Faith in LOST

In anticipation of the last few hours of LOST, many are now asking which remaining questions need to be answered. I have heard from many fans that there are certain questions that must be addressed or they’ll consider the entire series a waste. The following is not intended to criticize those who are asking these questions, but I’d like to offer my personal response to that question.

LOST initially intrigued me because of the mysteries and the questions. For a very long time – several seasons, in fact – I would have thought I kept watching for the answers I sought. But in the last couple seasons it’s become clear to me that a major reason I continue to watch is the same reason I latched onto it at the beginning: the questions. It asks good questions. The episodes I am thrilled by the most are the ones that have me shouting, “What the—how…?!”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the show owes me no answers.

I refuse to treat it like conservative Christians treat the Bible. LOST is not a book of facts, but a work of literature. We steep ourselves in its temper and tone and we seek to understand what the authors are telling us rather than telling them what they must tell us. We sit back and enjoy the scenery, wondering what lies behind that mountain, feeling intrigued to know what sort of people live on that intriguing estate, gasping when a deer leaps in front of the car and out of sight into the woods.

Many of the facts that we LOST fans seek are slowly disclosing themselves, and don’t get me wrong: I covet every one they see fit to provide us. I don’t doubt that there will be things I dearly wish they had addressed. But I find it exceedingly hard to prescribe the palette of a master painter. How could I — why would I — advise him which shadows are too pronounced and how many birds belong in the background?

If I sound like an undiscriminating fanboy, know that the LOST team earned my loyalty. They certainly could have blown my trust — they nearly did over one big decision they made. But because I granted them a modicum of deserved suspension of judgment and waited to see their greater purpose, that stumbling block has been removed, and even though a part of me wishes they had done it my way, I have gained unshakable respect for their abilities.

LOST is a show about faith, believing despite a lack of answers, trust in what’s proved trustworthy during the absence of understanding. I have faith in LOST.

__________________________________________________________
No spoilers or show specifics in the comments, please.

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  • I understand what you are saying and on one level I agree with you. LOST is a lot like life in that there are some things that we will never fully understand or even get the “answer” to the question of why it happened at all. I think this was masterfully done, and I applaud the producers and writers for being able to make such a compelling program.

    However, one of the reasons that the fascination with LOST was so widespread and infectious was (I believe) because Lindelof and Cuse (the producers) kept insisting that answers were coming. They were coy through every interview I ever saw with them, promising viewers that it would all make sense in the end. Well, it didn't. I wasn't necessarily expecting to get answers for every single detail and easter egg scattered throughout the six years of the show, but I was at least hoping to get some sort of closure on the whole ball of wax.

    The finale reminded me of Douglas Hofstadter's book, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. For all of the book's promises to offer a “theory of everything,” it ended up being a mess of intellectual trivia. It just goes to show that everything IS meaningless when ripped form the grand narrative of the Bible. God's truth does make sense of the world; every other attempt at “understanding” just ends up being incoherent.

  • Eric,

    Thanks for the comment! Naturally, no one has to like the show or the finale, but I think it's important not to criticize either for not being something they were never supposed to be.

    I understand that most of the disappointment stems from the build-up of expectation for answers, but I doubt how much of that expectation was promised in so many words by the showrunners. In fact, as a faithful listener to the official podcast, I was for a long time infuriated that they never gave answers. They did intimate that there were answers, but not that they we should expect them to be revealed in the course of the show; numerous times when addressing some aspect of the peripheral mythology that viewers were asking about Lindelof and Cuse insisted that we were being distracted by mere plot devices. I don't doubt there were a few things they might have thought they would explore which they didn't end up getting around to, but to me, that hardly invalidates the show or even the finale.

    Something they made clear was that we should only expect answers to questions that the characters themselves were asking. They said over and over that it was centrally a show about characters and not about sci-fi/fantasy: it was a show about people who were “lost” before they ever got to the Island, and how their experiences would change them. And of course, an integral aspect of how the character of the survivors of Oceanic 815 would be shaped was that they shipwrecked on a mysterious Island. These characters wouldn't be “found” by explaining this or that item of historical, trivial interest, and so we had no cause (other than our own curiosity and imaginations) to expect that the show would answer questions not directly related to the characters.

    To me, the “closure on the whole ball of wax” was the reminder of something most of us intuited all along: the show was centrally about that character whose eye opened in the first episode. He was at the center of the show then, the center of the show for the thrilling midseries “Through the Looking Glass”, and very clearly the center of the events following. The closing images of the credits showcased the fact that this series was about the surviivors of 815, and that now their story blended in to the history of the Island and would be no more or less relevant to later events than what happened to the DI, or the events of “Across the Sea”.

