“You are not on the list because you are flawed. Because you are angry, and weak, and frightened.”
Mikhail enunciated these words with an air of finality and authority, as if proclaiming a truth etched in stone, the Gospel of Mittelos. He addressed his words to Kate, Sayid, and Locke, but he might as well have included in his dismissive assessment all of the survivors of Flight 815. All of them were angry, weak, and frightened—every one of them was Lost. Because they were Lost they could never be considered for inclusion in any task of significance. Their sorry lives merited not even a mention on a list, and none of them evinced even a shred of leadership potential.
We should have known then, by the twelfth episode of Season Three, that one person’s opinion, or even one person’s authoritative statement, had little relevance to the reality of the Island. Not even two-thousand-year-old Jacob could speak with authority on every subject bearing on the realm he was sworn to protect. In the end, the names Austen, Jarrah, and Locke were found on several lists. Far more than that, though, their leadership and sacrifice meant more to the Island than anything that had occurred in the two millennia of Jacob’s reign.
The Island produced many leaders, each of them effective and capable in ways important to the resolution of the Island’s greatest struggle. In fact, not only was Mikhail incorrect, but the greatest of the leaders were chosen specifically because they were flawed, because they needed the Island as much as it needed them. Let us consider these lost souls, these Candidates and Kings chosen to serve Mittelos.
The Monarch rules from on high, aloof, yet acting always out of concern for her subjects and for the greater good of all.
We suppose her to be apolitical, above the fray, untouched by the petty squabbles and posturings of those seeking the limelight. Perhaps she is. I must admit, though, I harboured less than generous thoughts toward the Queen in 2008 and 2009, when she authorised the prorogation of the Canadian Parliament. Rather than allowing the democratic process to take its course—with the likely fall of Stephen Harper’s Tory government—she, through her Governor General, shut down parliament so Harper would not have to face the voters. Her actions seemed political in the worst sense of that word.
In similar manner, Jacob isolated himself from the people of the Island. He established two layers of bureaucracy (Consigliere and Leader) between himself and the few residents of his realm. He deluded himself into believing that by forcibly bringing people to the Island he was somehow allowing them complete freedom of choice. Jacob saw himself as the eternal guardian of human progress and individual freedom, yet his actions ensured the deaths of hundreds—perhaps thousands—over the duration of his long reign.
We probably tend to think of Hurley as being somehow more benign than his long-lived predecessor. He seemed in touch with people’s needs, perhaps even to the point of being overwhelmed by his responsibility toward those in his charge. He said as much to Ben when he invited the master manipulator to serve as his second. Yet Hurley began asserting the prerogatives of leadership long before his investiture as Protector. He assumed leadership in the critical days after the destruction of the Temple, insisting that Jacob had told him to seek out the Man in Black. He even convinced Jack to follow his lead. We blame the Smoke Monster for the deaths on the submarine, but I have to wonder whether the deaths might have been prevented, if someone had stood up to Hurley and argued against his plan to enter into close proximity with the Island’s prince of darkness.
Princess Elizabeth served in World War II as a truck driver, a lowly Second Subaltern (roughly a second lieutenant), Number 230873. She saw with her own eyes what her people had to do to recover from the destruction wrought by the war. Forty years later, she was obliged to face political forces bent on undoing everything her generation had accomplished in rebuilding. The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, had taken control of Queen Elizabeth’s realm, and her libertarian vision of a world devoid of compassion was something the Queen would take no part in. At the height of the Iron Lady’s stranglehold on the UK, the Queen delivered her annual Christmas message in December, 1983. “But in spite of all the progress that has been made the greatest problem in the world today remains the gap between rich and poor countries and we shall not begin to close this gap until we hear less about nationalism and more about interdependence.” We might well imagine the Iron Lady fuming during this speech, perhaps even muttering curses under her breath. Selfishness has its day, but the true nature of our humanity is never denied for long. Iron Maggie issued edicts from Parliament for a while, but now she’s gone. Despite the best efforts of determined thugs and villains, humanity remains. Forces more noble than those possessed by any Iron Lady find quiet ways to confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks. The Queen still reigns. Thy choicest gifts in store, on her be pleased to pour.
