Response to WanderingWanda RE: Lostpedia and the Birth of a New Religion: The Losties

Dear WanderingWanda,

This is a response to your recent article entitled Lostpedia and the Birth of a New Religion: The Losties. I do not intend for this to be an attack on your beliefs, merely my thoughts regarding the topics you have introduced. I will try to remain as objective as possible, but I will go ahead and admit that I am somewhat subjective as I am a Christian, and I really liked Jacob throughout the whole show.

"Let me start out by saying I wasn't impressed with the finale or season 6 as a whole."

I think the majority of people were rather disappointed with the finale. I, however, thought that both Season 6 and the Finale were beautifully designed. I was somewhat disappointed that a lot of the mythology was not explained, but during a recent rewatch of Season 1, I began to realize that the show really was about the characters. I'm a big literature buff, and one of the things that makes a great story is character development. Part of the issue too was that I don't think they originally planned to end the show with Season 6. I feel like they had originally planned to do at least seven seasons, with Season 6 focusing on mythology and Season 7 on the character development. This season did seem like a lot of things were briefly touched on that had received a lot of attention previously.

"I've found it difficult to remain objective in the face of the producers obvious disregard for the fans or the effects their story would have on the fans."

I was glad that Lindelof and Cuse didn't compromise on their views of how the show should proceed. Some of the outcomes of things were very predictable (at least to me), but they really played a lot of us for chumps by sort of presenting multiple sides to people so that you really didn't know who lay where. I admit that I often questioned who was the "good" person: Jack or Locke? Jacob or the MiB? Ben or Richard? For me, it boiled down to loyalty, and in a sense, faith. I decided to remain loyal to who I thought would be the good guy in the beginning and stuck with it. I did so because I had faith that despite what I may be told, my favorites would be good. I think they did a good job of appealing to all sorts of fans, while alienating a small majority. You can never make everybody happy, ironically a topic that they focused on in the show.

"It almost looks as if they wanted to divide the fans over something"

That was part of the beauty of the show. They kept you guessing until the end. I loved how they presented Ben as sort of being on the good side for once for most of the season, but then he sort of made an about face at the end, then turned out to be a good guy in the end. They also did a good job with showing that Jacob was a manipulator and that he used people to fix his problem, that he wasn't such a gentle, wise God-like figure that we originally may have thought him to be. They showed the MiB as being victimized, as just trying to do what he believed was right. I think everybody can identify with both of them: we all use people to some extent for our own purposes and we are all prone to losing our cool. And like the MiB, we feel victimized when somebody challenges our beliefs. In the book The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, he says that (I'm paraphrasing because I don't have my copy with me) "We all agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What is beautiful to one man may not be beautiful to another, and we easily accept this. But all men want all other men to believe in what they believe. This is the cause of all conflict and war."
They did create a division in viewers. We saw lots of division and splitting up throughout the entire show, with certain events bringing people back together at times. All of us who followed the show closely are just like them. We divided ourselves based on what we think is best. In Season 1, some of the survivors chose to stay at the beach in hopes of rescue and in the case of Claire, because she felt safer there. The others decided to move to Caveville because they were closer to water and they were prepared to accept the fact that it may be a long time before they were rescued. We love to think that we're right, but at times we hope that we're wrong because what's wrong would lead to what would be better. I loved when Miles heard Jacob's last thoughts, that he "hoped he was wrong about Ben."

"It's taken Jacob over 2000 years to fix a mess he caused in about 10 minutes. Why is anyone listening to him (Jacob)? Even from a faith perspective? What reason is there to have any faith in what Jacob is saying? As far as we can see, he's just been a big screw up."

