Lost: For those who were not so lost
Lost was a unique drama. Though thoroughly enjoyable, it was not limited to that. It was deeper than the cast, the setting, the special effects and even the characterization. It had a message to convey and it delivered on that promise. The viewers may disagree with the final message, but the drama was successful in delivering it, though with some obligatory postmodernist confusions.
From the first season it was clear that the message behind Lost was Christian. The sixth season left no doubt about it. The gathering in the church, the statue of Jesus, the ritual of baptism and Jack’s Christ-like sacrifice left no doubt about it. Though there was a bit of multiculturalism thrown in, shown by the ethnic range of the cast, by Saeed-Shannon relationship and by the multi-ethnic Church murals. Nevertheless, the symbolism was overwhelmingly Christian.
The symbolism boils down to this: there is a fight between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; ‘evil’ often generates from curiosity; Life is misery; Man is sinner; Man cannot save himself; he needs help from outside; faith is better than reason; reason and faith are mutually exclusive realms. In short, Christian theology repackaged.
Sixth season had mixed reactions. While some loved it, others plainly hated it. The viewers stand divided on the same lines on which Jack and Locke were, in the first season; on one side are the men of faith, on the other the men of reason. Men of faith are completely satisfied by both the message of Lost and the way in which it was delivered; men of reason are dissatisfied over the message.
Being no enemy of reason, I have my share of resentments.
In the drama, the fight between Faith and Reason was symbolized by the fight between Jacob and MIB. As the faith concerned here is Christianity, so we could say that it was a fight between Christianity and Science.
MIB is curious about how things work while Jacob believes blindly in whatever his ‘mother’ says. MIB wants to know what lies across the sea, while Jacob does not want to leave the island. MIB asks the reason of the murder of his real mother, while Jacob does not even think about it. MIB wants to know the mystery behind the Light, while Jacob is content to protect it. MIB thinks that the Light should not be defended because there is no rational explanation behind it, while Jacob defends it without knowing about it. MIB is brains, while Jacob is all brawns. MIB represents unquenchable thirst for objective knowledge, while Jacob stands for blind faith. So when Jacob is supposed to be good because he has blind faith and MIB is supposed to be bad because of his rationality, the viewer becomes skeptical.
The side of Reason is ridiculed. The experiments of Dharma Initiative are said to be stupid by Linus. The organization is subsequently liquidated by the followers of Jacob. Jacob’s mother never explains the mysteries to Jacob, considering his curiosity contrary to ‘faith’. When, at last, Jack, who originally stood for Reason, volunteers for the job, he also has no questions, and Jacob considers it good that Jack wants to remain as ignorant of the mysteries as him. This is the final victory of faith over reason. As for the reason of this: everything Jack touched, except the island, was ruined and hence the conversion. Absurd reason, but enough for believers and postmodernists…
The good-bad analogy of Jacob-MIB struggle is not very convincing either. The ‘mother’ murders a woman because she thinks that her ‘people’ are evil. She defends the Light without enquiring about it and expects her ‘sons’ to do the same. She does not want MIB to leave the island even while he is a grown-up man and wants to enquire about his own history. She murders all of MIB’s companions and destroys his scientific inventions. When Jacob takes over, he also causes a lot of people to die, just because he thinks that the Light should be defended, again without enquiring about it. And we, along with the castaways, are supposed to have faith in this.
Christianity has punished curiosity from its very beginnings. The heretics were burned because they searched for answers outside Christianity. Bruno and Galileo were persecuted because of their curiosity. Alfred Wegener was ridiculed because he contradicted the Biblical premise of immovability of land. Darwin was hated because he proved the Creationism of the Bible wrong. Just like that, MIB is punished in Lost because of his curiosity, because he couldn’t put his faith blindly into something he didn’t understand.
This is not the first time I have felt sympathy for a ‘villain’ in a story based on Biblical themes. The Satan of Paradise Lost is a wronged creature. I wonder whether Milton intended to generate the sympathy for this evil character, but either way, I, along with many, feel that he was wronged at the first place. Here, we have another parallel with MIB’s story. MIB became a monster because Jacob made him so. So who was the root of that evil? MIB or Jacob?
Was not Shylock a victim first and a perpetrator later? Was not the Jew of Malta a victim too? And was Dr. Faustus’ quest for knowledge so evil? Was it really the fault of Saruman to study the ways of Sauron very deeply?
The way the Island gave everyone the feeling of being a sinner is also uncomfortable for men of reason. Jack’s actions are fruitless. He can help only by ‘letting go’, which means, letting ‘faith’ take care of things. Siding by Reason for six seasons, at last, he gives in.
Those who are familiar with eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism are not comfortable with the Sin theory of Christianity. According to them, potential of good and bad is inside every human and so is the strength of developing either of them. The help has to come from inside. No savior, however great, can save others.
I am not making a case for radical individualism here. Sacrifices have to be made for a great cause. But there has to be a cause. If one finds that behind the façade of ‘faith’ there is nothing, disappointment is inevitable.
Jacob’s version of story will convince only those, who are already convinced. As I was not convinced before, I remain unconvinced after. This is not to say that I did not enjoy Lost. I have my disagreements with it, but just as I never fail to be enthralled by Paradise Lost and The Merchant of Venice, I will never forget Lost and the fact that I enjoyed it so much.