As you read our new blog series, Pop Culture Espresso Shots, expect a lot of spoilers. I mean, it’s hard to talk about pop culture artifacts in any meaningful way without talking about the plot.
But LOST went off the air in 2010. I think we’re reached the spoiler statue of limitations (it's a thing).
So yes, there is a smoke monster.
Yes, they were all dead at the end.
No, they were not dead the whole time.
And yes, the Island was real.
The end of the series received a lot of mixed reviews. Some hated the ending, while others, like myself, loved it. And in the end, I realize that LOST was actually an extremely valuable show that taught me three important lessons:
1. Mystery Matters
One of the most popular mantras amongst jilted LOST fans is, “We deserved answers!”
To this I respond, “No. You didn’t.”
That’s the whole mystery jam.
Besides, what super great answer were you expecting?
Did that bird really say Hurley’s name? Why was the Dharma Initiative doing experiments on polar bears in the first place? Why did Jacob’s brother turn to smoke just because he went down a waterfall?
I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. The point is, we are all actually probably a lot happier not having an answer to these things.
Don’t agree? I have one word for you.
When George Lucas decided to include a pseudo-scientific grounding for the Force, he helped destroy the Star Wars prequels by sucking the mystery right out of them. He reduced the depth and beauty of the Force to something simplistic and bland.
When the Force became something we could define and understand, it ceased to be interesting.
Some things are simply better when shrouded in mystery because, paradoxically, that shroud helps reveal something. That some things – things like human beings and love and art – can’t be reduced to simplistic explanations; to even try would miss the point entirely.
The same goes for God, to an even greater extent.
If we can’t accept that some things in a fictional (that is to say, PRETEND) world just are what they are (i.e., a smoke monster), even if we can’t fully understand, then how can we possibly ever come to accept the reality of God existing in the real world?
Shows like LOST present us with valuable opportunity to practice the humility needed to embrace the mysterious. It’s fine to have questions. But the joy of being human in this world means sometimes having to live with questions that have no clear answers.
Embrace the mystery, folks. The alternative’s pretty boring.
2. It’s All About People
If you were too busy grumbling at the unanswered questions of LOST, then you missed out on the real point of the show: the people.
In the end, the show really has nothing to do with the smoke monster, the polar bears, or anything else on the Island. If the Island were the important thing, then there would be no need for flashbacks.
This is also why each episode in season one begins with a close-up of a character’s eye. We are being brought into their story, to see the world from their perspective.
We get glimpses into the characters’ lives because LOST is about them.
While the mystery of the Island and the larger cosmic questions surrounding LOST are interesting (and sometimes crazy), to miss out on the characters is to miss out on the whole purpose of the show.
And it’s deeply relevant for how we live our own lives. We can either get stuck in wondering why so many terrifying and strange and mysterious things happen to us…
Why did my parents divorce?
Why did I get let go from work?
Why didn’t I into the college I’ve been planning to attend since I was a kid?
…or, we can lean into the circumstances and simply embrace the people in our midst.
To quote Christian Shephard in the final moments of LOST:
“Everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church: they’re all real, too…The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them. And they needed you.”
It’s all about people.
3. People Really Can Change
Spiritual transformation is the name of the game, folks, both in the Christian life and in LOST.
Each of the characters arrives on the Island with a past that haunts them. They arrive with the possibility of starting over. It isn’t long, however, before old patterns return, and people’s true colors emerge.
Criminals are still criminals. Drug addicts are still drug addicts. Control freaks are still control freaks.
But they are given the opportunity to battle themselves and, in many cases, they end up making remarkable changes. Some even sacrifice their lives to save their friends (“Greater love has no man than this…”).
In LOST and in our lives, the most unfathomable mystery is that of the human heart and its capacity for both great goodness and great evil.
And we see that, despite their past, people can become something new. People can be remade.
People can be saved.
And the key is love. It takes love and belonging, being part of something bigger than oneself.
It takes sacrifice. It takes giving the self away for the sake of other people, even to the point of being willing to die.
But people can change.
Often, I find myself tempted by despair, standing on the edge of a precipice, looking into the darkness of my soul, wondering, “Am I going to be this way forever?”
Shows like LOST remind me that I don’t have to be; that there is hope to be found in Jesus Christ.
Sure, Christ doesn’t really play much of a part in LOST, but He’s there (“filling all things”) whether I realize it or not.
LOST wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is.
Christ alone is the end of our longing, but until I see Him face to face, I will simply be grateful for shows like LOST, which help me see Him just a little more clearly.
LOST Title: Wikimedia Commons
Dharma Van: Doug Kline via Compfight cc
Mountain: anthony_goto via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on Pop Culture from Y2AM, check out Pop Culture Coffee Hour, Y2AM's new podcast with Steve Christoforou and Christian Gonzalez!