This week we’ve been exploring the Questions raised by the cult TV hit LOST. Monday I asked, “What about all the loose ends?” Tuesday I asked, “Why am I here?” Wednesday I asked, “Can people really change?” And today, finally, I’ll ruminate on one of the more prevalent queries of LOST: Is dead really dead?
From the moment Oceanic flight 815 crash landed on the mysterious island, dead people started turning up. Jack’s recently deceased father. Boone. Shannon. Michael. Locke. Jacob. But it was never really clear whether or not the apparitions were really their bona-fide dead selves or deceptive projections of the island’s manipulative consciousness (trippy, I know; if you didn’t watch the series, I have no hope of explaining that any better than I just did).
John Locke’s story is where the afterlife question really kicked into high gear. Last season, John died to get the oceanic six to return to the island. Once they were back, POOF! John was alive again. Mission accomplished.
Or not. Even Ben Linus mused at one point, “Dead is dead. You don’t get to come back from that.” But there Locke was, grinning ear to ear. How could it be? It was a farse. Locke was no longer Locke, but a sinister reincarnation of the Man In Black, the smoke monster of island lore. Not a real resurrection.
But let’s go deeper. In the finale, we learned that all the main characters had died. Their apparent “alternate lives” were actually some kind of post-island afterlife, a temporary pre-heaven paradise created to bring them together so they could come to terms with the fact that they had, in fact, died. When they died, we’re not sure—but their reunion in the church became a kind of sendoff into the bright white unknown, with Jack’s father, Christian Shepherd, leading the way.
You got that, didn’t you? A Christian Shepherd lead the way.
Don’t get me wrong, LOST is a confusing metaphysical smattering of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, New Age, and more. I just happen to like the ultimate Question raised by LOST, and how they chose to answer it. Is dead really dead? Well no, it isn’t, the series suggests. There’s an afterlife so good that everything else you experienced before entering it pales in comparison. So good that your lingering questions become moot. So good that your past pain doesn’t even exist on the same scale of the joyful bliss awaiting us.
How we get there, that’s a different story.
Just die, LOST seems to suggest. And that’s partly true. Everyone finds themselves alive after they die, give or take. It’s just that some people spend that afterlife suffering (which is actually an eternal death, or an eternal process of dying), and some spend it celebrating purity, joy, peace, love, and wonder without end. Dead may not be dead, but forever is forever.
What’s too bad is that what LOST people believed had nothing to do with whether or not they found this light in the final episode. The truth they found was in themselves. They didn’t find salvation, they found their potential and made peace with their souls. With help, mind you, but they were in the driver’s seat.
In real life, how do LOST people (that’d be us) “get there?” Find eternal life? The Bible says that LOST people can’t find their way. “No is righteous… no one one seeks after God, not even one… we all fall short of God’s glorious ideal.” So what’s the solution? It’s a shame that the way home has been obscured, hidden in plain sight by Ned-Flanderesque banners shuddering at sporting events for decades now. “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Aw, John 3:16? Really?
Yup. Who knew.