Born on the Western shore of the Atlantic, I am not supposed to find anything worthy in the words and acts of a monarch. But I do believe Queen Elizabeth serves with the best interests of her people in mind. And even though Jacob committed deeds that might be considered thoughtless or even cruel, I believe he, too, served the Island with the interests of people in his heart. “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.” I don’t believe they were empty words. He believed in them. And whenever Hurley said, “Hey, that’s not cool, dude,” he was speaking on behalf of those not able to speak for themselves. Hugo Reyes (the name means “Kings”) was cut from royal cloth, exemplifying the best traditions of human leadership. Send him victorious, happy and glorious.
The Man in Black
All Adolf Hitler ever wanted was for Germans to have their own country, without the interference of foreigners. He was at heart a peaceful man.
If you believe this, you might also be inclined to consider the Man in Black a saint who never wished for anything more than the right to return to the land of his ancestors. You might not even have to be persuaded to believe that Benjamin Linus almost always spoke the truth and fabricated the occasional lie only for the good of those in his charge. And if anyone were to tell you that Charles Widmore authorised the execution of an infant girl, your only response might be to question the sanity of the person delivering this unlikely message.
Even the worst among us, those universally considered to have no redeeming qualities, are not motivated by anything they would recognise as evil intent. I believe Adolf Hitler truly felt a strong communion with the German people. The Man in Black was wronged by the woman who adopted him, and by his own brother, and really did wish to return to Rome. The Dharma Initiative sought to exploit the Island’s powers. Ben Linus and Charles Widmore knew that, and they did everything they could to protect the Island. All four of these men had pure motivations.
The problem for these men is that others stood in the way of achieving their objectives, and they felt empowered to commit any act—even genocide—to force the world to bend to their will. They were never the servants of anything we would recognise as the common good. They served their own selfish desires. It is selfishness that leads to the atrocities that we recognise as the outcome of an evil heart. Adolf Hitler, the Man in Black, Benjamin Linus, and Charles Widmore were selfish men. It necessarily follows, since they took the initiative to serve their selfish desires, that they were evil men. Perhaps there is no sin in a selfish heart. But when the will acts to satisfy selfish ends, others necessarily suffer; the word ‘evil’ must be applied in such cases. Hitler killed tens of millions. The Man in Black killed hundreds or thousands. Benjamin Linus filled a trench with the rotting bodies of the dozens he killed.
“We have to kill him.” These were Kate’s words, delivered not with emotion, not out of a sense of retribution. She was simply forming into words a truth that she and the other survivors should have recognised long before that awful morning after the submarine explosion. There is no sin in doing away with people like Hitler, the Man in Black, and Benjamin Linus. In fact, those in Queen Elizabeth’s generation believed not to take action against evil was morally indefensible. The Greatest Generation lived up to great responsibilities. The heroes of LOST fought the good fight again, demonstrating that valour, courage, and commitment need not die with our parents and grandparents.
Peace Corps Togo, Secondary Science Professors, Induction Ceremony, August, 1983
We were told it would be the toughest job we would ever love. I think the television ads were correct in that assessment. During our two years serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Togo, West Africa, we learned to live with amoebic dysentery, intestinal worms, and the occasional bout of malaria. We buried two of our own, and many of us won the “TWA Prize”, returning to the States too injured, too diseased, or too worn out to function anymore. But I imagine even those who were forced home before the end of service would agree it was the toughest job they ever loved.
Kate Austen was the first to volunteer for any mission. Even when Jack or Sawyer or another of the men sought to exclude her, she found a way to get in on the action. Her restless spirit was not her only motivation, but rather the sign of a deeper source of angst. Her mother had chosen a man who beat and abused her over the man who truly loved her. How could Kate know that any choices she made would not be as bad—or worse—than the ones her own mother had made? Kate could never commit herself to a single man, or a single course of action. She could never settle in one place.
But then she fell into the Island world. Two men competed for her, but neither was able to tame her spirit. She found herself, and her lifelong vocation, in the helpless form of an infant boy, and she tried to become his mother. The three years with Aaron demonstrated the giving nature of her heart, but they also served as proof that she could never be Aaron’s mother. Somewhere in dense jungle, on an island appearing on no map, the boy’s mother lived in daily agony, separated from her own flesh and blood.
