Saturday, May 22, 2010

LOST: The Series Finale

"Let us celebrate with a feast - for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again. He was lost but now has been found." (Luke 15:23-24)

After six incredible seasons, the television show LOST is coming to an end this weekend. Fans have speculated on the many theories and predictions of what the show might mean - and executive producer Damon Lindelof said recently, "...we have no shame in admitting that we are intensely spiritual people and that LOST is ultimately a deeply spiritual show." (qtd. in Entertainment Weekly, May 14, 2010).

From its very beginning, LOST has incorporated explicit religious references into the course of the show. Consider the biblical meanings behind the names of characters such as Jacob, Aaron, Michael, Benjamin, Daniel, James and John - or that Jack Shepherd's number, 23, lines up to Psalm 23, which begins, "The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want..."

There have been statues of the Virgin Mary, a hollowed out Bible, baptisms, an altar boy, a monk, characters seen in prayer and making the sign of the cross, dialogue referencing 40 days of penance, Moses, doubting Thomas, the Ascension, and Adam & Eve. One character, Mr. Eko, carried around a "Jesus stick" with Scripture quotes as he painfully worked through a process of redemption for the sins of his past. In Season Six, the final act of the series, the debate has centered on the conflict between the goodness vs. the corruptability of humanity - and exploring the issues of good and evil - and the fall from grace.

In a recent episode, "Across the Sea," we found out that the island is akin to the Garden of Eden, where anything in this paradise can be touched except for the natural well at the center of the island, akin to the tree of knowledge forbidden in the second chapter of Genesis. We also saw that the island's confrontation originated from competing brothers - not unlike the biblical examples of Cain and Abel, Issac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, or James and John.

Putting aside these allusions and explicit references, LOST's spirituality has also relied on the twin concepts of isolation and community, life and death, faith and science, fear and courage, fate and free will, prejudice and diversity, war and peace, love and indifference, suffering and sacrifice, and most common to all the castaways' stories: sin and redemption.

The notion of a deserted island conjures up images of being alone, isolated, cut off from the world. But crashing in this place has actually had the opposite effect for the survivors of Oceanic 815. Even though they were around others in their previous lives, they were more isolated than they cared to admit; however, on the island, they found what real community was all about - what it meant to care for each other, to sacrifice for others, and to love one another. In a sense, LOST did that for its audience, too... thanks to the show, people were able to connect with each other like never before.

And for many of the castaways, their life prior to the island was not only disconnected from others, but it was filled with sin and angst. Sawyer was a con man; Kate was a murderer running from the law; Sayid was a torturer; Claire was an unwed young mother; Jack was an insecure, uncaring doctor; Locke had dependency issues; Jin and Sun were an unhappy couple under the shadow of the Korean mafia; Hurley had horribly bad luck; Rose suffered from cancer; Charlie was a drug addict... the list is endless. Or to use one of the passages on Eko's Jesus stick, "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobidient, deluded, slaves to desire and pleasure, living in malice and envy, hating ourselves, and hating each other." (Titus 3:3)

But when they came to the island, they were able to refocus and renew themselves. They were able to repent for their sins and look beyond their past. They were able to carve out a future full of hope and begin anew.

In the 15th chapter of Luke (realizing 15 is one of those important "numbers" on the show), we have three incredible parables that mirror the LOST experience of sin and redemption.

First, Jesus tells his disciples about the lost sheep: "Who among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine and go after the lost one?" (Lk. 15:4). This reminds us that our castaways are a community - and, according to Jack, they "live together and die alone." Being isolated was a fact of life off the island for so many, but now they realize that being all together is the best route. In the show, it seems bad things happen when people seperate into camps or groups (like The Others); but great things happen when people reunite and stand as one.

Second, Jesus shares the image of the lost coin: "What woman, having ten coins and losing one, would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully for that valuable coin until she finds it again?" (Lk. 15:8). Throughout the show, we have come to know that each castaway's story is worth telling. Everyone's story is important, worthy of at least an episode (yes, even Nikki and Paulo). Each and every person is priceless - and everyone's story is worth the universe to God. No matter how bad our past or how boring life might seem, God finds each of us worth every penny. LOST reminds us how special each of us truly are.

Finally, Jesus tells the infamous story of the lost son. In this story, two brothers (yet another reference?) go their seperate ways. One son goes off and squanders his inheritence by sinning and falling into desperation; the other son stays back and does his father's bidding (perhaps not unlike poor Ben Linus). But when the prodigal son finds himself alone and isolated (perhaps not unlike the experience of a deserted island), he realizes his sin, confesses to God, and longs to go home. When he returns, his father is overjoyed: "Let us celebrate with a feast - for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again. He was lost and now has been found!" (Lk. 15:23-24).

No matter how far the castaways have strayed, and no matter how much we feel we have strayed in our own lives, God is always there - like the father of the lost son - welcoming us home and forgiving us of our sins... that is, if we are ready to be found again.

LOST has much to say to us - but at its core is its very title. Being "lost" in our lives is an experience so common to all of us. Like the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, God wants us to be found again and will do what He can to get to us... but the next move is ours. Just like the island in LOST cannot be found by happenstance, it takes real effort and action on the part of the lost to seek redemption.

As we approach the series finale, no matter what actually happens in the show, let us remember the great lessons we have learned over the past six years - and that at its core, the show (and our lives) are about the search for love, community, and redemption. Let's pray the show (and our lives) have the happy ending we so fervently seek. Namaste.


Anonymous said...

Awesome Paul. Great blog. Great insights. Take care-
Jake Chojnacki

firesetter said...

been following your blog for sometime now. i am compelled to say this is one of the best ive read here so far. & im not even a fan of LOST :)