"Not Penny's Boat".
We know him by these three words. Words of warning. Words of caring. Words of sacrifice. He is the heroin addict who mustered the courage to defy his body's demand for the drug. He conquered fear of death to swim thirty metres below the waves, to his destiny, to his greatest and final accomplishment.
Tragic life meets tragic end. He gave warning, but no one listened, and the mercenaries came. Greater love hath no man than this--but what do we make of a heroic death whose final plea goes unheeded? Claire would never again take her soul mate's hand. Liam would never reconcile with his younger brother.
Perhaps we believe Charlie's heroism wasted in alarms disregarded, but if so we have missed the point of his life and death. His greatest accomplishment was not the final notice of a three-word warning, but the final entry on a five-sentence list. But neither Greatest Hit nor greatest sacrifice went unheeded. We know this because Liam was not Charlie's brother. Sayid was Charlie's brother. "Think not of him as slain; nay, he lives," the Quran tells us of Sayid. "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies," the Gospel of John tells us of Charlie. He lives, not only in memory, but on the Island, in eternity. He is not tragic death, but heroic life. Charlie is the soul of the Island.
Musica Donum Dei
#5: The First Time I Heard Myself on the Radio.
Charlie Pace was a musician, and for a brief period in time, Manchester's most famous bass player and vocalist. But to record his vocation in this manner tells us little about his true impact on society, or indeed what his true function was. I might as well have said Charlie picked locks for a living. Our estimation of Charlie would depend on his true function. If his business card said "locksmith", we would not hesitate to invite him to join the neighbourhood association. But if his vocation were Mafia safe cracker we would have quite a different reaction. And if he picked locks for MI-6 or Mossad we would probably feel more uneasy about his presence in our neighbourhood than if we learned he was a criminal.
To say that Charlie was a musician is not sufficient. For the last sixty years those who produce popular music have been at the cutting edge of culture. Charlie was a "rock god", as Liam said, because our society holds no one in greater esteem than a rock-and-roll musician.
Music has always enjoyed cultural importance. Vocal and instrumental creations provide common cultural ground, enrich our days, and fill us with optimism and good cheer. LOST would be a weaker and less compelling drama without Michael Giacchino's grand score. In fact, I imagine most would find themselves in agreement with the statement that life without music would be very dull, indeed.
"Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast", as William Congreve wrote in the late seventeenth century. Note well that Congreve stated that music is not inherently but only potentially a civilising force. "Music hath charms"--has the ability--to civilise, but does not necessarily always do so. We do not need to turn to misogynistic rap lyrics or racist country-western songs to understand the potential of music to reduce civility and decorum. Back in the early seventeenth century, William Shakespeare provided poetic notice of this potential in his play, Twelfth Night. "If music be the food of love," Duke Orsino said, "play on." Orsino's true feelings are revealed only upon recitation of the full quote, however. "Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die." That is to say, Shakespeare's Orsino did not wish to be entertained with good music, he wished to be overwhelmed and finally sickened by it so that he would no longer have an excuse to love.
"You All Everybody" was a modern appeal to equality. The Latin header below is my best guess, but then rendering "You All Everybody" into any language would probably require more than a bit of guesswork.
Omnibus Omnium Hominum
You All Everybody
Rock and roll, man
I walk around my town
Watch the people come and go
I watch them up and down
And I see what they don't know
They have given up on me
I can see it in their eyes
Well, I have given up on you
And I think you should realise
You all, everybody
You all, everybody
I don't like you stupid people
Wearing expensive clothes
You all everybody
You all, everybody
You all everybody
I know you see what I have been
And compare with what I am
But I don't care now what you've seen
I'm just doing what I can
You say you've given up on me
And you say it like I should care
Well I have given up on you
And no, I don't want to “share”
You all everybody
And will you get the message now?
When I cross my heart and shout it out damn loud?
You all everybody
Yeah, you all everybody.
(From http://www.driveshaftband.com/LyricsDriveSHAFT.htm on October 15, 2010)
Even if You All Everybody expressed an egalitarian philosophy of human worth and social cohesion, the song did not prevent its creators from pursuing personal choices that led to the band's disintegration. Charlie and Liam could choose to sink or swim in the cultural environment they created for themselves.
