"Guys, where are we?"
We know the answer now: "It's not an island. It's a place where miracles happen."
But miracles are by their very nature unknowable. They exceed expectation and defy explanation. We may claim enlightenment. We may firmly believe in our erudition. But then we sit down to watch the pilot episode. We see Jack's eye: shocked, bewildered, terrified. In that thrilling, awe-inspiring moment we don't feel privileged with special insight. Insight and enlightenment and theory and reason are all stripped away. The burdens of knowledge and truth and wisdom fall from our shoulders, and we are left with the pure adrenalin flash of wonder, the nakedness of confusion, the thrill of the quest.
"We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason." But who are 'we'? The 71 survivors of Flight 815? Ordinary people, yanked from placid lives into a place of mystery and danger?
There are no 'placid lives'. "I didn't pluck any of you out of a happy existence. You were all flawed." The words apply to the four weary souls Jacob addressed that night (Episode 6.16), but they hold true for the septuagint who survived the crash, and even the 27 dozens who boarded Flight 815 in Sydney. Jacob offered a single criterion for Candidacy: The Candidate had to be just as flawed, just as unhappy as Jacob. But a careful, objective evaluation would reveal a fact our 'enlightened' minds too often fail to comprehend: Every one of us is just as flawed as Jacob.
"We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason." Not just the survivors of Oceanic 815, but every one of us participating in the experience: The thirty million of us around the world were brought to the Island for a purpose, for a reason. We found not a place, but a journey. A van ride down a mountain slope full of mystery and danger, yes, but a thrilling three-dog night that exceeded expectation and defied explanation. It wasn't Shangri-La, it was the ever-changing Road to Shambala.Something Old, Something New
«La Foi de l'île»
("Faith of the Island")
Freehand pencil drawing of Terry O'Quinn as John Locke
Copyright Pearson Moore 2014
"There's nothing new under the sun."
The verse from Ecclesiastes is an often-invoked adage, but I think it's almost universally misunderstood. It doesn't mean 'same old, same old'. It means that the universe, as old as it is, contains within itself every possibility, every dream. It contains truths and realities that exceed wildest expectation and broadest imagination.
We can look at LOST as a relic of the past, a show that destroyed television convention and brought storytelling techniques we're not likely to see again in our lifetimes. Or we can understand LOST as a springboard, a starting point for new discoveries and delights.
I've written more than half a million words on LOST over the course of seven years. My essays have been read by hundreds of thousands. I'm considered a 'expert' on LOST, and my books are required reading in several university courses. I suppose, from an objective point of view, I would have to be considered one of those people who 'get it', who understand the deeper meaning of LOST. Yet I tell you this: No matter how often I watch the pilot episode, or "Walkabout," or "White Rabbit," or any of the scores of episodes that followed, all my research and theories go out the window. I feel boundaries explode and every sense awakened. I feel my conscious self aware of possibilities as never before. It's pure excitement, which can only mean the process of watching-participating is a journey of discovery.
Today marks the publication of my sixth book on LOST, LOST Reality, offered to fans in celebration of the tenth anniversary of one of the great creations of fiction. It's different from my other books. No university professors will use this volume as source material for explaining film theory or literary criticism. This is a book for those of us remaining on the Island, who know "There's nothing new under the sun" means that this greatest of television shows can and does continue to teach, entertain, and enlighten.
LOST Reality is a book full of possibilities precisely because it contains the record of every one of my Season Six essays as they were written in the early morning hours (midnight to six a.m.) following the broadcast premiere of each episode. These are the original essays. Something old. In fact, because we know the answers to every LOST secret, we could probably consider that most of my essay suppositions are 'wrong' or at best incomplete. There never was any connection between Hannibal (the Carthaginian general, not the latter-day cannibal) and the Man in Black, but I devote an entire essay section to speculation on that idea. It's hard to get through some of these old essays without laughing. I know this for a fact, because I wrote the bloody things but I still end up chuckling at some of my harebrained ideas.
But the greater truth is this: We don't know the answers to every LOST secret. After all, it's not an island: It's a place where miracles happen. That is, if we truly understand LOST, we know we will never pin it down. It will always remain a journey full of mystery and discovery because it is a place where miracles happen, and a place miraculous is no place at all, but a journey, a work in progress, the thrilling, terrifying rush of a head-over-heels ride down a mountainside in a rusting, 30-year-old van.
I give several examples of new discoveries in LOST Reality, concentrating much of the text on an examination of science fiction ideas, particularly those I use in my epic novel, Deneb, but I suspect for many fans the most interesting (shocking?) revelation will be my pencil drawings.
