Eternally Lost

From left to right: Ilana, Richard, Claire, Sa...
From left to right: Ilana, Richard, Claire, Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Jack, Jin, Ben, Hurley, Sun, Miles and Frank, arranged in a pastiche of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Sayid occupies the same position as Judas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOST is my all-time favorite television series. The characters are extremely well crafted and I find myself relating to many of them. The actors were well cast, and breathed life into the characters that soon became my friends, family, and sometimes enemies. The storyline had enough suspense and plot twists to keep me tuning in every week (even after the episode about Jack’s tattoos).

But all good things come to an end. On May 23rd, 2010, LOST aired its final episode. I sat at Mr. Coffee (the coffee shop in Koreatown where I did a lot of writing), streaming the episode live on my laptop as it aired. By the end of the episode, the cute Korean barista asked me if I was okay because I was in tears.

Almost three years has passed since the series ended. During that time I have heard a lot of criticism about the ending. Personally, I thought it was brilliant. I believe that most people who didn’t like the ending really just didn’t understand it.

I wrote an article titled “Eternally Lost”, which is about the series finale. It is my interpretation of the ending. Please keep in mind that I wrote this soon after the episode aired in May, 2010. The article begins after the spoiler alert. You have been warned.

!! Contains spoilers from the final episode of ABC’s LOST !!

Like millions of other fans of ABC’s hit show, LOST, I tuned in to the series finale.  This two and a half hour of television had me filled with excitement and emotion the entire time.  I felt like my body was the Swan station, building up with energy, anticipating the turn of the failsafe key.  Throughout the finale, there were many moments that had me literally in tears, notably when Jin & Sun, Charlie & Claire, and Sawyer & Juliet had their respective moments of realization.

Unlike most other episodes this season, I was drawn more to the Flash-sideways story than the Island story.  Ultimately, it’s the Flash-sideways story that is important.  As Desmond put it before he climbed down to the Source of the Island, whatever happened on the Island isn’t as important to the characters as what happens to their spirits.  In that regards, some may say that the ending is a cop-out.  After all, the emotional deaths of Jin and Sun seem less dramatic if they are happily reunited in the after-life.  However, the events that happened before their deaths were far from meaningless.  Their lives on the Island were their journey, just like our lives on Earth are our own journeys.  Though they were fictional characters, to say their lives didn’t matter would be the same as saying that our lives don’t matter.  Even though our time on Earth is rather short, we have our own paths, things which we must learn, before we can move on.  And what those characters went through were personally important to them in order for them to understand what they needed to know to move on.

I know that many devoted viewers may be upset or confused by the ending.  Many will complain that we weren’t given enough answers.  Like what exactly was the Island, or the Light?  Why was it so important to protect it?  Those who are dwelling on those questions don’t understand the bigger picture and are missing the point.  Even in the after life, when the characters woke up to the realization of where they were, they didn’t have all the answers.  They didn’t even fully understand the after life that they were in, and they for sure didn’t know all the secrets of the Island.  But it didn’t matter to them.  They had achieved Enlightenment, and had transcended beyond the need to understand everything.  They accepted their fate, and as a result, were ready to move on.

Not all characters were ready to move on.  Michael’s spirit was still on the Island because he had things to work out.  Eloise didn’t want Daniel to move on yet because she still needed him to atone for what she did to him.  Ben chose not to move on yet because he still needed forgiveness for all the things that he did.  Likewise, if we don’t come to certain realizations, we may never move on.  If we can’t accept that we don’t have all the answers in Lost, then we won’t be able to move on with our real lives.

So we may never learn the true nature of Walt’s powers, or who was in the other outrigger, or the Man in Black’s real name, but in the long run those things don’t matter.  After all, if Jack didn’t even fully understand what the Island was before he died, then why should we?  LOST isn’t like any other show.  It doesn’t spoon-feed the audience all the answers.  It makes us think.  It gives us room to fill in the blanks for ourselves.  And now with it over, it is making us do exactly what it intended.  It is making us think.  Not just about the show, but about our own reality.  What will happen to us after we die?  Will we be in a flash-sideways world with people who were important to us until we can understand whatever purpose our lives had and move on?  There’s only one way to find out.  Although personally I don’t want to dwell on it.  I’d rather make the most of what time I have left.  I’m just glad that I survived long enough to watch the finale.  I know one person who didn’t, and I would like to take a moment to dedicate this to Diann Dickerhoof.  If not for her, I may never have started watching LOST.  I’d like to think that she is happily in her own flash-sideways with her husband, Chet.

It is in fact the lack of getting concrete answers about the Island that gives us a valuable lesson.  We will never have all the answers in life.  We might not even get all the answers in the after life.  Why should we know all the answers about a fictional Island if we don’t have all the answers in our own lives?  Personally, I’d rather have all the answers for what I should do in life.  But I don’t.  If I had the answers, then I would know where I would be living in a couple of months.  I would know what I need to do to solve my current financial problem.  But unfortunately, I don’t have those answers right now.  I’m just as lost as the survivors of Oceanic 815.

And that brings me to the main theme of the show, which is also the title: LOST.  These characters were lost on a strange island.  In flashbacks, we learned that they were lost even before arriving on the island.  In flash-forwards, we learned that those who got off the Island were still lost.  Then they were lost in time.  In the flash-sideways, they were still lost, even though they were dead.  The same is true for us. We are all lost in our own lives, searching for answers that we may never find.  Perhaps someday we will be found, but only once we have nothing left to learn.  And that won’t be in this lifetime.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse should be praised for creating a show that is not only entertaining, but also raises strong philosophical questions.  Who knew six years ago, when we first saw Jack wake up in the jungle, that LOST would have us thinking about life, death, and the after life?  About soul mates and the power of true love?  About the ongoing battle between good, evil, and the thin line between?  About fate versus free-will?  It has taught us to question our own reality, our own perceptions, and our own expectations.  The polar bears, the numbers, the whispers, and the black smoke are all just scenery to a larger meaning.  For within each of us is a bright Light that keeps our own personal monsters at bay.  At the end of the day, the real question is this:  Can we as innately flawed humans protect the Source of our inner Island, or will our inner black smoke escape to destroy the world that surrounds us?

If you are to learn anything from LOST, let it be this:  If John Locke can forgive Ben for murdering him, then maybe we can learn to forgive each other.

Thank you, Damon and Carlton, for giving us six wonderful seasons of a show unlike any other, and for giving me something to write about.  And to you, for reading this, thank you, Namaste, and good luck.


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