart. This is the moment of truth that shows just what you put you really believe in; the leap of faith. At first, Jack resents having to make this leap at all; but he learns that choices can't be avoided. Others more readily accept this idea, like Ben and Locke. But Ben usually choses a self-serving option, because he thinks he is "the good guy", and therefore whatever he wants must be good. Whereas Locke is willing to be self-sacrificing, but he lacks the wisdom and experience to make a truly good decision, and sometimes makes a bad decision with good intentions. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Sayid all struggle with this as well, and they disagree vehemently among themselves and with Locke. But they seem to recognize that they are all trying to do the best they can with imperfect information, and so they forgive each other and retain the sense that they are on the same side, even when they oppose each other.

And they learn over time. Sawyer can't learn to make good choices until he comes to understand that forgiveness (of ourselves and others) is necessary; that life entails making mistakes or having wrong things happen to us, and we can go on; the real mistake is to decide that because we made a mistake we are forever Bad, or that because someone harmed us we are forever damaged. Ben begins to chose the right when he realizes that his sense of the good was unreliable and he had been deceived, so he steps back and decides to follow and learn from someone whose sense of right he trusts (Hurley) for a while. Sayid learns to make good decisions by evaluating them not by if they will get him what he wants, but if they are decisions he could tell his wife about with a clean conscience (the "would I do this if everyone could see" standard). Kate decides to stop doing what she wants (raise Aaron) and instead do what she would want someone to do for her (the golden rule standard). Jack learns to let go of the immediate thing he thinks he wants, and to listen to how it feels in his heart (the "still small voice" standard).

I told Bob midway through the 3rd season, when he started watching it with me, that their biggest problem wasn't the obvious one (that they were physically lost) but that they were all spiritually lost. The ending showed that this was always what the show was about. In the end, the Lost all found their way. That was an ending I didn't expect to see on TV.

For all of these reasons, Lost was awesome.


HeyBarmold said...

The end of Lost reminded me of the when I finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was so well written and so character driven that in the end I felt a connection to the characters and mourned the loss of my friends.

Its just so crazy how many easter eggs are in the show, and how many literary allusions there are in the writing. Whether it was tabula rasa, through the looking glass, tale of two cities, wizard of oz, the narnia chronicles, the 23rd psalm, Catch 22, The Little Prince, or the numerous references to Locke, Hume, Rousseau, and Bentham, its amazing how they were able to advance the plot so effectively while integrating these works as well as the more subtle works like books that are being read by characters. It brought me to the conclusion that it was THE best written show ever and will never be topped.

The End was perfect and I wish I brag that I knew it back in the 3rd or 4th episode of this season, but I digressed later on and refuted my ideas.

Lost was like a parable. For people unfamiliar with philosophy, religion, and allusions, it was just an entertaining show about a plane crash. But a deeper, higher narrative was lost on these viewers, and others who wanted to dig could dig deep. I honestly can't think of another show that could even come close.

Don and Joyce said...

Very Perceptive, Kristy. What a wise daughter you are!!