Apta Natando Crura
#4: Dad Teaching Me to Swim at Butlins.
We all have legs to swim, but we have no idea how to use them. Without a teacher, we would flail about and drown. Charlie was fortunate in having a father who sacrificed time to teach his son an important skill. He would need every bit of that ability on the Island, on the day of his final challenge.
I remember well the frustration and embarrassment of not being able to dance, unable to coordinate the movement of feet to the music. When the night of the waltz drew near I had a date but not even the most rudimentary ability. A friend came to my rescue the day before. I must have been the worst pupil she had ever attempted to teach. I like to believe it was the challenge of teaching me that gave her the patience to spend so many hours demonstrating the same steps over and over again. But she accomplished her task, I thanked her, and the next evening took another woman to the dance. My friend longed for more than an appointment as dance instructor, I know. I had spent weekends at her parents' home, sleeping in her absent brother's bed, one thin wall separating us. Her sacrifice meant something in the end. The woman I danced with that night became my wife eleven years later.
Charlie needed teachers throughout his life. Every one of us needs teachers in just about any endeavour we might attempt. When Charlie became a "rock god" he had only one teacher, and that teacher led him astray.
CHARLIE: [in a confessional with priest] Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It's been a week since my last confession.
PRIEST: Go ahead, my son.
CHARLIE: Last night I had physical relations with a girl I didn't even know.
PRIEST: I see. Anything else?
CHARLIE: Yeah. Uh, right after that I had relations with another girl. Then... straight after that I watched while they had relations with each other. You see, it's, it's my band, Father, Drive Shaft. We've been playing the clubs in Manchester. And, uh, we've been getting some heat, a following, you know, and, uh, the girls. There's some real temptations that come with the territory, if you know what I mean.
PRIEST: Well, we all have our temptations, but giving in to them, that's your choice. As we live our lives it's really nothing but a series of choices, isn't it?
Charlie seemed content to accept whatever came along, largely unburdened by the knowledge that the choice was always his. The closest teacher would do, and during the Drive Shaft days the closest teacher was his older brother, Liam. Liam surrounded himself with admiring women and little bags of semi-refined heroin. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was by then a well-accepted course of study, with entire drug trafficking routes and eager instructors in place to welcome new students. And the most honoured students, by far, were the famous musicians themselves, purveyors of the culture that earned traffickers wealth, respect, and legitimacy.
By the time he reached the Island, Charlie's drug habit had destroyed Drive Shaft, driven a wedge between him and Liam, and turned Charlie into a sweating, trembling junkie, living from one fix to the next.
Pater Noster, Qui Est in Insula
Liam didn't board Flight 815 for Charlie's gig in Los Angeles. But plenty of other teachers did make it onto the plane and survived the crash on the Island. Charlie's drug addiction made him a loner, but withdrawal brought symptoms to the fore and made his condition obvious to those with any familiarity with drug culture.
Jack Shephard had treated drug addicts, and John Locke spent several weeks helping to grow marijuana. Both men understood Charlie's addiction and became his friends. Locke became Charlie's mentor.
CHARLIE: I want my stash, Locke. I can't stand feeling like this.
LOCKE: Come here. Let me show you something. [They walk to a plant with a cocoon on it]. What do you suppose is in that cocoon, Charlie?
CHARLIE: I don't know, a butterfly, I guess?
LOCKE: No, it's much more beautiful than that. That's a moth cocoon. It's ironic, butterflies get all the attention; but moths -- they spin silk, they're stronger, they're faster.
CHARLIE: That's wonderful, but...
LOCKE: You see this little hole? This moth's just about to emerge. It's in there right now, struggling. It's digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now, I could help it, take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free. But it would be too weak to survive. The struggle is nature's way of strengthening it. Now this is the second time you've asked me for your drugs back [he raises the bag of heroin]. Ask me again and it's yours.
Locke clarified the issue for Charlie and became a sure teacher in time of dire need. But the hard work of digging through the cocoon was left entirely to Charlie.