Kate Austen was no ordinary volunteer. In her tenacity, in her unwillingness to remain thwarted by any obstacle, regardless of its difficulty, Kate gave of herself to an extent unrivaled in the series. In reuniting Claire and Aaron and committing her life to the boy’s upbringing, Kate repaired the damage to her soul, filled the enormous void, and became the person she was meant to be. She was the supreme example of the good that can be accomplished in devoting energy and passion to a worthy objective.
The Holy Martyr
Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro, S. J.
They not only died for a cause greater than themselves. They knew they had to sacrifice their lives for the Island. They might have tried running from their fate, but all four of them instead embraced death as the final and most meaningful act of their lives.
What causes a man in the prime of life, in relationship with his truest soul mate and her infant son, to relinquish all he has, even life itself? Why did Jack Shephard struggle for years against forces that nearly killed him, only to give his life willingly short days after his spiritual torments ended? Their selfless act was testament not only to their limitless courage and boundless commitment; it was proof of the greater glory to which they commended their lives, and their deaths.
It is said that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends. But these men did find a love of even greater and more enduring significance.
[Sawyer pulls all the wires from the timer - timer pauses at 1:31 and then countdown accelerates.]
SAYID [to Jack]: Listen carefully. There's a well on the main island, half mile south from the camp we just left. Desmond's inside it. Locke wants him dead, which means you're going to need him. Do you understand me?
JACK: Why are you telling me this?
SAYID: Because it's going to be you, Jack.
[Sayid grabs bomb and runs off.]
Jack and Sayid had a solid relationship based in trust, to the point that their trust in each other became more important to both of them than their own lives (see http://pearsonmoore-gets-lost.com/LostMotifsFaith.aspx under the headings “Jack’s Understanding of Faith” and “Ruth and Naomi”). I believe it was in the moment that Jack swallowed the green pill intended to kill Sayid that Jack embraced the true, unbounded nature of his calling and set himself on a course that could only lead to his vanquishing of the Smoke Monster.
Sayid knew, when he seized the bomb, he had only seconds to live. If all he wished to accomplish was saving his friends’ lives, he would have accomplished a noble and memorable deed, worthy of being recounted for all time. But he accomplished more than this great act. In the few seconds remaining in his life, he managed to convey the single thought weighing heaviest on his mind. At the moment of his death, the fate of the Island had greatest importance to Sayid Jarrah. “It’s going to be you, Jack.” The idea he was expressing to his most trusted friend was more than a guess about Jack’s future job assignment. It was not a guess or a hope or an expression intended to boost morale or any such fluff. One does not express shallow sentiment at the hour of death. No, Sayid’s statement was the most important expression he could make, for it contained the martyr’s fullest understanding of Jack’s need to defeat the Smoke Monster (“Locke wants him dead, which means you're going to need him.”) and serve the Island (“It’s going to be you, Jack.”).
Surely these four men proved themselves the most valiant and noble of leaders, willing to give everything for an objective possessing greater value and significance than life itself.
Two leaders’ counsels were informed by truths far beyond their own experience.
JACK: So where do we go from here?
SAWYER: I'm working on it.
JACK: Really? Because it looked to me like you were reading a book.
SAWYER: [Chuckles] I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, 'cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.
JACK: I got us off the Island.
SAWYER: But here you are... [sighs] right back where you started. So I'm gonna go back to reading my book, and I'm gonna think, 'cause that's how I saved your ass today. And that's how I'm gonna save Sayid's tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night's rest. Let me do what I do.
Sawyer’s words, ground rough and unvarnished into the wounds of Jack’s soul, must have stung, but they were conveyed with a force of authenticity. Sawyer not only recognised his responsibility as leader and defender of the survivors, he made every effort to acquire the intellectual tools that would allow him to face any situation, regardless of difficulty.
John Locke was the supreme source of philosophical perspective. We know him as the one chosen by the Island to become Jack’s mentor. And what a mentor he was. His first teaching act was not to demonstrate for Jack the inadequacy—in fact, the illusion—of science and logic. Rather, Locke pointed Jack’s psyche toward the single objective that would have to become his passion.
