LOST – Reflections on “The End”

Seeing Jack dying alone in the jungle in the same spot where he awakened in the pilot was heartbreaking, but in one of the best moments I’ve ever seen on TV or in movies, out of the thicket comes Vincent (does Man have any better friend than Dog?) to lie down near him so Jack wouldn’t die alone. I couldn’t help but think of the Lost writers’ love for anagrams and remember that the mirror spelling of dog is God. The man of science found faith. Or perhaps, faith found him.

I was wrong in the details of my predictions for the end of Lost. I’m glad to be wrong. I was too cynical. I was right that the LAX/flash-sideways reality was an illusion to be transcended, but it played out better than I thought. It wasn’t the real world; rather, it was a mirror world beyond time and space in which characters could meet up, let go and move on. A little bit Limbo, a little bit Purgatory, a little bit death/rebirth/transcendence cycle.

That’s the genius of Lost and what makes it so different from most of what I see on TV: it is open to interpretation. Lost wrestles with the mysteries of life and in the end, does not explain those mysteries. We are left to work those out for ourselves so it is quite fitting that Lost ended in a sort of Universalist church.

I’m reminded of a metaphor for Universalism I read in A Chosen Faith by John Buehrens and Forrest Church that describes a “Cathedral of the World” in which people in a church gather around stained glass windows. There are windows for every religion and windows for those who subscribe to none.  People gather around these windows in an effort to make sense of the mysteries, to find the light of truth. Depending on the window, different truths are revealed, but it is still the same light shining in through all those diverse windows.

Lost‘s mirror reality is a purgatory where characters can seek final redemption, it is a cycle of death and rebirth where characters can attain enlightenment, it is beyond space and time, it is where we go when we die, it is an illusion and when we see the truth, we are free. It is Hindu and Buddhist and Christian and Jewish and Gnostic and Humanist and Muslim and Universal.

It is a world of illusion. A savior comes and reveals the illusion for what it is. Freedom from this illusion, from cycles of death and rebirth, comes when eyes open. In that mirror world, Desmond is (sort of) a Gnostic Christ who shows the way to the light and salvation. He is a Buddha, smiling that odd smile ever since he learned the truth, who will show others the way to Nirvana by helping them let go.

The mirror world is always happening. “There is no Now, here.”  It lies beyond time and space and even though all the characters in the mirror world are dead, they died at different times. Kate and Sawyer after a normal life in the real world. Hurley and Ben after, perhaps, thousands of years. Jack, Charlie, Sayid, Boone and the rest during their time on the island.

They come together. They let go. They are free.

Some will stay behind, lingering in the mirror world. Ben Linus sits outside the church. It is not his time to enter. Perhaps, he must finish cleansing his soul in the sideways Purgatory—a word that doesn’t exactly match what we’ve seen—but I prefer to see him as a bodhisattva, the Buddha who knows the way to Nirvana, but chooses not to enter so that he can show others the way. I suspect he will lead Rousseau, Alex, Dogen, Tom, his father and all of his people to that church one day.

Some characters weren’t there, but they’ll find their way to other churches or meeting places when their time comes, when they’re ready to let go.

I imagine the Ajira plane landing and somehow Kate, Sawyer, Miles, Richard, Frank and Claire will live out ordinary lives. I suspect Hurley and Ben will run the island in gentler manner, one worthy of Rose, Bernard and Vincent. I should have seen Hurley as the future protector considering all the Star Wars references he’s been throwing around the past 2 seasons. As I suspected, the island requires balance between forces, and Hurley was the one to do that, though from a different direction than Anakin Skywalker. I suspect even that Hurley and Ben will come and go from time to time and the island will be a good—possibly even fun—place. Good because of the real sacrifices made throughout the show, but ultimately because of Jack’s self-sacrifice, though I can’t help but wonder if Jack too will live on for a time as a benevolent smoke monster since he appeared exactly where the man in black appeared after he fell into the light cave.

I like that all of this is left open, and having the show end in that church, where many go to know the unknowable, is a perfect ending for a show that created so many questions, many of which are unanswerable. I love that Lost, left so much unanswered, so much unsaid, allowing each of us to gather at one or another of those stained glass windows or perhaps to just sit back and wonder at the beauty of the light shining in through all of them.

At the heart of the matter, though, is finding others to love and share this time, this light, with. Those who complete us. And in the end, after much thinking about (and reading of) all the books that have been on this show, I keep coming back to Of Mice and Men, first referenced in season 3 and again in season 6. Specifically, this:

George’s voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place.”

[…]

Lennie was delighted. “That’s is—that’s it. Now tell how it is with us.”

George went on. “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail, they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.”

Lennie broke in. “But not us! An’ why? Because … because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.

More than anything, Lost reminds us that we need each other. That we can “live together or die alone,” but that if we live for others, recognize that light that shines in all of us, perhaps we never really die alone just as Jack didn’t die alone.

That’s just my interpretation, though. We all gather at different windows, don’t we?