When Jack became trapped after a cave collapse, Charlie volunteered to crawl through the narrow tunnel Michael had dug to rescue Jack. He was smaller than anyone else, and this is the rationale he might have invoked, but he did not. Jin had a wife, Michael had a son, but Charlie had no one. He was alone on the Island. His rationale was simple: No one depended on him, and if he died in his attempt, no one would miss him. He was wrong about that, of course.
Having the right knowledge allows informed choices. Anyone could begin digging to rescue Jack, but the digging would have been in vain if the tunnel collapsed around the diggers. Michael was uniquely qualified to lead the recovery effort because he understood load distribution and support. The digging itself was just physical labour and could be performed in shifts to reduce hardship for all.
Digging their way out of the collapsed cave was not the difficult part of rescuing Jack. The challenge again revolved around knowledge. Jack and Charlie could have surrendered themselves to death in a dark cave, but Charlie was alert to possibilities. When he saw a moth fly up to the ceiling and disappear, he knew there was a way out of the cave.
Locke gave Charlie the knowledge of possibilities in his battle to free himself from drugs. But he alone would have to choose to apply that knowledge, as he had chosen to dig his way to freedom out of the cave.
When Charlie requested his bag of heroin a third time, Locke was disappointed. Locke gave the young man three chances to succeed and he failed every opportunity. Locke was not just sad when he handed over the bag, he was in anguish, and the pain was evident in the deep creases of his brow. But when Charlie threw the bag into the camp fire, without so much as a moment of hesitation, Locke’s expression changed immediately. He didn’t have to say the words, but he did anyway. “I’m proud of you, Charlie.”
#3: The Christmas Liam Gave Me the Ring
Rings have power because they bind us to one another. I wear a ring signifying that I belong to my wife. Liam wore a ring to indicate he belonged to a rock band, and also as a bond to his maternal grandfather, Dexter Stratton, from whom Drive Shaft acquired its name.
A ring is not only a symbol of responsibility. A ring is a symbol of identity. We are who we are because of responsibilities. I am my wife’s husband. I am my daughter’s father. I am my father’s son. These are expressions of familial bond, bonds of commitment and responsibility, but more than anything these bonds and commitments—these rings—define who we are.
Centuries ago life was recognised as gaining individuality from its origins. When John’s wife gave birth to a son she named Henry, the boy was known to everyone in town as Henry, John’s son. Over time the name of a boy like Henry would be simplified: Henry John’s son became Henry Johnson. The townsfolk would expect certain behaviours. When Henry spoke as his father had, or began courting a woman from his mother’s village, neighbours would nod and say with grin and a wink, “He is his father’s son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Charlie inherited the “DS” ring because he demonstrated responsibility.
[Liam pulls off his “DS” ring]
CHARLIE: Liam, no. Mum gave you that. You're the first born. It was her father's and his father before that...
LIAM: And it's a family heirloom, and that's why we named the band after Dexter bloody Stratton. I know. But Charlie--let's be honest--we both know I'm a sodding mess. But you, you're different. You're gonna get married, have a family, a baby. I'll be lucky if I hit thirty.
CHARLIE: Don't say that, Li.
LIAM: The ring has to stay in the family, Charlie. So please, take it. Mum would have wanted it this way. Pass it on to your little one someday. I need to know it's safe.
Liam recognised the responsibility of the ring bearer. A ring is a beautiful but also frightening and sobering thing. There is no Lord of the Rings. Freedom and individuality can be acquired only through commitment and adherence to tradition.
One cannot become Lord of the Rings because no single person has power over commitments that bind one to another. To say I am committed is to say that I surrender power to that which owns my fealty. For good or for bad, the ring is lord over me. Responsibility is the only possible source of human freedom. We recognise maturity as the sober and deep joy that comes of accepting and zestfully applying this paradoxical truth in our lives.
Could Charlie wear the ring?
Volitio Vitae et Mortis
I don’t often think on things as they might have been, but I did wonder, when I saw Sayid break open the ceramic statue before Charlie’s eyes, what might have happened had Locke been the one to discover the heroin. Sayid knew nothing of Charlie’s heroin addiction, but Locke had helped Charlie through withdrawal, had given him powerful choices to work himself free of the shackles of drug-dependent slavery. Would Locke have quietly burned the statues’ contents? Perhaps Charlie’s mentor could have prevented the pain of a long relapse into addiction.