«Le Cœur de l'île»
("Heart of the Island")
Freehand pencil drawing of John Terry as Dr. Christian Shephard
Copyright Pearson Moore 2014
As Dr. Leonard McCoy might have said, "I'm a scientist, not an artist!" I'm trained in atoms and molecules, not lines and forms. My last art class was in the 7th grade, more than 40 years ago. But last month, on August 6, I decided to try my hand at a self portrait. It wasn't very good. I kept at it, though, and within a few days I created this:
("A Person's Skull"; literally 'Head-Bone' of the People' in the Tasblish language)
Freehand drawing of a Neandertal skull
Copyright Pearson Moore 2014
I've since drawn chairs, hands, nudes, landscapes, my hiking boots--I can draw anything. Whether it's any good or not is up to you, but the take home lesson here is that LOST inspired all this. My first 'real' pencil drawing was of the actress who made my jaw drop open during the pilot episode:
"Conscience of the Island"
Freehand pencil drawing of Evangeline Lilly as Kate Austen
Copyright Pearson Moore 2014
This strange ability of mine is definitely something new. I didn't know I could draw. Well, maybe I did know. Twenty-two years ago, when my daughter was four, she asked how to draw. So I sat down with her and drew one of her toys, a fire truck. I was surprised by the lines and shapes that came out of my pen (I never used pencils back then), but I never tried again. Too engrossed in lab work, I suppose. My mother was a fashion and costume designer and she did some breathtaking pencil drawings of friends and celebrities.
"Dolly Levi Costume 7"
Rough costume sketch for the 1972 production of "Hello Dolly"
Rochester Civic Theatre, Rochester, Minnesota
Copyright Beverly Freeberg 1972, used with permission
The upshot of all this is that I cannot claim any talent. If I have any drawing ability, it's because of my mother, and because of LOST.
Enigma, Not Contradiction
The greater truth of my art is that it is simultaneously old and new. This is no contradiction. There can be no question of my pencil drawing. I didn't hold a pencil in my hands until 27 days ago. So it's something new. But I possessed hidden ability from long ago. So it's something old.
LOST is full of such seemingly contradictory enigmas. For instance, rain in LOST has a definite negative connotation. Rain presages an accident, a mysterious occurrence, or a dark turn of events. It becomes a symbol of Island-related evil and doom. Yet whenever the rain comes, John Locke smiles, raises his arms, drops to his knees. He revels in the rain. It is his rapture, to which he bows in supplication and thanksgiving.
"Ah, yes," you say, "It was one of the early signs that Locke was controlled by the Smoke Monster. That's why he embraced the evil nature of rain." We can certainly think and speak and build theories along those lines. Virtually everything in several of the intricate plotlines supports the notion that Locke's misfit revelry is a sign of his subservience to dark forces. But I submit that this is only part of the story. Rain brings catastrophe, but it makes the trees grow and gives water to drink. It is unquestionably true that the Island brought Jack to the edge of a cliff and nearly caused his fall, but it is also true that the Island brought Jack to flowing water, and to Christian's empty tomb.
"Wait a minute, Pearson," you say. "It wasn't the Island that brought Jack to the edge of the cliff, it was the Smoke Monster. If not for Locke, Jack would have fallen and died."
Well, he may have fallen. But he wouldn't have died. He couldn't have died--not as the result of any action by the Smoke Monster. Check the mythology of Season Six: The MIB could not kill Jack. He was a Candidate, shielded from harm by the Protector. The rules of the Island, inscribed on the Cork Stone, specified that Horus and Set (Jacob and the MIB) could do only certain things. Since the Island controlled the twin brothers, it was in essence the Island that allowed Jack to experience the contradiction of near death on a cliff juxtaposed with new life by the waters of a cave juxtaposed yet again with a symbol of resurrected life in his father's empty casket. Life, death, rebirth. Something old, something new. Nothing new under the sun. Infinite possibilities, transcending every limitation of conscious thought and human imagination.
If you look at Jack running toward his father in the jungle and see only the hand of the Smoke Monster, you need to look harder. If you look at the rain pouring down and see only evil, you need to look deeper. LOST was not about good and evil, but about the enigma of logical contradiction. It was a convoluted, six-year exploration of the idea that the omnipotent force that is Reality cannot be contained or described or limited by logic, science, or human understanding. The Island is simultaneously good and evil. Locke is simultaneously slave to the MIB and freer than any man. The light of the Source is simultaneously purest evil and purest good.
We know the answers now? Hah! We've hardly begun to explore the ideas.
We have an intimate sense of the topography of the human heart. This is the starting point and the constant touchstone for all of fiction and all of human endeavor. This is the basis for literary criticism and art theory.
