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Mark your calendars! The all-new LOST anthology, LOST Thought, will be published on March 9, 2012.

Nikki Stafford, Jo Garfein, Pearson Moore, and some of the most recognised names in the LOST community of bloggers and academic experts have put together an anthology unlike any other. LOST Thought contains nineteen essays and formal papers by leading thinkers. It promises to become the most widely consulted book on the groundbreaking television series.

With thanks to the contributors to this labour of love created for the fan community, we present below the introduction to LOST Thought, "In the Shadow of Greatness", written by the editor, Pearson Moore.

Introduction to
LOST Thought

In the Shadow of Greatness
by Pearson Moore

We are Lost.

To those who remain entranced by the Island’s power, this statement conveys a sobering note of authenticity that rings through our daily reality. While a television program may have struck the original chord, the majestic score of our lives—this sequence of fighting and corruption, destiny and redemption, life, death and rebirth—continues, but in ways we never could have imagined before a fuselage with attached wing fell ten thousand meters from the sky on September 22, 2004.

The truth of the statement, however, does not originate with the television series that crashed into our living rooms on an early autumn evening several years ago. The statement was as true before Flight 815 as after; the power of Lost is found not in detached adventure or in vicarious epic, but in unreserved engagement. We are LOST, because without us the Island has no meaning. We are Lost, because the jungle trails and the shoreline beaches are the paths of our lives. We are lost, because the journey toward discovery of Self, Other, and Society never ends.

LOST has enduring relevance because we believe our lives to contain not only meaning and structure, but a uniqueness of our own making. When, inevitably, circumstance forces us to surrender, we do not go gentle into that good destiny. With Sawyer, we rage, rage against Jacob: “What made you think you could mess with my life? I was doin' just fine ‘til you dragged my ass to this damn rock.”

We recognize Sawyer’s protests as feeble counterpoint to Jacob’s grand symphony. We know, too, that our own existence is no happier than Sawyer’s, or Kate’s, or Jack’s. Jacob did not address Sawyer, but every one of us, uncomfortable on the edge of our sofas and easy chairs: “You are all flawed. I chose you because you are like me. You are all alone. You are all looking for something you couldn't find out there. I chose you because you need this place as much as it needs you.”

We feel the emotion of Sawyer’s words, but our heart is not the only aspect of our being touched by his resolve to burn and rage at close of day. Our gut tells us much more than simple feelings are at issue. In fact, if we bring the full weight of thought to bear on the proceedings at this final meeting of Candidates, we realize that something even more profound than the instinct to survive is under discussion.

Sawyer’s curses and fierce tears are appropriate, eloquent, and central to this great symphony in six movements. We cannot shrink from our Island-imposed duty to enumerate the most fundamental questions of human existence:

Do our flaws render us prisoners to fate, or do our imperfections catalyze growth and change?

To what extent does an individual human being control her own destiny?

Does life have meaning and value only to the extent that we endow significance, or does existence carry moment and solemnity independent of deeds and beliefs?

What is the nature of our identity as human beings?

What does it mean to “live together, die alone”?

How do histories and mothers and fathers affect our lives?

And the biggest question of all: What does LOST mean?

Common wisdom tells us that to rage, rage against the dying of the light is noble, but futile. What does LOST say on the matter? Is Sawyer’s refusal to acquiesce to destiny merely a caricature of dignified but pointless human pride, or do his words hint at a deeper meaning attached to the dancing flames of Jacob’s fire? Did Jack’s death exemplify final human destiny, or do life, death, and rebirth in LOST carry significance at odds with common wisdom?

LOST is many things to many people, but it will never be designated as common. We may consider it an adventure story, but if so, it is grand adventure, and unlike any epic ever portrayed on the small screen. We may consider it above all a story about interesting characters, but nothing as mundane as a character study has within itself capacities to drive tens of millions to sustained sorrow, unrestrained joy, and warm tears. We may believe LOST is first of all an intricate tale of powers and forces physical and supernatural, but the Cork Stone controls more than electromagnetic waves and travel forward and back through place and time.

It is precisely because we are Lost—because we are susceptible to Jacob’s Progress—that LOST endures. Most of the contributors to this anthology refer to LOST as an open, living text. The book of LOST cannot be closed because a definitive judgment of its meaning will never be achieved.

In preparing this collection for publication I edited each of the essays. In one of the more profound contributions I identified what I took to be an error: The author began the essay in past tense, moved briefly to present tense, then reverted to past tense for the concluding paragraphs. I marched through the essay with my red pen and turned every instance of a present tense verb into past tense, believing I had corrected a simple problem. The author was gentle in his response. “Lost is a living, breathing text,” he wrote. LOST, he said, will continue to speak to us in ways we have not previously understood, and therefore, we do well to express LOST as a present-tense reality. The author was correct on every point. His essay—rendered in its original mixed-tense format—occupies an honored place in our anthology.

It goes without saying that LOST is open to interpretation. But in this nonlinear story we are obliged to go much further in granting analytical license. Not only does LOST live as mutable, organic text, but its design and format change with the redactor. That is, form, substance, and even the text itself must be considered fluid, and entirely subject to the chronologies and priorities applied by each interpreter.

Most contributors to this anthology consider that the meaning of LOST cannot be separated from the interpretation applied by viewers. This is because LOST is an exemplar of nonlinear storytelling; the structural hierarchy of the story’s events, character interactions, and even its cause and effect relationships (etiologies) must be provided by the viewers. Whether LOST is considered a postmodern text or cinematic metadrama, those taking in the drama are not passive observers of unassailable fact, but rather active players in the construction of the presentation. We are not viewers, but participants, not observers, but fellow actors in the play. Strictly speaking, there are no “observers” or “viewers” of LOST, because no mechanism exists for the logical placement of events. If we do not accept our responsibility to engage fully in every scene, if we do not work ceaselessly to divine a narrative structure consonant with every faculty of our minds, we will never uncover the meaning of LOST.