I would like to point out that given the circumstances, what other choice did Jacob have in the matter? He screwed up majorly and there was one of two paths he could follow: (1) Realize that manipulating people and causing their seemingly senseless deaths was cruel and do nothing, ultimately resulting in a possible destruction of the world or (2) Go ahead and do whatever you can, stooping even to lying and smoke and mirrors to stop such a thing from happening. He believed strongly that should the MiB leave the Island, everybody would be screwed. To him, the MiB was a ticking time bomb. Jacob could continually delay the timer, but he would never be able to completely stop it from happening. This is akin to the detonation of the bomb on the sub: Sawyer and Jack were unable to stop the timer so that in the end, it was Sayid who had to (technically) stop it from happening, or rather prevent it from completing its purpose in its entirety.
In the context of the show, I think that people listened to him because he could be seen as the lesser of two evils. Part of it was definitely faith-based; he often made promises that seemed like they would never come true. Faith is such a difficult thing because it's taking a huge risk. If I were on the Island, I would find it hard to have faith in anything that Jacob said. I was shocked by Jack's change of perspective when he saw his home in the Lighthouse mirror. Personally, I would have been freaked out and felt like I had been manipulated from the very beginning for some purpose I didn't know and probably didn't want to be a part of. But as a result of all the events that had happened over the last three years, he saw that Jacob did have some purpose, whatever it might be. Sure, he may have had some ulterior motive, i.e. simple revenge, but based on what Jack had seen, he accepted that Jacob's purpose for bringing him there was good. I think that the entire faith vs. science/reason argument can be summed up in another quote from Dostoevsky: "Faith does not come from miracles, rather miracles come from faith."

"Let's get out there and argue about the theology behind the show when we all know it's really all over the place."

It doesn't necessarily have to be theology. When we were first introduced to Jacob, I saw him as being a God-like figure or possibly even Lindelof and Cuse's representation of God in general. I even felt slightly offended by it. But as the show progressed, I began to see that Jacob was not God and that he was trying to do what he believed was right and for the greater good. My view of Lost became less and less about religion and more and more about philosophy and the mythology behind the show, all revolving around the characters. There definitely was some spiritual symbolism, but as a Christian, I know that I and many others can often read spirituality into things where there is none. Anytime we see or read about some character sacrificing themselves for another like Jesus would, we see it as a purposeful symbolism. But often, this is never the intention of the author. Nobody would cheer on the "hero" who refuses to sacrifice himself for his friends. One such example of this is Richard Adams' Watership Down, another novel featured in the show. The character of El-ahrairah was perceived by many to be like God or Jesus, but Adams himself conceded that he was just stuff of legends. I believe that future arguments/discussions of Lost should revolve more around the philosophy and literary techniques of the show along with the mythology.

"Jacob was too much like a cult leader, and a bad one at that."

He does seem that way. He seems to make vague promises that may or may not come true. If anything though, the MiB was an even worse "cult leader". He killed off the people who didn't believe what he believed, but Jacob let them live. The MiB was fearful that what he believed really wasn't right and that those who were against him would prove him wrong in some way. Jacob, on the other hand, didn't have any problem letting people go because he believed so strongly in what he had been told that he knew that if he let people go, they would come back to him. I read somewhere that Christians should not be so fearful and unreceptive of beliefs that are contrary to theirs because they should have absolute faith in what they believe to be true. Why should they worry that maybe what we believe is God was really just a super-intelligent alien who used technology so far advanced from ours that it seems to be supernatural? They shouldn't. In fact, they should be receptive of things because that is one of the best ways to show the love of God, one of the biggest themes in Christianity.
Jacob was a "big picture" thinker, while the MiB was more of a "right now" thinker. Jacob obviously thought things through years in advance, while the MiB was very impulsive. I can imagine Jacob sitting down and drawing out a huge flowchart of what could happen in a number of different situations. Of course, it helps that he had a little bit of foresight. I personally try to weigh my options carefully. I would rather think things through and hope for the best than just go ahead and do what I want to do right away, another reason why I favored Jacob so much.

"And Redemption. In another blog, someone asked 'What did Jack need to be redeemed from? Being a surgeon and saving lives?'"