“I'm an ordinary man, Jack, meat and potatoes, I live in the real world. I'm not a big believer in magic. But this place is different. Special. The others don't want to talk about it because it scares them. But we all know it. We all feel it. Is your white rabbit a hallucination? Probably. But what if everything that happened here, happened for a reason? What if this person that you're chasing is really here?... I've looked into the eye of this island. And what I saw was beautiful.”
This speech became the basis for the fan-made video I consider the best ever put together:
If you search the entire LOST transcript using the string “for a reason” you will find a single instance of Hurley using the phrase once in Season Two (Lost 2.18 “Dave”), but every other occurrence prior to Season Five is due to a single character: John Locke. Locke provided the philosophical basis for understanding the entire series. He was chosen for the most important project the Island had ever conceived: the teaching and reorientation of Jack Shephard.
Locke continued to orient Jack as best he could toward the Island, leading to the most memorable speech at the end of Season One.
LOCKE: I believe that I was being tested.
LOCKE: Yeah, tested.
JACK: I think...
LOCKE: That's why you and I don't see eye-to-eye sometimes, Jack -- because you're a man of science.
JACK: Yeah, and what does that make you?
LOCKE: Me, well, I'm a man of faith. Do you really think all this is an accident -- that we, a group of strangers survived, many of us with just superficial injuries? Do you think we crashed on this place by coincidence -- especially, this place? We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason.
JACK: Brought here? And who brought us here, John?
LOCKE: The Island. The Island brought us here. This is no ordinary place, you've seen that, I know you have. But the Island chose you, too, Jack. It's destiny.
This pivotal speech became the foundation for another timeless fan-made video:
In John Locke’s world, no task was so mundane as to be beyond careful deliberation. He cited historical or philosophical precedent for everything he did on the Island.
BOONE: So, not to be too difficult, but we've been coming here for two days just staring at this thing. I'm not really sure what we're supposed to be doing.
LOCKE: Ludovico Buonarrati, Michelangelo's father. He was a wealthy man. He had no understanding of the divinity in his son, so he beat him. No child of his was going to use his hands for a living. So, Michelangelo learned not to use his hands. Years later a visiting prince came into Michelangelo's studio and found the master staring at a single 18 foot block of marble. Then he knew that the rumors were true -- that Michelangelo had come in every day for the last four months, stared at the marble, and gone home for his supper. So the prince asked the obvious -- what are you doing? And Michelangelo turned around and looked at him, and whispered, sto lavorando, I'm working. Three years later that block of marble was the statue of David.
John Locke, philosopher, was the very heart of LOST. The hallmark of LOST was not adventure or mystery or drama or any other characteristic shared with every other television programme before it. What distinguished LOST was not its characters or the island atmosphere or the unique interpretation of the rules of time travel. LOST was special because of these elements, but it was unique in asking—demanding—that we think. How appropriate, then, that we were led by a philosopher.
The Guardian (“Mother”)
The mark of the philosopher is the insistence that some principle independent of one’s highest yearnings must guide one’s actions. Yet, at some point the philosopher must act based on her own flawed understanding of the hierarchy of principles she has fitted into her philosophical system. She must act of her own accord. It is in this respect that mothers outshine the most gifted philosopher. A mother never acts of her own accord. Every action she takes is oriented toward the needs of someone outside herself. The mother gives herself—heart, body, and soul—to another human being. She gives herself for her child.
We saw many examples of mothers compromised in their values, women who would not give everything for their children. Perhaps the most obvious example of this false type of mother was the one whose charges came to call her “Mother”—the first Protector of the Island, who killed Jacob’s mother and claimed him and his twin brother as her own. Her agenda, her warped interpretation of her role as Protector, carried in her mind an importance far greater than a mother’s life, far greater than the needs of Jacob and the Boy in Black. It was more important for her to believe that people are “greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy, and selfish,” that human beings “come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt... and it always ends the same.”
We should not be surprised at the outcome of parental disposition that gives greater gravity to pessimistic philosophies than to the nurturing of children. A parent’s first obligation is to love and imbue in children a sense of love, of wonder, of openness to others and to the world. When a mother considers the instilling of distrust, hatred, and scorn as her primary objective, we can be quite certain of the result.
