LOST, Wreckage, and Original Sin

The number one question to me in the past 48 hours is "What did you think about LOST?"  I guess my passion for this show isn't much of a secret, eh?  I've read so many commentaries and shared items (I'm shaking my fist at Dr. McGrath and Blake Huggins, shared feed reader fiends!) that where I get the below is a blur but I'll try to link as I can.

Needless to say, this post has spoilers.  But it's been over 2 days, and if you are a true fan, you will have seen it by now, I hope!

Before I begin, we need to clarify the main misconception and establish canon.  First, YES, everything that happened for all 6 seasons happened. The final 15 minutes where we find out everyone is dead in the "flash-sideways" world and that it is reminiscent of purgatory is the only whimsical aspect. Every one of the Season One survivors survived the plane (at least for a while) and they truly died or lived in the ways the show depicted. Stop hating on the entire show as a remake of The Sixth Sense or something.

Second, I actually didn't really appreciate the flash-sideways world. I think it makes a theological statement about the afterlife that I don't necessarily subscribe to. So I'm taking the comments below from the life experiences of the survivors and the island, not from the afterlife.  Consider it a canonization of LOST to address only the reality not the eschatology.

So, let's begin: I think my take-away from the show began at the final credits (though they were not actually scripted by LOST, they are still true images and "canon" and it's an effective place to start).  
Wreckage of the Oceanic Flight 815
The island is littered with wreckage and after-effects of centuries of previous inhabitants, whose lives and intents were exhumed throughout the show.  The broken foot of Taweret. The hole in the wall of the Temple. The Black Rock pirate ship ran aground by Richard's captor. The US Army's nuke. The Dharma Initiative's VW bus.  The broken-down shack of Horace that the Man in Black sat in occasionally. Rousseau's pit made out of her boat's pieces.  Henry Gale's parachute. Mr Echo's brother in the heroin-mule plane. The filled wells. The wheel at the light below the Dharma greenhouse. And now, the airplane wreckage on the beach. 

Somewhere down the line, someone else will come to the island and wonder about their stories. And they will wonder what happened to them.

While we don't know the entire story of every piece of wreckage, each involved violence and death. The ancient people had hieroglyphics of the Smoke Monster killing their ancestors.  The Black Rock's crew wiped out by a manipulative Man in Black's homicidal jealousy towards his brother. The Dharma Initiative was wiped out by a father's resentful son.  Rousseau's decades of guilt over killing her crew and losing her child.  Mr. Echo's innocent brother who died in his brother's place. Who knows what killed Henry Gale! All these are some of the worst sins one can commit to another.

And all we have are the wreckage and try to make sense of what we have inherited and make do with what we can.  Like the Bible and archeological finds, all we have are the broken pieces or fragments of parchment with text scribbled on them, and we seek to make sense of the God who inspired them.

fan-made map of the LOST Island
So, when you zoom out a bit and see the long view, while the characters were awesome and moving...in the scope of the island, they are merely the details to the wreckage, even if they are hinge points. The filled well was the details as to how Jacob and the Man in Black came to be antagonists. The airplane wreckage was the details as to how Hurley and Ben became #1 and #2.  Who knows what will happen next or happened before!

So what is ultimately important isn't so much the individual stories, but the common thread linking all the wrecked pieces and wrecked people and wrecked lives on the island. That common threads are cycles of violence and death. Violence was so pervasive on the island that my spouse covered her eyes and said "how can they show that on TV?" Violence claimed the lives of perhaps all but 8 survivors of the place crash, all but 2-3 of the Dharma Initiative, every single member of Widmore's company. The wrecked people who came to the island had tons of violence and sin afflicted to them and afflicted by them and doubtless many generations of visitors before them.

Perhaps the show isn't about the characters but about the commonality of human sin and death and violence that repeats itself with every new item of wreckage.  It is this phenomenon that Jacob and the Man in Black argue about on the beach at the Season 5 finale:
MAN IN BLACK: They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
JACOB: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.
Jacob and the Man in Black on the beach
Violence that repeats itself and litters the landscape of the world we inherit with wreckage is my understanding of Original Sin.

