Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thoughts After Finding LOST

I’ll begin by acknowledging that I’m arriving very, very late, yet I’m thankful to still find space for me on the LOST bandwagon. For five years or so, Erin and I have been holding out on viewing what has arguably been the most popular TV show of the decade. We really like to view series from the beginning and in chronological order (which is now incredibly easy thanks to the Internet and DVDs), so for five years now, every time my channel surfing has landed me on an episode of LOST, I have moved on after no more than a scene or two. I wanted to start at the beginning, which, about two weeks ago, we finally did. With the final season coming up in a few short months, and with Erin on semi-bed-rest the past few weeks, we seized the opportunity to finally see what all of the fuss has been about. We have plowed through seasons one and two in a very short time, and I’m not afraid to say that we are both totally hooked. Addicted. Engrossed. They’ve got us. We are loving it. This is an impressive show, and I thought I’d share a little about why I’m so enamored with it with my vast following of readers. I hope you both enjoy it…

First of all, it’s just incredibly well done. The writing, acting, scenery, music, production – all of it is top-notch. The characters are compelling. There is a great mix of drama, mystery, and comedy. And the plot zooms along, twisting and turning like your favorite roller coaster, with perfect timing. Just enough is revealed to keep the viewer (or at least to keep this viewer) informed enough to stay with the story but curious enough about what’s still unrevealed to remain on tenterhooks for the next scene, episode, or season. You should see how fast I hit the [>>] button on my DVD remote control at the end of each episode, ready to keep watching and see what happens next.

LOST is also very relevant. It engages my heart, my brain, and even my spirit. In my opinion, LOST is at worst extremely thought-provoking and at best deeply insightful about dozens of important topics, including leadership, community, parenthood, identity, the idea of “home”, marriage, different personality types, commitment, fear, courage, spirituality, faith, science, technology, emotional intelligence, strength, weakness, mystery, sin, redemption, forgiveness, humor, mourning, purpose, … and the list goes on. LOST seems to speak directly and deeply to many of the core issues of our lives, something which few, if any, TV shows I’ve ever seen are able to do in such a wide-ranging and consistent manner. I, like everyone else, am often left wondering exactly what the creators of this show are trying to say – but no matter what happens in the final season or what the creators personally believe, I’m here to tell you that after watching the first two seasons I have found a great deal of overlap between my Christian faith and the statements made and lessons taught by this show.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed the interplay that, though involving many characters, has primarily taken place between the two natural leaders of the group – Jack and Locke. The show is overt about the fact that these two guys represent science and faith, respectively. I love how Locke has a faith that is based on real evidence and experiences, yet just like in real life, it’s impossible to explain it to others or convince them of the truth of what he has come to understand. I also like that Locke's faith comes with doubt. In one powerful scene, Locke asks Jack why he finds it so hard to believe in the unseen, and Jack responds by asking Locke why he finds it so easy, to which Lock replies "I has never been easy!" As for Jack, I like how he is a man of science who does so much good for so many with his skills and talents, yet he’s also forced to acknowledge that there are some things going on on the island that simply don’t fit inside his rational, fact-based paradigm. Jack, for all of his rationality and pragmatism, has a spiritual side that he can't deny. And I love how it is in everyone’s best interest for the two of them to find ways to get along and work together. It’s a beautiful metaphor for a wonderful truth, embodied by two imperfect but lovable characters.

Speaking of imperfect but lovable characters – that brings me around to my #1 favorite thing about LOST: the people. They are so real. They are so well-conceived. The cast of characters is incredibly diverse and infinitely interesting, and it is impossible to pigeon-hole or categorize any of them simply as “good guys” and “bad guys”. Each one of them is flawed but beautiful. Each one of them is extremely complex. Each one of them is at the same time good and bad, godly and sinful. Each one of them is at times victorious and transcendent and heroic, and at other times selfish and evil and totally disappointing. In other words, each one of them is very much like a real person. I enjoy nearly all of the characters and seem to identify with each of them at least a little because they are so very human, they are so much like the people I know in real life!!! They remind me of a quote by Blaise Pascal that I recently read (in Rob Bell’s excellent book “Sex God”):

“Man is neither angel nor beast.”

I have thought about it and read about it and discussed it, and I just can’t get on board with John Calvin’s idea of mankind’s “total depravity”. I mean, yes, we are depraved. Of course we are. I don’t know anyone who can honestly look at the world around us – or take an honest look in the mirror – and not conclude that something is terribly wrong. Mankind is obviously “fallen”, sinful, often downright evil. I like how John Ortberg said it: “The natural tendency of my mind apart from God is toward death, not life.” But that’s not the whole story. The doctrine of total depravity goes too far. It ignores the other side of the coin, the side that reminds us that we are also created in the image of God. What of all of the undeniable beauty in this world, and in the individuals who comprise it? Yes, we are sinners – but we are also God’s image bearers, the height of his creation. In His omniscience, even knowing that we’d choose to go our own way and reject Him and break His heart, God still chose to create us, to love us, and to save us. Why would he do that? Because we’re worth it. Because people are His greatest treasure. Because as far as we may go down the road of sin and depravity, we are always one step of repentance away from being right back in the good graces of our Father, forgiven and ready for a second (or 490th) chance to do things the right way.

Again, this is what I have loved most about LOST. In each character there is something of the beauty and glory of “God’s workmanship” – an absolutely unique work of art by the Creator – living side-by-side with the sinful nature that goes its own way and wreaks all kinds of havoc along the way. One episode we find ourselves wanting to hate one of the characters, disgusted by his or her actions, only to find our feelings changed completely when we learn a little bit more of his or her experience, reasoning, and character – his or her STORY – and when we see him or her come through in the clutch. And so it goes until we conclude that each of these people is going to fail and fall sometimes, while other times they will be heroes. And we understand that they are like we are, and so our hearts break for them and we cheer them on and hope for the best, even as we prepare for the worst. It has been a great reminder for me, because while I find it easy to love and wish the best for Charlie and Hurley and Sayid and Kate and the rest in spite of their sins and struggles, I’m often not so good at doing the same for REAL PEOPLE in my life. Watching LOST has helped me to desire to be a better Christian by reminding me that, as Philo of Alexandria said, “Every man is facing a great battle” and that, as C.S. Lewis said, “You have never met a mere mortal.”

There is a constant tension among the castaways on that mysterious island between civilization and wildness, between building something together and just, going, as Sawyer says, all “Lord of the Flies”. And although we see plenty of vengeance and violence and other ugly things, there is a lot of beauty and love and grace to be found there as well. As the makers of LOST brilliantly contrast the good and evil, the angelic and the animal, joining in the story as a viewer ultimately more than anything else causes me to desire more of those good and pure and godly things – qualities that we all have within us when we die to ourselves and allow Christ to live within us – in my own life.

God looked upon His creation and pronounced it “good”.
People are worth it.
Jesus died for ALL of us.
“Man is neither angel nor beast.”
There are no "mere mortals"...

I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see…

It’s never too late to be found by our loving God who, as Scripture teaches, is constantly searching the whole earth to find even one who will follow Him whole-heartedly.

My prayer is that, even after LOST is long-gone as a popular TV show, we will all continue to recognize and celebrate the divine spark in each and every person, the work of the Creator who both loves us exactly as we are and loves us too much to allow us to stay that way!

1 comment:

  1. While I am sad that you have succumbed to the evil that is the LOST cult, this is a great article. Thanks for this.