The Boy in Black became the Man in Black long before Jacob threw his brother into the Cave of Light. The Man in Black’s pessimism and selfishness were the consequence of careful preparation over a period of forty years by a woman who cared not at all about the two boys in her care, but about her position on the Island. The Monster who brought death, destruction, hatred, and darkness was the inevitable result of a guardian devoid of the single element that bonds a real mother to her children: Love.
Claire’s love for Aaron and her desire to meet every one of the baby’s needs were greater than even her love for Charlie. When Charlie lied to Claire about the heroin in the Virgin Mary statues, Claire’s first thought was Aaron’s welfare.
CLAIRE: You lied to me, Charlie.
CHARLIE: I know I did. I'm sorry. I just -- it made me safer to have it around.
CLAIRE: Look, I can't have you around my baby, okay?
CHARLIE: Claire, I...
CLAIRE: Charlie, I don't want you sleeping anywhere near us, okay? Just go.
Claire’s behaviour after the departure of the Oceanic Six was no different than that of the Island’s most famous mother, Danielle Rousseau. For those who read French, I composed an essay on Rousseau and Claire: http://pearsonmoore-gets-lost.com/InsensibilitedeMaternite.aspx The basic idea is this: Neither Claire nor Rousseau was influenced in her behaviour by the Smoke Monster. Everything the two women did was motivated entirely by the need to find and ensure the safety of Alex and Aaron.
I believe there must be in heaven a place set aside for adoptive parents. Their call to parenthood is so strong that not even a blood tie is required to bond with a child. These are parents possessed of purest motivation, whose selflessness is beyond anyone’s sense of doubt or reproach. We witnessed such a love in the last three seasons of LOST. In fact, so great was this woman’s love, that she recognised her own inadequacy to the child’s wellbeing, and pledged everything in her being to finding the mother, and reuniting her with her child.
Some months ago I wrote that Aaron would likely return to the Island as Walt’s second, and that the boy would certainly make arrangements for “Aunt Kate” to visit from time to time. A reader pointed out something important in his comments. He said Aaron would not think of Kate as “Aunt”—Kate Austen would forever remain “Mom” in Aaron’s mind. The reader was certainly correct. Kate Austen conceived no child in her womb. But her position as mother, the fact that she put a child’s welfare ahead of her own, cannot be questioned. Kate Austen was the most selfless example of motherhood the Island ever experienced.
Prophets do not foresee. Rather, they bring coherence out of chaos. Prophets bring order to our lives by reminding us of values that transcend our limited view of reality.
Eloise Hawking was a seer. She knew the certainty of the future, because her son’s notebook, completed through 2004, fell into her hands in 1977. But she was no prophet. She told Desmond that his life was already worked out in full, that he would never marry Penny because that was not his destiny. Pushing the button in the Swan Station every 108 minutes would become the greatest accomplishment in his life.
[Suddenly, there is a loud crash behind the bench Ms. Hawking and Desmond have been sitting on. Some scaffolding has fallen and killed the man with red shoes.]
DESMOND: Oh, my God. You knew that was going to happen, didn't you? [she nods] Then why didn't you stop it? Why didn't you do anything?
MS. HAWKING: Because it wouldn't matter. Had I warned him about the scaffolding tomorrow he'd be hit by a taxi. If I warned him about the taxi, he'd fall in the shower and break his neck. The universe, unfortunately, has a way of course correcting. That man was supposed to die. That was his path just as it's your path to go to the island. You don't do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you're supposed to.
DESMOND: I'm going to meet Penny in an hour. I've got the ring; she'll say yes; I can choose whatever I want.
MS. HAWKING: You may not like your path, Desmond, but pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do.
Desmond saw the future as well as Mrs. Hawking, but his vision was not clouded by the petty fatalisms that guided Mrs. Hawking’s view of reality. Desmond was not a seer. He was a prophet. Regardless of the content of his visions, he knew his walks into past and future had a greater significance, that his visions could only be interpreted from a position of absolute faith in their beneficent outcome. Not only would he achieve things much greater than pushing a button, but he would be united forever with Penny. In the end, the seer was entirely wrong, and the prophet was proven correct in every particular. The difference between Desmond and Eloise was not merely one of outlook or philosophy. Desmond made himself aware of the principles underlying the Island and the world. With complete openness to these truths, he could never be led astray.
