During one of our trains-passing-in-the-night-during-bedtime-rituals moments, my husband, Daev, said to me, “I know you don’t watch Lost, but I just watched the finale and I finally understand what it’s about.” “What?” “Transitions.” “Will you write a guest blog about it?” Here it is…
After six seasons, LOST has drawn to a close. If you’re like me, you may have gone into the last show hoping for answers to the many mysteries of the island. My expectations of being disappointed were replaced as the show drew to a close and I felt closure for these people on their journeys. This is something I had not expected. My sister, Luci, pointed out that she cried when each character “got it”, and as the show ended I started to get it too; I saw how much this show is about lost souls and about life transitions.
I think of the once crippled John Locke. In one of the most powerful episodes, Deus Ex Machina, he slams the ceiling of his car and screams as he realizes he has been tricked by his poor excuse for a father into giving up a kidney. Cut to John at the island after Boone’s fatal accident and the hatch that he kneels at, as if in prayer, while Boone, his protege lays dying.
“I’ve done everything you asked me to do, so why did you do this to me?” he screams.
The writing, the music, the acting and directing of the show would sometimes hit perfect moments like this that probably register differently for all of us. I don’t know what you felt, or what scenes over the years resonated with you, but when Terry O’Quinn let his grief and rage come out, tears were streaming down my face. I was instantly taken to the loss of my own father who had suffered many years after a stroke. I felt the rage at the unfairness of life anew. Grief welled up and I remembered how I had lost my faith and how I, too, hit the ceiling of my car in rage as I struggled with my loss and life’s struggles, and I let it move through me.
These moments, where we see these people struggling against the most difficult things in life, register with us unconsciously if not consciously and can move through us. We feel the same emotions like waves break forward through our defenses. It’s like entertainment group therapy. In other words, in a few moments, through the story and emotions of these lost souls, we re-experience the grief, angst and major transitions in our own life. We share that grief of these characters, which is why so many of us feel attached to the characters and their ultimate outcome. Many shows may try to resonate with us, but LOST had a particular chemistry and story line that sucked us in with these flawed people who often seemed to fail while in the midst of their transitions.
Transition is movement. The early stage of grief is intense transition; when someone you know dies, you feel those waves of grief frequently and it eases gradually over time. It takes most people six months to a year before the pain of loss from the death of a loved one begins to ease and have some spaces between the intensity of feelings. This is a long transition, and at times we feel the grief anew. It can be anything that sets it off, although we might feel it as rage or anger instead of the pain of sadness and loss.
When we release some of that grief as real pain, the kind of crying that a show like LOST might make you experience, then we can feel some real release from the pain that is still inside. It isn’t just fun to watch LOST, it becomes therapeutic; it can give us a release and there is value to that as well as the entertaining sci-fi/fantasy aspects of the show. These characters play out their transitions against a dramatic backdrop full of life and death struggles, and at times something resonates with us and there is some movement. It can even resonate with us when things don’t work out as we hope. When characters seemed to fail to overcome their flaws, there is another feeling of loss and disappointment.
We so often wish our transitions, especially the painful ones, would end rapidly. But like for John, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid and Hugo, they aren’t quick because they are transitions about becoming better men and women. Some transitions are life long struggles that put us to the test over and over again. Jack struggles with the loss of his father, the grief he feels in his mistakes on the island and the transition to becoming a better man. His transition over the years are towards becoming a man of faith, and really believing in himself as a leader.
John Locke pointed out to Jack early on that he was a man of faith and Jack a man of science, yet John continually struggles with his faith, and his belief in himself. He isn’t a saint that walks a straight line all the time. He makes mistakes in relationships and even allows himself to believe he is in relationships that he isn’t over the years. In short, he struggles with his lone status, the outsider who was put up for adoption as a baby, and has always struggled to feel accepted and loved. Back in L.A. he is ready to take his life, having felt he failed in his destined life task.
Where the show suddenly tracked for me, and where I got it, was regarding the light. At first I thought it was cheesy but then as the doors opened in the church, and the repeated motif appears again, I saw the connection. I remembered the light going on as John banged at the hatch in his desperate rage. I remembered Charlie drowning and the light that shone through the water. I saw the cave with the light that they were there to protect, the light that is “in each of us” and realized that the greater mystery these writers were talking about was a transition that was internal rather than outside of each person. It was a spiritual transition. It was a transition of hope, of letting go, of moving beyond our imperfections and the multitude of details in life that drive us down to the ground and often make us want to hit the ceiling of the car. It was a transition that had to be made, even if it meant failure on the way.
So perhaps all life is transition.
Life is unfair to be sure, and the characters in LOST in many ways represented the imperfections and struggles, the grief and loss we sometimes feel. That feeling we all have of being LOST in transition.
The transition is not just about the struggle to be better people. What resonates with us, the “got it” moment is about hope and trying. The show is about light and hope as much, if not more, than about mystery and smoke monsters. After all, most of the show’s content wasn’t even about the smoke and mystery as much as it was back story about these people on their journeys and struggles to become the people they wished to become.
The transitions are completed in the end, not necessarily because the quests were fulfilled but because the people did their best, and then learned to let go.
It took me until the last scenes of the series to see the over-arching theme: Jack’s shaken voice as he realizes he is dead and the grief that wells up in him; the light as his father opened the doors to the church; the light was in all of them like all of us and needed to be nurtured and protected and often the transition cannot be made alone. There was comfort there, too; Jack’s father returns to tell him that everything he struggled with was real and important and that his friends were there in his life to help him, “to remember and to help him let go.”
It was a beautiful scene and poignant wisdom Jack’s father delivered. Transition in life may involve remembering, but it is also a letting go, one small piece at a time.
Jack continues, “Kate said that we’re leaving.” and his father smiles and says, “Not leaving, moving on.”
Jack and the others had transitioned through their self-doubt, their grief and flaws and arrived at that place of light inside, the release, even while taking life’s final transition into death. However, even as death took all of our favorite characters and Jack’s eyes closed in the bamboo forest for the last time, we saw not just a tiny ray of light far off, but the scene is flooded with light suggesting, as Jack’s father suggested, that life and transition continue on.
In the end, perhaps the real “Easter egg” that the writers often spoke of, was not the hidden clues in the show, but the hidden emotional content that is different for each of us. My advice is to watch those scenes that resonate for you, let the emotions come through as you too remember, and then let go and lighten your load too.
Daev Finn is an artist, illustrator, writer, visual effects artist and video game developer. His work can best be seen as Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He also has an MA in Counseling Psychology.