"Gray Lines With Black, Blue, and Yellow"
Georgia O'Keefe, 1923
Many art theorists look at Georgia O'Keefe's paintings and see symbolic visual representations of the human vagina. O'Keefe denied this. In dozens of interviews over the years she explained that she was painting lines and forms, not body parts. Yet it's hard for the determined student or even the casual observer not to notice the intriguing similarities between 'body parts' and many of O'Keefe's works. The connection seems strong and almost undeniable when we consider the long collaboration with her photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz.
Portrait of Georgia O'Keefe
Alfred Stieglitz, 1918
O'Keefe's hands were the focus of thousands of Stieglitz photographs of his wife and fellow artist. Her hands were his obsession. Yet he was not photographing body parts. He was forming body parts into lines and forms. We're confronting contradiction yet again, for in the work of both O'Keefe and Stieglitz the division between symbol and the thing-in-itself was blurred, erased, and yet confidently asserted as necessity.
In the end, as I argued forcefully in Breaking Blue, my 357-page analysis of Breaking Bad, we are perfectly correct in saying "Gray Lines With Black, Blue, and Yellow" is the symbolic representation of a vagina, even when O'Keefe vigorously protests that this was not her intention. "Look, guys," Lindelof says, "Lost was just a simple adventure story. It's all about the characters, nothing else. There's no hidden meanings. Pearson Moore's lost his mind." Carlton Cuse nods soberly. "Christian Shephard's name wasn't meant to be an allusion to Christianity. We made it up with a random name generator. The knife to Jack's abdomen? It was a production error, that's all. We never intended it to be an allusion to the wounds of Christ. That painting, "The Incredulity of St. Thomas"? No symbolic intention there. Any old painting would have worked. We were going to use a drawing of Winnie the Pooh, but the production guys found the other painting, so we stuck it in there. There's no other meaning."
Even if Darlton said something as preposterous as the above imaginings, we could claim as truth and build theories and literary explanations on the rich Christian symbolism permeating LOST. We could claim and posit as truth LOST's literary connection to "The Tempest" or The Stand or Lost Horizon or Moby Dick--or all of these. We are allowed to do this because the creators of an artistic work have no exclusive claim to the mysteries and riches of the human heart. We can ascribe meaning and value and even hidden or disavowed intention to a work and our interpretation will carry as much legitimacy as that of the work's creator. In a sense, it's our obligation to do so. If the value of a work transcends logic, it is inevitable that your interpretation will be different from mine, and all of us will differ in understanding from the artist's stated intent.
Contradiction? Logically, I suppose. But I prefer to understand this as profound enigma at every step of the appreciation of a great work of art. The enigmas are particularly profound in the 121 chapters of LOST.
"There is no 'now' here."
Christian's final words to Jack became the prime discussion points for the penultimate essay in LOST Reality, "A Place We All Made Together: Thoughts on the Flash-Sideways World." Even before the final episode we had an inkling that the Island was a place that was not. It was a definite place ("Everything that's ever happened to you is real"), yet it was a free-floating piece of land uncharted by cartographers, invisible to satellites, and virtually unreachable by the normal operation of ship or plane. The Island was not so much place as journey, and in the series finale we learned that time itself was not applicable to the analysis of cause and effect or relation and being. "There is no 'now' here." It was the ultimate contradiction.
I'd like to end this essay with a short extract from "A Place We All Made Together." This is a consideration of my 2010 theory of "Faraday's Boulder." It was a constant theme in my Season Six essays, as you will see when you read the book. (If you're reading these words I know you're a dedicated LOST fan; you're gonna buy the book!) Much of the original formulation of the idea probably cannot be made to conform with a deep understanding of LOST mythology, but a kernel of insight remains. Probably the most useful aspect of the theory is its ability to stimulate original thinking, and this has always been my intention. I'm not a purveyor of truth, some guru who has all the answers. I see my job as staying on the Island, following the paths through the jungle, and posing questions for discussion and debate. With you, I am a seeker, on the quest, willing to take a seat next to you in Hurley's rusted-out van and risk a ride skirting that strange twilight zone between oblivion and bliss.
"Flatirons Winter Sunrise"
The Flatirons Rock Formations, Boulder, Colorado
Copyright Jesse Varner 2005, CC-SA 2.5 Generic
cropped by Pearson Moore 2014
If we assume knee-jerk reactions to Season Six and the series finale have greatest utility to our understanding and enjoyment, there's no need to proceed further in our investigation of LOST symbols and motifs. Those who placed value on their first intuitions screamed, "Damon Lindelof wasted six years of my life!" They complained and protested and wrote stinging blogs and editorials, and then they faded into the background. But there's always a righteous remnant, if I can paraphrase Lawton Chiles. There are always a few who take the time to reexamine first interpretations and discover fascinating relationships to which they were at first blind.