    A lot of people who liked Lost did so because they were convinced it was something that it was never intended to be: a show about mysteries and answering those mysteries. People loved the mysteries, and the showrunners got a kick out of providing them and only selectively answering them, but I don't know that they realized how many of the shows' fans were being distracted; to the extent that they did realize it, I don't know that they could be faulted for throwing bones to those fans and not telling them more explicitly, “Get 'lost'! Watch some other show!” I distinctly remember in the first couple seasons hearing them say that it's not a show about the mythology of the Island but about characters, but I also remember hoping they weren't serious; only recently did I come to terms with the fact that they were telling the truth and that I was actually happy with that.

    Anyway, the “theory of everything” that this show clearly sought to present throughout the entire series is incapsulated in the oft recurring presentation of two choices: “Live together, die alone.” The importance of community and productive social interaction in giving meaning to our lives is clearly illustrated throughout, but it didn't come home to many of us until the last season. Somehow, most of us who closely combed the show for Easter eggs missed the significance of those, myself included. 🙂

  • I understand what you are saying and on one level I agree with you. LOST is a lot like life in that there are some things that we will never fully understand or even get the “answer” to the question of why it happened at all. I think this was masterfully done, and I applaud the producers and writers for being able to make such a compelling program.

    However, one of the reasons that the fascination with LOST was so widespread and infectious was (I believe) because Lindelof and Cuse (the producers) kept insisting that answers were coming. They were coy through every interview I ever saw with them, promising viewers that it would all make sense in the end. Well, it didn't. I wasn't necessarily expecting to get answers for every single detail and easter egg scattered throughout the six years of the show, but I was at least hoping to get some sort of closure on the whole ball of wax.

    The finale reminded me of Douglas Hofstadter's book, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. For all of the book's promises to offer a “theory of everything,” it ended up being a mess of intellectual trivia. It just goes to show that everything IS meaningless when ripped form the grand narrative of the Bible. God's truth does make sense of the world; every other attempt at “understanding” just ends up being incoherent.

  • Eric,

    Thanks for the comment! Naturally, no one has to like the show or the finale, but I think it's important not to criticize either for not being something they were never supposed to be.

    I understand that most of the disappointment stems from the build-up of expectation for answers, but I doubt how much of that expectation was promised in so many words by the showrunners. In fact, as a faithful listener to the official podcast, I was for a long time infuriated that they never gave answers. They did intimate that there were answers, but not that we should expect them to be revealed in the course of the show; numerous times when addressing some aspect of the peripheral mythology that viewers were asking about Lindelof and Cuse insisted that we were being distracted by mere plot devices. I don't doubt there were a few things they might have thought they would explore which they didn't end up getting around to, but to me, that hardly invalidates the show or even the finale.

    Something they made clear was that we should only expect answers to questions that the characters themselves were asking. They said over and over that it was centrally a show about characters and not about sci-fi/fantasy: it was a show about people who were “lost” before they ever got to the Island, and how their experiences would change them. And of course, an integral aspect of how the character of each survivor of Oceanic 815 would be shaped was that they shipwrecked on a mysterious Island. These characters wouldn't be “found” by explaining this or that item of historical, trivial interest, and so we had no cause (other than our own curiosity and imaginations) to expect that the show would answer questions not directly related to the characters.

    To me, the “closure on the whole ball of wax” was the reminder of something most of us intuited all along: the show was centrally about that character whose eye opened in the first episode. He was at the center of the show then, the center of the show for the thrilling midseries episode “Through the Looking Glass”, and very clearly the center of the events following. The closing images of the credits showcased the fact that this series was about the surviivors of 815, and that now their story blended in to the history of the Island and would be no more or less relevant to later events than what happened to the DI, or the events of “Across the Sea”.

    A lot of people who liked Lost did so because they were convinced it was something that it was never intended to be: a show about mysteries and answering those mysteries. People loved the mysteries, and the showrunners got a kick out of providing them and only selectively answering them, but I don't know that they realized how many of the shows' fans were being distracted; to the extent that they did realize it, I don't know that they could be faulted for throwing bones to those fans and not telling them more explicitly, “Get 'lost'! Watch some other show!” I distinctly remember in the first couple seasons hearing them say that it's not a show about the mythology of the Island but about characters, but I also remember hoping they weren't serious; only recently did I come to terms with the fact that they were telling the truth and that I was actually happy with that.

    Anyway, the “theory of everything” that this show clearly sought to present throughout the entire series is incapsulated in the oft recurring presentation of two choices: “Live together, die alone.” The importance of community and productive social interaction in giving meaning to our lives is clearly illustrated throughout, but it didn't come home to many of us until the last season. Somehow, most of us who closely combed the show for Easter eggs missed the significance of those, myself included. 🙂