If Charlie had been spared this pain I am not sure of every particular, but I believe one critical element of Charlie’s future would have changed dramatically: Charlie would not have accepted death under thirty metres of water. He would not have given his life for his friends. He couldn’t. Until he faced real temptation—a free, lifetime supply of blissful oblivion—he could never know who he truly was.
This time around Charlie forced a response. When he set a fire and abducted Aaron he endangered the entire group of survivors and threatened a baby’s life. His friends were no longer free to nurture him to chemical freedom. With the lives of so many in jeopardy because of Charlie’s behaviour, only a few actions were possible. His friends chose the gentlest course, showing restraint out of love for the young man. A very stern John Locke carefully took the baby from Charlie’s arms, gave the infant back to his mother, swivelled on his foot and thrust his hard fist into Charlie’s face. He hit Charlie hard, slugged him once, then again, and again, knocking him down into the cold ocean water. The group that had gathered left him there.
Charlie was persona non grata, banished from the group. His only contact was the single person less despicable than himself, Sawyer. Charlie threw a bag over Sun’s head, dragged her into the jungle, and there knocked her unconscious and tied her to a tree, leading the survivors to believe she had been attacked by the Others. This incited almost everyone in camp to demand an armed response, and Sawyer entered the Swan to warn Locke of the approaching mob. When Locke left to prepare a hiding place for the guns, Sawyer took the guns himself. Working together, Charlie and Sawyer executed one of the most elaborate con games ever perpetrated on the Island.
Redemption was not an easy process. Sayid was the most approachable of the group, probably because he knew of his own capacities to inflict pain. Charlie had caused physical harm to only one person; Sayid had tortured and killed. Eko, seeing that Charlie had become useful again, recruited him to assist in building his church.
As Charlie worked on the church, Vincent approached, a Virgin Mary statue in his mouth. It was the third and final temptation. Hours later, having gathered all the remaining statues, Charlie stood at the shore and pitched them as far as his arm could throw into the deep water. Unbeknownst to him, Locke stood behind him, looking on with approval as Charlie destroyed the last of the Nigerian plane’s cache of the deadly drug. Near the end of Season Two, at Libby’s funeral, Charlie stood next to Claire and she took his hand.
Charlie wore the DS ring and accepted responsibility toward Claire and Aaron. No longer Lord of the rings, instead he submitted himself to the commitments they represented, and in so doing, discovered the highest freedom available to any human being. Charlie, at last, was free.
Heros et Sanctus Martyr
#2: Woman Outside Covent Garden Calls Me a Hero
In truth, Charlie had never been abandoned, even in his darkest hour. His father not only taught him to swim, but instilled in him a respect for himself and for others. Weekly confession was not an action Charlie took out of desperation in Drive Shaft days, it was a habit, long engrained as the result of a traditional childhood in very traditional Manchester.
In the course of 121 episodes of LOST we saw only two men rescue a woman from unsavoury villains in a dark alley. In Episode 6.18, Sayid was a beaten and dejected man who thought himself untrustworthy. But as soon as he saw a man slug a woman he rose from his seat in the Hummer and ran to her rescue. In Episode 3.21, Charlie was a washed up musician and a useless drug addict. But when he saw a man mugging a defenceless woman, he ran to her protection.
Of all the characters we met over six years, Charlie and Sayid were the only two who consciously attempted to adhere to their faith traditions. The accidentals of their faiths were devotional books and the particular words they used in prayer. But the true meaning of their selfless witness to the Creator’s love and justice played out in dark alleys. In both cases, their faith was rendered whole and their lives made holy and joyous and perfect in a single heroic act performed deep under water.
How like Charlie, to rescue a woman he didn’t even know from lawless thugs. He did know her, though, even if he didn’t recognise her. The woman, Noor Abed Jazeem, was the most important person in the world to the one who called her Nadia. In this light we know the truth. Charlie could not but help Nadia, for Nadia was beloved of Sayid, and Sayid was, in all ways that have enduring significance, Charlie’s closest and dearest brother.