In the first round of preparing these essays for publication I edited out most of the references to Faraday's Boulder. The idea was based on the premise that detonation of the nuclear weapon had itself or in conjunction with heretofore unimaginable levels of electromagnetic radiation somehow altered spacetime, bifurcating reality into separate, parallel streams. After seeing the series finale, I consigned this idea to the 'embarrassments' pile, along with Locke Rising and the MIB as General Hannibal. I no longer considered the idea useful, and I barely mentioned it in my first published books on LOST. On the second read-through I reconsidered. After all, the Island World and the Sideways World are not sequential realities, they are concurrent–if such a word can be applied toward an environment unattached to spacetime.
While it's probably not useful or correct to believe that the detonation of Faraday's bomb created parallel time streams, it may be quite useful to assert that the bomb or the electromagnetic Incident at the Swan Station somehow increased the porosity between the two worlds. This possibility is not only reasonable, it's entirely consonant with the uniqueness of Desmond Hume's enlightenment event, catalysed or created by Charles Widmore's enormous electromagnetic field experiment. Episode 6.11 makes obvious the idea that extreme electromagnetic energy was the force that allowed Desmond to straddle the two worlds. Did Faraday's Boulder–the simultaneous unleashing of immense nuclear and electromagnetic energy–serve as the event that compromised and weakened the barrier between the two worlds?
Careful observers will note that Island Desmond was not the only post-crash character to feel the effects of the Sideways World. As I noted in my introduction to the essay for Episode 6.10, "On the Island in 2004 Sun knew English but feigned ignorance; in present-day 2007 Sun professes understanding of English, but can do so only in Korean." Unstated in my essay but something I was thinking at the time was the high probability that the bump on the head (Episode 6.10) that precipitated her sudden loss of English language speech was a result of Sideways seepage into the Island reality. In the Sideways World, Sun continued the ruse that she didn't know English. The loss of ability to communicate in English on the Island seemed a kind of retribution for her conceit and deception in the Sideways, or at least it appeared to me at the time.
Now, after multiple rewatches, the connection seems obvious. The knock on the head was like a thousand-fold lesser shock than Desmond's absorption of electromagnetic energy in the next episode. Island Sun didn't receive full enlightenment, as Desmond did, but this was only because she was not exposed to the same high energy levels. Instead, she was given only a taste of the Sideways, and had no idea that she and Jin existed in a place where they would not be forced to die on a submarine.
I tend to believe now that the idea of Faraday's Boulder is useful. Perhaps the value of the idea as I originally cast it is low, but if we think about it in other ways–maybe as a catalyst to enlightenment rather than as a creator of worlds–we might profit from a contemplation on its meaning. At the very least, the full nature of the Incident seems shrouded in mystery. It seems to me most likely that this remains true because the event became indicative of the unveiling of realities beyond the realm of human experience. The Incident became a means of demonstrating our inability to understand the full range of reality. Reason, logic, and science simply cannot explain all there is to know. These human thought-creations are necessarily ignorant of the forces that control the LOST universe. A boulder is a physical thing, but it's a concept, too. I spent ten years of my life living, working, and hiking in the hills and mountains of Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is a place, but it's a concept, too: a state of mind. To live in the shadow of the Flatirons every single day is inspiring, in ways that must be experienced to be understood. When you climb a fourteener and take in the view–the hundreds of miles you can see in every direction–you cannot separate one element from the other. The gorgeous scenery, the chill wind buffeting your cheeks, the rocks beneath your feet, and the ache in your limbs from having climbed to such a height are one and the same.
Why do you climb a mountain? Because it's there? Anyone who's climbed knows this answer lacks authenticity. Why do I climb? Ask Bran Stark, or read my essay about him ("Bran Stark: The Third Eye," in Game of Thrones Season One Essays). Bran would tell you, as I did in my essay, that seeing and climbing are the same activity. Why do I climb? Because I see, I climb, I feel. Because I am the mountain, and the mountain is me.
Why does Sideways Faraday know of his profound feelings for a redheaded woman who loves chocolate? Why does he insist that this is essential information? Why does he know Desmond's enlightenment was initiated by visions of a blonde-haired woman named Penny? We cannot be the people we truly are until we have allowed the one person we truly love to affect our lives. Put another way, we do not live until we have lived with and died for our Constant. And that bond with complete reality finds its deepest expression in the Sideways World. Thanks to Faraday's Boulder, we know it's true. After all, there is no 'now' here.
Buffalo, New York
September 3, 2014
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