John Locke was usually alone in seeing the importance of the Island and his and Jack Shephard’s connection to it. His prophesy was more profound and more complete than any other. By the end of the story, one man was willing to risk himself and the fate of the world on the truth of John Locke’s vision.
[Jack and the Man in Black lower Desmond with a rope into the cave.]
MAN IN BLACK: This remind you of anything, Jack?
MAN IN BLACK: Desmond...going down into a hole in the ground. If there was a button down there to push, we could fight about whether or not to push it. It'd be just like old times.
JACK: You're not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face, but you're nothing like him. Turns out he was right about most everything. I just wish I could've told him that while he was still alive.
MAN IN BLACK: He wasn't right about anything, Jack. And when this island drops into the ocean, and you drop with it, you're finally gonna realize that.
JACK: Well, we'll just have to see which one of us is right, then.
The result was, of course, something the real John Locke could have predicted. Jack Shephard saved the Island—saved humanity—because he believed in the prophesy of John Locke.
The Good Shepherd was not only shepherd, but also a lamb, willing to make of Himself a sacrifice so that others might live. His lifeless body was never found. When the tomb was opened on the third day, the tomb was found empty. One such as the Good Shepherd can never die.
Jack Shephard opened his father’s tomb on the sixth day, and again at the conclusion of the third year. On both occasions the tomb was, of course, empty.
There have been easy and casual theories regarding the true nature of Christian Shephard and his apparitions on the Island. Some of the appearances coincided with the sounds or acts of the Smoke Monster, and the conclusion that Christian’s form was taken by the Monster is the theory with greatest currency. But these apparitions were uniform in neither character nor behaviour. So, more complex theories inevitably arose. When we see Christian dressed in a suit, he is the Smoke Monster, and when he’s dressed in a casual shirt he’s Christian—or maybe someone else. Other theories say no, Christian in the suit is Christian, and Christian in a casual shirt is the Smoke Monster. Yet other theories say the person occupying Christian’s form depends on the time and place—maybe on the phase of the moon. But none of these theories can deal with this very strong image from the end of Season Four.
CHRISTIAN: You can go now, Michael.
MICHAEL: Who are you?
Michael posed the key question of the series, and one that most theorists stumble over.
We know the Smoke Monster had strong aversion to explosions. When the Smoke Monster pulled Locke into a “Cerberus Vent” at the end of Season One, it was Kate (of course) who threw a stick of dynamite into the hole. The explosion caused the Smoke Monster to release Locke. One might wonder why a cloud of non-corporeal smoke could be affected by anything as mundane as dynamite. We didn’t learn the mechanism of action until Season Three, at the sonic fence. Sound energy was sufficient to keep the Smoke Monster from crossing land. Going up and over the fence was not an option; he simply could not deal with high-energy sound waves.
The highest of high-energy sound waves emanate from explosions, such as occur upon detonation of dynamite—or upon detonation of C4 explosive.
In the image above, the entity occupying Christian Shephard’s form stands behind a veritable mountain of C4 explosive. The table holds enough C4, in fact, to sink fifty ships the size of the Kahana. The sound energy generated by such an explosion is greater by orders of magnitude than anything produced by the sonic fence. It goes without saying that the Smoke Monster would not have voluntarily come anywhere near the freighter as long as it was rigged with that much explosive. The entity standing behind the C4 could not possibly have been the Smoke Monster.
The problem of the figure’s identity is exacerbated by the fact that the freighter is in deep ocean water, several kilometres from the nearest shore.
MAN IN BLACK: We're taking a boat ride over to the other island.
SAWYER: What do you need a boat for? Can't you just turn into smoke and fly your ass over the water?
MAN IN BLACK: Do you think if I could do that I would still be on this island?
While we have no reason to trust anything the Smoke Monster says, we have no evidence that he was able to “fly his ass over the water” either. He didn’t like being pushed into the water by Jack, and took the fastest route immediately out of the water. Whenever he crossed to Hydra Island, he did so in a canoe.
