*SPOILERS: All content which may be spoiling is placed below the jump.*
Well, LOST is over. Finally. I will never forget exam week at the end of freshman year, when I agreed reluctantly to watch the sixth episode of the first season when I should have been studying, and ended up watching the first two seasons in less than a week of exam cramming, sleepless watching sessions, and caffeine. It was the best reluctant decision I’ve ever made.
There have been problems with LOST, at least from the perspective of someone trying to think about sexism and so forth. The straight white men drive the primary shape of the plot. There are no gay men or lesbians, not transsexuals. The show made some great strides with presenting the perspectives of people of color, but those perspectives have often been limited by white-driven stereotypes; take, for instance, Eko the drug smuggler-turned-priest. And, as my friend Sarah has noted, women in LOST are motivated by two things: men and babies.
The rest is below.
(A note: in the last episode, I liked that Jacob said that he crossed Kate off the list of candidates because she became a mother: but I only liked it because he immediately said, ‘But it was just a line made in chalk. You still have a choice.’ I thought it was a telling moment, that really underscored the tensions both of a latent sexism in culture that drives towards the notion of women as mothers with all-encompassing vocations as such: but I was heartened to see such words as Jacob’s indicating the brokenness of this assumption. We would have to talk more on this, I think, as I could see it being read precisely the other way around.)
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about the final episode, at least for me, came as the people in the alternate universe realized the truth of their past. I’ve mentioned before the quotation from Flannery O’Connor, one I think is both beautifully true and beatifully flawed: “The meaning of redemption is precisely that you do not have to be your history.”
This is partially true: your past, while it provides you with the source of your choices, does not have to control you. But it is also dishonest to ignore your past, to act as if it has not shaped you and directed you, to act as though it is not a limitation or a privilege or a truth. The past is as much reality as the present; the past was constructed as much in response to the future; the Christian statement “as it was, is, and will be” might be more simply phrased as “is.” Past, present, and future hinge together in an omnipresent Now. This is why, I believe, Hurley and Ben are present in the alternate universe as well as the real one: because the Eternity that is the end of time does not acknowledge that Ben and Hurley are “not yet dead.” Or, to use a resonant phrase from New Testament studies, the Kingdom of God is both “already here” and “not yet come.”
But the moment that liberates each of the LOST castaways is when they suddenly see their past in its completion. They do not have to live this past towards the future; they have been set down in a different world, a better world, a world in which some of their life choices are different, yet that core of what still was for them a hang-up is still there: James Ford still harbors anger towards the conman that messed up his father and mother’s life, Locke is still wheelchair-bound, Jack still has a penchant towards fixing things, Kate is still on the run. We see perhaps a better world, but when in which the character’s central question is still unresolved.
Yet the resolution of that problem does not come with living into life as it seems to be “better,” but rather living into a life that is the fullest understanding of its past. Redemption, then, is found for the castaways in an understanding of life that respects and understands how it got there: only such lives can “let go” and move forward into the future.
Whether or not this future is eternal life: I don’t know. I’m a Christian. There are things I believe about all of this that color my thinking. But the notion of eternal life is one that has ramifications in thinking in the present: it can, viewed in certain ways, promote and enhance living through life today with all its pains and sorrows and misunderstandings. It can also be abused: Ben and the Man in Black both make mistakes in how they construe eternal life and wish to lay hold of it.
But this is the takeaway, at least for me: living authentically requires an articulation of the past that is true, that is real, that is you.