Jack's redemption was from his holding on to bitterness and a lack of self-esteem. He was bitter at his father who told him that he would never amount to anything, so he made it his goal to prove him wrong. Instead, his focus should have just been on doing his job and forgiving his dad for his harsh words. Jack's intentions were good, but his purpose was off target. As a result of what his father said, Jack also further developed a self-esteem complex, that he really wouldn't be good enough for his father, Sarah, the survivors, the entire world. He had a tremendous fear of failure when instead, he should have focused not on doing it perfectly the first time, but doing his best and learning from his mistakes. I do not regret the many mistakes I have made in the past, instead I see them as "life lessons", as cliché as that sounds. Looking back, I can see that I would not be the person I am today if not for X or Z happening, despite how painful or stupid it may have been at the time.

"Faith isn't some grand drama. It's not strange caves with electromagnetic anomalies, taking risks with the lives of other people, or trusting a creepy guy because he tells you the whole world depends on your decision. It's inner peace, contentment, and confidence."

This I absolutely agree with. As I mentioned previously, faith does not come from miracles, but miracles from faith. We have to believe in something wholeheartedly before we can see the fruits of it. There is some truth in all religions, but no one religion is absolute truth. Lindelof and Cuse did a good job of creating an environment that didn't really single out any one religion. In fact, they hardly ever once mention a specific religion. As you've pointed out, Rose and Bernard are really the only two openly religious people on the Island. I could be wrong, but I think Rose is the only person who ever prays on the Island, and I personally feel that even Jacob accepted that there was a higher power than he. His tapestry depicts Ra, who was the Egyptian's version of God, reaching out to those underneath him and placed above the two men on the thrones, who I see as a representation of Jacob and his brother. Jacob was raised on the Island and probably never heard anything about religion until he began to bring other people to the Island, perhaps one of these groups introduced him to the concept of God. If the MiB had made a tapestry, I wonder what it would have looked like?

"The Island was Eden."

The Island most likely was not what Lindelof and Cuse saw as being the literal Garden of Eden, but it was indeed a very strong and most likely purposeful analogy for it. In the center of the Garden was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - in the center of the Island was the Source. God told Adam and Eve that to eat from the Tree would lead to death, despite Him never really giving them any other reason other than this seemingly empty threat - Mother tells Jacob and his brother that to enter the Source would result in death, but this too was a seemingly empty threat. Eve saw that the Tree was good and beautiful and desirable for gaining wisdom - The Source was representative of a wellspring of wisdom. Wisdom is something that is inside all of us, but should we ever have a complete grasp of God's wisdom, it would bode poorly for us. Take for example King Solomon who was granted great wisdom - things started out really awesome for him, but in the end, things didn't turn out so great. Adam blamed Eve for luring him into eating from the Tree when deep down inside, he too desired it - Jacob most likely also wanted to enter the Source and learn what it was all about and he blamed his brother for placing these thoughts in his mind. However, he did not give in to this temptation and because of his faith, he was granted a limited amount of wisdom regarding the Island. Adam and Eve introduced evil into the world - Jacob introduced "evil" to the Island in the form of the smoke monster. Mankind has been trying to fix this since the minute it happened - Jacob has been trying to fix his mistake for the last 2,000 years. We have never been able to discover where the physical location of the Garden (if there truly was one) because to do so would give us the temptation to eat of the Tree of Life - The Island is nearly impossible for any man to discover and on the Island, the Source is nearly impossible to find because finding it would give men the temptation to enter it and potentially be granted something great. God placed angels (notice that it is plural) at the entrance to the Garden to prevent anybody from ever entering it again - Jacob was tasked to prevent anybody from entering the Source, and should he fail, another must do the same (more than one individual guarding it, a failsafe).
So really, the Island is representative of a myriad of events in the Garden of Eden, with some being analogical to multiple ones, i.e. Jacob representing both Adam (he wanted to know what the secret was) and also the angel (the protector of the Source). Angels aren't perfect, and I would imagine that the angels tasked with guarding the Garden would have been tempted to go eat of the Tree of Life. It's such a huge risk, with the potential for either something great, or something absolutely horrible. However, both Jacob and the angels had seen what had happened when the Source was entered and when man ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - terrible things. This instilled in them the belief that to do so again, or in the case of the angels, similar, would be as God said - ending terribly.