If Christian’s form was occupied by the Smoke Monster, his form was not so occupied on the Kahana. Those postulating that the Monster took Christian’s form are left with either very complex, probably untenable theories, or an entirely broken theory.
So who occupied Christian’s form?
If we wish to understand we can look to the history of Christian’s apparitions as I have done in an earlier essay (see my essay on Christian Shephard at http://pearsonmoore-gets-lost.com/WhiteRabbit.aspx ), or we can consider more carefully the situation on the Kahana a split second before the C4 exploded.
Michael asked the correct question. The circumstances surrounding Christian Shephard’s apparition on the Kahana provide us with the answer to that question.
The entity appearing behind the table of C4 assumed authority over Michael and over the fate of the Kahana. “You can go now, Michael” meant that the entity was in control of Michael’s actions and his fate, and also the freighter’s fate. The entity knew the C4 was just about to explode, and it knew Michael would die in the explosion. With those five words, the entity communicated to Michael that his work was done, that he had achieved the goal he had set out to achieve. Of course, this goal had nothing to do with the destruction of the Kahana, though this was the “accidental” (inconsequential) outcome of Michael’s action. What had really transpired, as we now know, is that Michael had put into motion the series of events that would ensure his son’s return to the Island, and Walter’s intervention to secure Michael’s release from Island limbo. All of that occurred simultaneously with Michael’s death (as there is no time “here,” as Christian said in 6.18).
The key provision upon which we base our understanding of the figure’s identity is the fact of its authority. We know the entity is not the Man in Black, for the two solid, incontrovertible reasons cited above. We know Jacob never evinced the ability to change forms. Even in death, he appeared either as his younger self or as his older self and in no other form. He never took a loved one’s form, for instance, and when he wished to visit anyone off-Island, he had to do so in the only form he ever possessed—his own.
There is only one other entity we are aware of that had a consciousness, as attested by none other than John Locke. That entity, of course, is the Island.
Christian Shephard is the Island.
I don’t know that it matters much whether we think of Christian Shephard as representing the Island or its interests, or that we believe he embodied every aspect of the Island. At the very least, he was spokesperson for the Island, and that is all that matters.
Christian was shepherd to everyone on the Island, and especially to his son. He led his son to water, led him to question his reliance on logic and science, and led him, through John Locke, to grow into the man of faith who saved the Island and humanity’s connection to the precepts of civlisation. Christian Shephard was the good shepherd. The Island led everyone from the wilderness of being Lost to finding themselves, and each other, and becoming the people they were destined to be.
All the best cowboys have daddy issues.
Every character in LOST had a poor relationship with her father. Even Jin, whose father was virtually a saint, had such a poor image of his father’s social standing that he told his father-in-law and his own wife that his father was dead. The most important father in the series, Christian Shephard, was so flawed that he performed a surgical operation under the influence of a few too many martinis, and his patient died because of it. He told his son, Jack, that the boy didn’t have what it takes to make decisions of any kind, and certainly not the life or death decisions that Christian was called upon to make every day. Such a man as this—flawed, diseased, inconsiderate—became the representative of the island consciousness that changed the lives of hundreds.
Despite all his foibles and flaws, father knows best. Sixty years ago we learned the lesson from an immaculately dressed Robert Young. This year, not seven months ago, we came to appreciate the same lesson from a greying man addicted to alcohol who had so little confidence in his son that his major contribution to the boy’s upbringing was telling the young man that he was a failure, that he would never measure up.
We all have daddy issues. The closest relationships we have are with people who have done the most to hurt us, to make us question our own worth, our place in this world. LOST was truer than fiction in this regard, in its unrestrained, reckless opening of these wounds in every one of our lives.
Christian Shephard was, like Jack, a wounded man. The wound at the sideways Jack’s neck can be looked at literally as the manifestation of his final duel in the Island world with his nemesis, the Man in Black. However, we can equally consider the wound at his neck as the physical representation of his state of spiritual woundedness. He was wounded to his very core by the harsh words of his father, by his own rejection of John Locke, by the slings and arrows he suffered through his broken relationship with Sarah.