One of my convictions is that Original Sin is not some tainted bloodline from Adam that all humanity inherits and passes on through intimate relations (Augustine did say that it passes bodily in the moment of intimacy). Rather, Original Sin can be understood as sin that we are born into that is out of our control, be it violence as a way of being in Harlem, or bigotry as acceptable in a racist family. Both of those and beyond are sin that we are born into, maybe participate in, but ultimately once we can define it as sin, we can choose to let it go.

Being born into sin tarnishes and afflicts us. Working at a job that has an acceptable level of misogyny that we buy into tarnishes us. Playing corrupt politics as part of the game tarnishes us.  Going to an island and reverting to the self-centered life histories (Sawyer hoarding items from the plane) tarnishes us.  But in each of those, we can choose to not buy into the cycles of sin and violence once we understand the choice.  Once we see the effects of racism, we can shuck it off.  Once Locke saw the effect of the island's healing properties, he embraced its possibilities even to a fault of maiming Boone.  The problem is choice (ala the Matrix) but only when the choice becomes obvious.

Those choices have consequences, even devastating ones completely out of our control. Random violence against children in this world is as meaningless and senseless as Michael shooting Libby accidentally.
Michael accidentally shoots Libby in Season 2
So Original Sin is not just something to be educated about but a part of the human condition that must be eradicated so that no more people are born into it.

I wonder if this is the reason why women could not have children on the Island. Perhaps Jacob's one act of violating Free Will was that he didn't want any more children born into cycles of sin and violence in the one place where he had a say about it.   Seems out of character but it's the best I got.

I also wonder if Jacob was serious about "everything else is just progress."  Did every succession of wreckage progressively got better and how did Jacob define it "progress?" Did less people die on Oceanic 815 than the Black Rock and thus it was better? Was there more epiphanies and reconciled people on the airplane than there were on the Dharma Initiative? Was there seriously less sin and violence on the plane's survivors part than ever before? I doubt it. 

Perhaps then the "progress" is an increasing awareness of the depth of human sin that we participate in.  Our new global economy and information infrastructure opens our eyes to the blood cost of diamonds, the sweat-shops making our clothes, the effects of limiting access to women's health services.  These sins that we participate in and are "born" into harm our joint human condition until enough of us are awakened to it that we can begin to eradicate it. 

If, as John Wesley would say, the beginning moment of the Christian journey is repentance, then revealing and becoming more aware of the depth of human sin and awakening others to their participation in their Original Sin is our calling as Christians. Perhaps it took an island adventure to awaken the Oceanic passengers to their own sin and the possibilities for change.  Perhaps it takes a moment at Jacob's lighthouse to realize our own importance.  Perhaps (and this is my only reference to the flash-sideways purgatory world) when we awaken people to the story that they are a part of, then they can finally let go of their past and find peace in community. Perhaps that is our calling is to help others awaken to the sin they are born into and that we passively accept and participate in...and offer them the choice to denounce it and become reborn anew (minus the island, of course).

In short, I think the Island offered its characters a choice that parallels our own choices. We can choose to be blissfully unaware of the sinful world we have inherited. We can choose to know of it and doom and gloom and reap despair over it.  Or we can choose to take the wrecked pieces of our world and try to put them all back together. Gather the trash, the leftovers, the lost and tell them that they are born into sin but sin does not define them. To labor together as broken people seeking redemption. Tell them that they have suffered beyond their control the sins of their forefathers, but they do not have to be chained to the slave hold anymore.  To open their eyes to their issues and seek peace and understanding.

the entire story of LOST begins and ends with an open eye.

So, there's my thoughts. Thoughts? Responses?


cspogue May 30, 2010 at 9:57 PM  

I view Abrams as a false prophet. :-)

After his constant rebooting of Alias, I didn't want to follow another show that would constantly "re-invent" itself every season because maintaining continuity is 'just too hard.' His Star Trek left me a little cold for the same reasons.

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