Monday, May 24, 2010

See You in Another Life, Brother.

Time always flies when you’re having a good time. There’s no way to capture it and make it slow down, no matter how you may try. I remember years long ago, coming from college to spend the weekend with a boyfriend I simply could not get enough of. From the second I arrived at his apartment, I would try to slow down time. “Let’s smoke,” I’d plead, with reckless college abandon for things like rules and decorum, “so it will seem like times lasts longer.” I wanted every second to stretch. I’d make him stay up until the wee small hours, saying sleep could wait for weeknights, so that we’d have more time with one another. From the very first episode six years ago, I have felt a similar affinity for Lost.

Even from the original promos, the series just seemed special. It’s one of the few programs I have loved like this that I actually watched from its inception. From the second Jack opened his eyes in the forest, to the bittersweet moment when his eyes closed there again in the finale, I was an absolute devotee. Others lost patience, waiting for explanations, wanting something huge to happen, determined that the show should move ahead at a much quicker pace. I was the opposite. I savored every single moment of storytelling. If a new question was posed, it simply meant that there was something to prolong this glorious story. There would be new facts to discover, but all in good time. I loved that the show just developed naturally. Just like life would be on such a mysterious, magical island – not all answers came at one time. You’d make discoveries and have aha! moments as they occurred, not on demand. I developed a great respect for the speed of the storytelling, and a love of the slow reveals simply because it made the magic last longer. Let it be said that I am one to unwrap a package by undoing each piece of tape and undoing folds rather than tearing it all off, and I have never, ever, ever read ahead in book to “get to the good parts.” The destination is a reward in itself, but the real joy of anything in life is the journey that takes you where you are meant to go. Things must happen in their own time. You must slow down and allow things to unfold, savor things as they occur, rather than look back on it and wish you’d allowed yourself to be more in the moment instead of hurrying to the end.

Television plays a huge role in my life. I love it. I’m still like one of Ken Nordeen’s television addicts, regardless of the fact that it’s commonplace. I just can’t get enough of it and have felt pangs of withdrawal if forced to go too long without it. The tv’s basically always on at my house; if anyone is up, there will be a blue-hued glow and a murmur followed by overly-loud ads for car dealerships. Rarely is watching something an event, though. A few special shows get some special attention, but Lost was always an exception. Lights off. Phone off. No computers, no multi-tasking permitted. Drinks, okay; food was too much of a divergence. Lost was made to be paid full attention to, made to appreciated not simply glanced at and bits picked up.

With great sadness, this final season has played. During a period of time when work has been unhappy and there’s been little to look forward to in daily life, Tuesdays have been special. Texts from the finance would bring the most welcome reminder, “Tuesday! Lost night!!!!” Suddenly a dreadful day was made so much better. Each episode was watched with 90% jubilation, 10% despair. It was ending. It was all leading to the end. Of course everything has to end, and I fully agree that a show should go while at its best. There’s nothing sadder than watching something become a ghost of its previously glorious self. And yet.

Lost was a wonderful show. It was part science-fiction, part adventure, part mystery, part homage to oddities like The Twilight Zone, part romance, part morality play. The program gave viewers a look at the life of plane crash survivors as they attempted to form a workable society amidst great adversity on a hostile, mysterious island. At the same time, through the magic of flashback, we got to see who each of the individuals were on their own, prior to their arrival on the island. Each was broken in some way. Each fought demons. Each struggled with their identity, some because of how others forced them to exist and how they’d come to view themselves, some because of inner battles. The title of the show had far more to do with the souls of the characters of the program than it did with their lot on this quasi-uncharted-desert-isle.

As the show progressed, it became clear that this island was a place of refuge and a place of healing. For some this was physically evident. One woman’s cancer disappeared; one man’s spinal injury disappeared. For others, healing occurred with work. Addictions were battled and conquered, marriage in a state of disrepair found new life. For others, this was simply a place where healing could occur internally, a place where second chances at everything were possible, including the most elusive – self-forgiveness.

For a while, some of the lost made it off the island back to their lives. The Oceanic Six. But they all returned, as the island called them back.

In the final seasons, we stopped seeing flashbacks mixed in with present day story. Instead, we saw “sideways” views – the “what if” universe. What would have occurred if the plane had never crashed? Who would these people be? What would life be like? Some things were very similar, some things were different in each person’s life. Despite the differences, however, each life still touched the others. Just as they had all been pulled to the island for a specific purpose, for potential and investigation, in this parallel world, they were pulled together again. Webs developed. Seemingly random strangers who’d all sat together on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles were repeatedly thrown together. And ultimately, they begin in pairs to remember the alternate past of the island. It is their destiny to be a group lot. Despite the differences, the changes, the new options – these people were fated to be together, connected in life. It was inescapable.