But Christian, with Jack, was a healer. Henri Nouwen, the famous Dutch spiritual writer, spoke forty years ago of The Wounded Healer. Those who wish to heal, Nouwen told us, must carry deep inside themselves the unhealed wounds of their own suffering. There is no balm for the wounded healer. But in accepting the full intensity of her deepest pain, the shepherd becomes the most effective healer of those in her care.
In our childhood we believe ourselves the only ones made to suffer. Parents inflict hardships of every kind. Making matters worse, we learn as teenagers that our parents are not perfect. They are flawed and carry within themselves pessimistic and selfish and even dangerous attitudes and behaviours. And yet they and society insist that we not only obey, but respect and even revere them. Society asks too much. We rebel, and most often in our rebellions, discover our own ways of inflicting on others our own pessimism and selfishness, taking dangerous chances that usually far exceed any unhealthy tendencies we see in our own parents.
Jack was certainly no different from us in this regard. His father was addicted to alcohol. Jack went beyond his father’s imperfections, becoming addicted to alcohol and opioid narcotics. But by far Jack’s greatest addiction was to his own ego. He needed to fix everything. Not because anything needed fixing, but he had to prove his own worth at every turn.
There is no perfection in this world. Parents are no less flawed than children. If we grow out of adolescence it is because we recognise our parents’ faults and sins, and love them anyway. Making Robert Young into the Island’s representative would have been cheating. Putting Christian Shephard—hung-over, inconsiderate Christian Shephard—in charge of the Island was as honest as it was profound. There were no instances of cheating in LOST, and certainly not when it came to the most important relationships in the series.
Jack had to swallow his pride, learn to stop worshipping at the altar of his unquenchable ego, and accept his father as-is, alcoholism and all the rest of it, looking to him not only as father, but as guide and shepherd. The Island asked too much. Far too much. But with the help of his Constant, Kate, his mentor, Locke, and his shepherd—the resurrected image of his father—Jack did overcome himself, learned to grant the respect and reverence his father deserved, and learned to trust the Island. It was the greatest story ever told on television.
LOST is not the story of monarchs or dictators, mothers or fathers, volunteers, prophets, or shepherds. It is the story of many who overcame themselves to find each other, to find their Constants, to bring an end to lives Lost in the wilderness. But LOST is also the story of one human being, a great hero, who went beyond his own salvation to save humanity itself.
The greatest leader in LOST is neither Candidate nor King, neither Philosopher nor Martyr, but the one among us who can give up every shred of self interest to serve the needs of others. This is the one who becomes the great hero, the saviour of all that marks us as human beings.
Jack Shephard is Joseph Campbell’s hero, but he lives and moves and has his being far beyond the archetype. He is not one of a thousand faces, he is unique. Different. Special. He is not his own person, or the person others would like him to be. He is the one who most truly adheres to the happy path of his destiny, who surpasses every understanding of fate and freedom, who alone is worthy to approach the fullness of light that emanates from the Source.
Most of all, Jack Shephard is the Disciple. He recognises his own inadequacy (“you just don't have what it takes”), but he recognises, too, that he shares that inadequacy with everyone, even with his own father—but he is not stifled by this recognition, and moves beyond it, to embrace his connection with mentor (Locke), disciple (Hurley), father (Christian), and Island (Christian). He comes to respect and revere all of them in their connection to him and in their connection to the world and each other. And if he didn’t know before the lava cliffs that Kate was his one-and-only, he certainly understood then, without a single question in his mind.
The greatest hero is one who makes herself disciple to the needs of humanity. Jack Shephard did this, and defined a new, nearly unattainable category of heroism.
Jack was on the list. He was there because he was flawed. Because he was angry, and weak, and frightened. In fact, these are the only kinds of people who can appear on any list of Candidates for the toughest position any human being can occupy. Only the flawed among us can recognise their imperfections, overcome them, and become the greatest among us. The greatest know that they are flawed, they are dependent, they are mere followers—disciples to those greater than themselves. Jack Shephard was all of these things, Candidate and King, disciple to the Island, to his father, to all of us. We shed tears seven months ago, not for an aloof leader, but for one of us, for our brother, Jack Shephard.
This will be my last essay until 2011. I will return again on February 2, 2011, with more musings on Island life. Happy New Year!
Posted by DarkUFO at 12/12/2010 09:05:00 am 65 CommentsPearson Moore