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In order to decipher LOST, it is essential to understand two things, what makes JJ Abrams tick and some theological symbolism. Addressing the former, there is no better example of this than the TED talk that he did about The Mystery Box:

The second part in understanding the seemingly esoteric series is understanding who is paying the bills – in this case ABC / Disney. Like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it is fun to draw upon the canon of esoterica and mysticism to seemingly substantiate the boundless pathways to intrigue necessitated by a weekly one-hour high-budget drama based on anything outside the run-of-the-mill police procedural, teen coming-of-age drama or Yuppie comedy. That does not mean that it is any deeper than the respective minds of its viewers.

All of which is not to say that I disliked the show. Read my previous post about season 6 episode 16 to get a better idea of why I loved the series as much as I did, and then read the following as to why I don’t think it is much more than that:

On a Facebook thread dated March 24th, 2010 I wrote:

I told you in season one it was Purgatory.

The quick reply was:

The producers debunked the “purgatory” theory a few years ago. Sorry, it’s not that simple.

So I felt I needed to extrapolate my theory:

“ABC loves doing shows that are just Biblical parables – I wondered if they might manage to escape that pattern with Lost, but given how close this is seeming to the whole afterlife concept, I would be really amazed if they can escape its gravity and pull off something way more quantum. Nonetheless, I loved the episode last night – for sheer production value alone. And yeah Jacob and Smokey, Hugo the medium, Ricardus – wonderfully metaphysical and all those Mcguffins about the Devil! Can’t wait to see how this ends up having nothing to do with a biblical afterlife.

Granted the Egyptian references are ubiquitous as are all other manner of esoterica – good stuff to draw from in building a canon of mythological symbolism to take us down the rabbit hole, but in the end, whether or not it is literally a retelling of Job, it is about sitting in limbo (not the kind populated by unborn babies, but, well purgatory) and asking whether or not we can transcend our fate and find absolution.

Christiany co-opted everything before it anyway, so the Egyptian thing doesn’t throw that off course. (The Virgin Mary is mentioned more in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.) In fact the very horned image of the devil that we know is the product of the battle between Templars who may have bastardized the name of of Islam’s prophet into Baphomet (so as to disempower its influence, it was literally demonized).

The Devil is the figure who was short-changed and cast out of Heaven and whose function is to tempt you away from certainty. “Think you are ready? Need anything? Can I help you with something” the Devil asks. If you concede that you in fact require a favor, or help from the Devil then he will grant it but you will be in his debt and unprepared for the Kingdom of Heaven. Smokey has always been this way (and although Jacob may appear to do this, he never makes such offers and in fact is totally loathe to intervene lest he become devil-like). “If you let him (Flocke) talk to you, then it is already too late.”

See where I am going with this? Doesn’t matter what you call it – it is still a parable about purgatory in the biblical sense.”

I kinda wrote a book about this – it is called True and Selfish Prophets. Two sequences from the book remind me of this whole ordeal, the first having to do with the epiphany that regardless of what we argue, what matters is not what we find inside the box of answers, but that we are walking there together, and second that – despite what the reality, the Truth may be – it is ultimately inaccessible to us: we can only experience its effects as processed by our particular form of awareness/consciousness/sense-making. Beyond that, we have that big placeholder word we have named Faith.

I think it is only fair, however, to point out that the value of the subject matter in LOST became greater than the sum of its parts in no small way due to the input of the cast and their performances, the highly active fan base and the questions it posed to the creators and the people behind the scenes that put the show together; there was an incredible vitality to the end product that ultimately led to many questions and emotional quandaries for which the writers simply couldn’t be accountable. The show outgrew its concept and will stand the test of time, in my estimation, as one of the great television storytelling events.

At its best, LOST’s final episode summoned one of my favorite and most underrated films: Final Approach. It also took the avant-garde trapdoor from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and I guess The Sixth Sense. Interestingly, 2001 was a major inspiration for the ending of The Sopranos, a parallel in ambiguity that Lost’s producers were quick to parody on the special episode of Jimmy Kimmel that followed their final episode.

I refrain from addressing specific plot points and story lines out of respect to those who are just now discovering the series or haven’t completed the final season. But I would love to get into them with you. See my invitation below.