After the close-up shot of a suddenly opening eye, this image of warning scrawled on a musician’s left hand may be the most iconic image of LOST, and not without reason: The words on Charlie’s hand determined the course of the next three years, rippling outward from this single moment to become the initiator of the final cascade of events leading to Hurley’s installation as Protector.
Literally with his last breath, Charlie warned Desmond that the people on the freighter were not the rescuers they claimed to be. Desmond reported Charlie’s death, and his warning. Charlie’s best friend, Hurley, knew Charlie’s last words had validity. His decision to remain on the Island with Locke was informed not only by his close friendship with the musician, but by the truth of Charlie’s warning.
Claire was devastated. More vulnerable than ever, she became susceptible to her dead father’s pleadings, and surrendered her son to his care. This led to Kate’s adoption of Aaron and her growing realisation that she had to return to the Island to find Claire and reunite mother and son. Charlie’s death, unexpected by both Jacob and the Smoke Monster, was exploited by the Island to force Kate’s return for a single, critical action: firing the rifle shot that would cripple the Man in Black (see my essay on Christian Shephard, here: http://pearsonmoore-gets-lost.com/WhiteRabbit.aspx, and also my essay on Kate Austen, here: http://pearsonmoore-gets-lost.com/FinalStand.aspx).
Safe and sound in the “civilised” world, Jack had time to reflect on his Island experience. Locke’s defence of the Island at first seemed insane. Locke’s devotion alone may never have been enough to cause Jack’s enlightenment. But as Jack continued to work out the significance of the Island, he did not have to rely exclusively on Locke’s feelings and faith. He could recall also Charlie’s warning about the freighter, and Hurley’s absolute trust in Charlie’s words. As Jack slipped deeper into his own drug-induced insanity and hell, he came to realise Hurley had a stronger grip on reality than anyone he knew. Hurley was sane and trustworthy, ergo Charlie was likewise trustworthy. With two men of integrity supporting Locke, with every event on the Island supporting Locke, Jack was faced with a stark choice. He could continue in his denials and endure a life of pain and insanity, or he could embrace the faith his closest friends knew to be true. Charlie’s heroism was almost certainly the final straw that forced Jack back to the Island.
Maiorem caritatem nemo habet. No greater love has any man than this. And no death had greater meaning than this. Charlie’s death was the central defining act of LOST.
Aeterni Amici Animi
#1: The Night I Met You
We think of Charlie’s final act as his greatest. But he himself counted one event far greater than any other. We witnessed this Greatest Hit in the opening minutes of our six-year adventure.
It was not an act he could achieve on his own. One may love another silently, secretly, in perfect charity. But this is not the love that LOST holds in highest regard. Love, in LOST, is something shared, something built by those weak and flawed into something strong and perfect. We are Lost until we find each other, until we find that single, flawed person willing to build with us something perfect, beautiful, an edifice enduring all ages, testament to infinite capacities to give, to help, to sacrifice, to love.
CLAIRE: You didn't? Peanut butter? No way.
CHARLIE: Just like you ordered. Oh, there is one thing. It's extra smooth.
CLAIRE: That's okay.
[Charlie opens an empty jar.]
CLAIRE: It's empty.
CHARLIE: What? No, no it's not. It's full, full to the brim, with stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, oh, god, makes-you-want-a-glass-of-milk extra smooth. It's the best bloody peanut butter I've ever tasted. You want some?
[Claire, smiling and laughing, dips her finger into the jar.]
Few of us have ever tasted peanut butter so rich. Charlie didn’t find it, or make it. Charlie and Claire made it together. To anyone else, an empty jar. To Charlie and Claire, their final and perfect destiny.
Years before Jack, Charlie discovered the Light. He is not tragedy and death, but heroism and life. He opened a jar, tasted life’s richest fare, and shared it with another. Charlie is the soul of the Island.
Posted by DarkUFO at 10/18/2010 04:08:00 pm 26 CommentsCharlie , Pearson Moore