"The story could have worked. It might have been classic literature or theater, someday."

Like you said, the Bible was the result of thousands of years of work by men inspired by God, while Lost was the result of only a few years of work. However, I do see it as being very well-done. It has lots of errors, but I am hoping that these will maybe be fixed in the future, leading to an overall great piece of modern literature. I recently took a course at my college called "Cultural Heritage of the West" where we looked at and analyzed excerpts of various great writings of the Western world, from Francis Bacon to Albert Einstein. Many of these works were quite errant and attempted to answer epic questions without the wherewithal of the Bible. We live in an age where "literature", so to speak, is conveyed via visual media. I can honestly see Lost as being discussed in a future version of this course many years down the road. It introduces and presents its own opinions on many philosophical and deep thought questions and also challenges us to take a deep look at what we believe and ask ourselves "why do I believe this?" Many of what we now consider to be great works were relatively unknown or highly disliked as first, but the passage of time led to their acceptance into the annals of history.

"By the time Jin and Sun died, I had developed a ‘Ho, Hum’ attitude and didn’t care that much."

This episode was entitled "What They Died For", and I think it lived up to its name. All of the seemingly senseless deaths on the Island were for the ultimate purpose of preventing something terrible. Lucky for them that they actually did get to see that these lives were not wasted meaninglessly and they saw the beginning of the end. How many countless men and women have died believing in God with those who survive never knowing if there truly is a purpose in these deaths? Each of the deaths throughout the course of the show also served the purpose of shaping each character's life and future actions. Shannon would have never turned around and actually been decent if not for the death of Boone. Jack wouldn't have even been on Oceanic 815 if not for the death of his father. Sawyer would have most likely retained his selfish attitude if Jin and Sun hadn't died and left behind an orphan. Hurley would not have become the protector of the Island if not for the death of Jack. So in my opinion, each death was excruciatingly painful and difficult to accept, but looking back, we can see how they figured in prominently. Also, Jacob wanted people to figure out what was right and wrong for themselves. There would be no point if he just did everything for them. If Jacob brought them to the Island and just told them what was up, who would have believed him? Probably nobody. But by being put through all the horrors of the Island, they began to understand what Jacob meant.

"Is it ridiculous to compare Lost to the Bible?"

Yes indeed. Lost is not the Bible. There is, however, some purposeful religious symbolism. Lost is not all about Christianity or religion in general, it is about the very nature of mankind, an investigation into who we are and why we believe what we believe. It challenges us to think about the why rather than just telling us what to believe.

"This might be a case of short sightedness. Look how much Star Trek made after it went off the air. Why would two writers turn their backs on a story they lovingly developed, that paid them a good living for 6 years?"

This may just be my wishful thinking, but I don't think that Lost is over at all. I hope that there won't be crappy spin offs like Enterprise, but I do hope that parts of it are further developed, that more of what we loved is made even better.

"It will stand among the thousands of long forgotten TV shows, with both the silly and the great and I'm afraid it will be classified as 'Silly'."

I very strongly believe that Lost will never be forgotten. It may fade into the shadows for some time, but it will be rediscovered, much like the rediscovery of Greek culture by the Renaissance proponents. And look at the fan base that Lost has generated. Look at all the thousands of highly intelligent discussions on Lostpedia and the myriad of Lost blogs. It will be remembered as an inspiration for many. It will never be regarded as silly except by those who watch it hoping for "right now" explanations rather than waiting for the big picture to be revealed.

In conclusion, I apologize for the great length of this response, but I felt that you introduced some great points that needed someone to play devil's advocate and to hear a second opinion of. I know that I can't make everybody happy, but I hope that I have at least prevented a somewhat objective view of some of the issues of Lost.

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