The final episode showed an epic battle between good and evil; of those out only for their own selfish gain versus those determined to protect the island for the good of the world. In the sideways world, everyone recalled their life on the island, and realized that it, along with the other survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, was their destiny. They are all led to a church of sorts, and all but one go inside, waiting for the others and what comes next. Viewers discover at the same time as the primary hero does that he has died. That time no longer matters. That everyone who spent time on the island had realized that part of their life and the time that spent together was the most important part of their existence. They had developed this place as a way to reunite, and then to move on together, en masse.

The show could mean so many things, all depending upon your point of view. The most simple explanation is Biblical, for the agnostic sort it could certainly be defined as a philosophical realm where the concepts of good and evil are explored. There were probably a lot of sci-fi viewers that were disappointed by the fact not all of the mysteries of island were tied up with a neat little bow. I just don’t think this series was about this, though. Lost was an exploration of people. Who each of us is, how others see us, how we perceive ourselves, how we deal with the issues of our lives, what becomes a demon, what becomes defeated – these were the real questions of Lost. The Oceanic passengers were broken. They were, aptly enough, lost. Some were unable to defeat their demons, and they were eliminated. Some were successful with their redemption and able to move on while still on the island. The Oceanic Six, those that returned to their lives, were never quite able to do it on their own. True redemption was not something they were able to achieve on their own, and so back they went to the island. There, on the island, the remaining survivors met their ultimate destinies. The time on the island was a baptism through fire. Only when each of the souls truly conquered their doubts, their demons, their destructive tendencies, were they able to solve the crisis of the island, and then make their way to the joyful place of redemption they’d created for one another. The one fellow that didn’t enter the church said of himself that he still had some things to work out. There is strong implication that this most morally ambiguous character had simply not been able to fully atone yet, and must wait to move on further with the others.

Throughout the episode, people that had loved and lost were reunited in their sideways lives. With each couple, the emotion was intense. These people that had been separated by time, life, death, alternate universes – they were all reunited with their soul mates. Fate returned them to one another, and each reunion was more beautiful than the last.

Obviously, I take the romantic tract with Lost. I have always been a sucker for the concept of fate and soul mates. I blame it on seeing Somewhere in Time at too early an age. It’s just so comforting to think that there’s a master plan. It’s up to us to find it, but there is a purpose for each and every person, and there is a partner with whom you are to spend your life. Even more importantly, there is an entire cast of characters that you are meant to encounter who will shape you. These people that become your closest friends, your chosen family, these people are the most important things in your life. As they should be. As they were pre-determined to be.

When the show ended last night, I did as I do with a beloved program’s finale. I sobbed. I mourned. No more Lost. The characters were dead. The show was complete. Last night’s reaction was more than just that, though. The parallels of the series’ themes and the upheaval of my life over this last year just seemed too uncanny. Like the characters of Lost, I couldn’t help be struck by the message I seemed to have screamed to me by this series. Life is waiting to be met. Demons have to be confronted. Things have to be figured out. The people I want in my life have to be embraced and held close.

This last year I have faced incredible, occasionally insurmountable depression. I have been reunited with high school and college friends I’d had no contact with for ten years or more and dealt with bits of existential crisis as a result. I’ve made peace with a hurt that I thought I would simply have to suffer and endure for the rest of my life. I have shed poisonous family ties, despite the guilt and pain that accompanies my decision to do so. I have lost my job and due to an unforgiving market, been forced to question my entire career path. What I have taken from all of this is the importance of relationships in my life. Through the magic of social networking, I’ve rediscovered all the people that I’d lost through life changes. These people made me who I am. They are my identity; they are the people I love most in this world; they are my home. I’ve come to look at myself through a different lens, realizing how critical I am of myself and how there’s far more credit I am owed for talents and abilities I typically overlook. My life is changing radically. While the thought of it is terrifying, I also find it exhilarating. I feel like I am on the brink of what it is I am supposed to find, just on the verge of really making my life what it is supposed to be.

I know that Lost is nothing more than a television series, born of the minds of some very talented writers with a vision for a wondrous story. But last night, I couldn’t help but feel that it was made just for me. It’s made me consider my entire life in a very different philosophical way. It’s overdramatic; it’s silly; it’s unbelievably self-obsessed. But this is the meaning I’ve taken from this wonderful show. The finality of the show made me very sad, but I want to keep the sense of urgency it’s provided me with about grasping firm the relationships I have in my life that really matter and that I cherish, and I most definitely want to keep the spirit of adventure I feel about my pending life. People complain about tv and how it rots your brain. It doesn’t have to be. Thank you Lost, for posing some very important questions and just letting viewers think for themselves for a change.


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  2. very well written, cherie. and very insightful as well. you know you're never alone.