So long, LOST, and thank for all the fish, which is another way of saying, thanks for giving us a new opportunity to consider ourselves, what we are doing, and what it all means from something like outside the box, one more time.

I would love to discuss salient points with you further – feel free to post your comments, reactions, questions and challenges in the comments section of this post.

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Comments ( 6 )

  • Danielle says:

    I thought the finale lived up perfectly to the show’s reputation, as one long, drawn-out, cliff-hanger that kept people coming back for more despite a cohesive plot or story line. The finale was one big jumble of nonsense, just like the entire series was. Sure, the characters are enduring but the show was a big hoax, with promises of answers to wild concepts that not even the most genius of physicists can answer. I suppose that it was easy for these writers to swindle idiot masses to keep watching as the plots became more and more absurd. After all, the audience already had so much invested, they couldn’t stop watching. It’s like the financial bubble of television shows that finally burst last night and left everyone empty handed. Or like the wizard of oz, at the end of the day it was all a facade with a little man behind a fancy curtain. I challenge anyone to explain the entire premise, lessons and purpose of the show. It’s impossible, unless done in an overly simplistic way that negates most of the details of the show. It’s utterly mind-numbing and pointless. For anyone with even the slightest of philosophical minds, this show is enough to make one hurl. It was all a bunch of writers, dappling in broad ideas, pontificating on for 6 seasons in a way that convinced audiences that it actually had something to share with the world. No, don’t be fooled, you’re better off reading the works of Locke, Rousseau, Benthum, Bakunin, Thomas Carlyle, Edmund Burke, and Hume, or what of scientist Michael Faraday? Lost turned all of it into a farce and served to stifle any real debate or creativity. Though I’m not usually sarcastic, congratulations may be somewhat in order for your predictions of such meaningless, trite and lackluster philosophical ramblings that failed to say anything new or interesting.

  • Keram Malicki-Sanchez says:

    Thank you very much for your comment Danielle. I think you have eloquently rephrased the essence of my feeling about the show and final episode. You can only imagine my chagrin when people would drum up conversations about Mary Magdalene after Da Vinci Code came out. This is just another round.

    Again, entertainment is a very good thing indeed, so long as in cases like these it is not mistaken for anything else.

  • Santino says:

    Thanks for posting this.
    Especially the video of J.J Abrams, very insightful.
    The concept and the content of the show and the “investment in character” was incomparable and impeccably woven.
    The theological symbolism tied in very nicely.
    I enjoyed every single episode.


  • Keram Malicki-Sanchez says:

    Charles Whitmore searching for Penny and Penny searching for Desmond – OK this I can reconcile – he loved them so much he didnt want to let them go. But of course, he must also be dead. So he was just looking for them in the afterlife. What is the afterlife equivalent of a billionaire? How does one become so wealthy in afterlife currency?

    Desmond and his special abilities – yes, I’m listening.

    Which brings me to Hurley and his special abilities – he was listening, ghost whispering, lingering on and ultimately became the next Jacob – ?

    What was the point of Jin going back to 1974? Did he have some sort of past to reconcile there?

    So Dharma initiative were some sort of past life regression researchers or Flatliners or summat? Who are the Others in the mythology?

    On Kimmel, Matthew Fox agreed that the island was real life – not the afterlife and that it was a test to see if one could, I suppose, break the cycle of reincarnation and attain Nirvana. OK – so what is the deal with babies and Aaron. Was Aaron being tested too?

    Give me some more – what are storylines that utterly fail to connect to the final reveal?

  • Keram Malicki-Sanchez says:

    On Jimmy Kimmel, Matthew Fox said that the island was all really happening – not is some afterlife space but rather as some sort of analog to the tests and trails of life to determine if one can break the cycle of samsara and attain nirvana. I guess. But that is totally incongruous with the Sixth Sense ending the writers proposed.

    Nonetheless, here is a full-blown explanation from an actual writer of the show who can now break his silence about what their intentions were. Interesting to see how close some of my suppositions were, and also, what else they were aiming for:


  • Heather says:

    Frustration aside, with the random plot gaps, if you start with season one and watch the show completely through, it’s a character piece. The questions made you come back for more, but the in-depth stories and the connections with the characters is what made the show enjoyable and memorable. You have to apprieciate it for what is was, otherwise the lingering questions will just make you angry.

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