The Excellence of Mittelos

LOST awakens us to our hungers.

All too often we are aware of human existence as drudgery, as numbing compromise preventing the full realization of our potential as beings who ponder, create, and dream. There are realities so grand as to defy complete understanding, truths we can only glimpse in fleeting moments of clarity, destinies that seem to demand our full engagement, and yet elude us in their complexity—or is it their simplicity that challenges us? Perhaps we are comfortable in our mediocrity, happy in our adherences to the well-worn paths of trite stereotype, easy judgment, and social conformity.

Abraham Heschel wrote on our tendency toward inner compromise in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity:

"We dwell on the edge of mystery and ignore it… Accepting surmises as dogmas and prejudices as solutions, we ridicule the evidence of life for what is more than life. Our mind has ceased to be sensitive to wonder… we lose sight of what fate is, of what living is… How could we have lived in the shadow of greatness and defied it?"

What lies in the shadow of the statue? Ille qui nos omnes servabit. LOST saves us from conformity and stereotype, thrills us in its uncompromising expectation of engagement at every level of spirit, mind, and heart. All of us, we realize, are standing in the shadow of the statue, but we stand in awe, not defying or denying, but seeking, searching, finding value and wonder and delight in Jacob’s Progress, in the discovery of new ways to celebrate our true identity as beings of the Light.

Walking the beaches and jungles of our Island, we’re invigorated, alive to our senses, aware of ourselves and our world as if for the first time. We hunger for the fullness of reality, and we find in LOST the richest, most diverse banquet ever prepared.

The volume you hold in your hands is a contribution to the celebration of our happy place in the shadow of the statue. Nineteen of the best-known bloggers and academic experts on LOST have shared in these pages something of their fascination with Mittelos, and their commitment to discovering those glimpses of Light most visible from a place in the shadow of greatness.

Possibly the most enduring quality of LOST is its rare ability to affect us personally, in ways unique to each of us. The first section of this anthology, therefore, “The Culture of LOST,” treats some of the very personal reactions to this most intimate of television creations. Nikki Stafford (Finding Lost) captures the essence of our individual and social connections to LOST and provides the perfect introduction to a volume deeply affected by the emotional, spiritual, and conceptual bonds that permeate our discourse on this breathtaking television epic. Erika Olson (Long Live Locke) and Jo Garfein (Jopinionated) discuss LOST in its capacity as “culture disguised as television,” while Ryan Ozawa and Andy Page explain the nuts and bolts behind two of the greatest LOST-inspired communication efforts of the early 21st century: The Transmission podcast series and the Dark UFO website.

In the second section, devoted to the mythology of LOST, Dr. Cynthia Burkhead presents one of the most fascinating analyses I have ever read on the place of dreams in LOST. This paper is followed by Jo Garfein’s playful discussion of the Alice in Wonderland allusions that suffuse LOST and point to the major themes of the series. Also in this section, I explain my take on the thesis of LOST, this time concentrating on the Cork Stone as intellectual totem, but weaving together concepts in disorientation, chaos theory, and literary analysis to support my argument.

Jennifer Galicinski and Dr. Paul Wright are the only contributors to the theology section of this anthology, but do not be misled: Theirs is the longest section in the book, and they analyze some of the most intriguing ideas relating to the philosophical and theological underpinnings of LOST. Galicinski’s paper speaks to me at several levels, and I find myself particularly intrigued by the notion that LOST stands in opposition to both modernist and postmodernist ideologies. Dr. Wright’s paper is so dense in its thought, yet so simple in its core message, I gain new insights into the connections he makes every time I read the essay.

LOST peers into the lives not only of the survivors, but of their fathers as well, bringing multi-tiered definition to the generational bonds that were strained, riddled with imperfections, and fundamental to the Island drama. If anything, mothers were more important than fathers, with Rousseau, Claire, and Jacob’s “mother” serving as complex reflection of the nurturing yet wounded Island that could as easily kill as heal. Gozde Kilic addresses “Daddy Issues” in her engaging essay, while Erin Carlyle focuses on the mother image in visual creations that bring new perspective to the Island and its inhabitants.

Adequate comprehension of the multi-faceted nature of LOST requires that we travel numerous connected, intersecting, and parallel paths. The multi-dimensionality of LOST is captured in essays by our largest group of contributors. Dr. Jeffrey Frame provides an engrossing account of four-dimensionalism in LOST, invoking St. Augustine, William Faulkner, and Jeff Jensen to support his point. Kevin McGinnis trains the powerful beam of stoic thought on several specific Island interactions to offer a unique reconciliation between free will and destiny. Sarah Clarke Stuart and I go head to head in a far-flung discussion of our (somewhat!) conflicting theses, and come to a conclusion that may surprise you. Delano Freeberg presents a spirited defense of his interpretation of LOST as a postmodern creation, applying the principles of quantum mechanics to make his point, with several well-studied examples from the show. Finally, Cory Milles looks at LOST as story, describing the manner in which LOST rises to new heights by bringing nuanced emphasis to characters and nonlinear plot. He demonstrates that our connection to the characters and their plight is the result of a very carefully mapped storytelling style that demands viewer participation. By becoming part of the story, we are bound to fictional characters in a way that has not been achieved in any previous television work.

Several characters serve as vehicles for Lindelof and Cuse’s commentary on current social convention and expectation. One of the most challenging characters in this regard was Sayid Jarrah, and the final section of the anthology begins with Jamie Smith’s piercing analysis of the character and his significance to viewer-participants in the West. Smith focuses on the Western appreciation of Islam, and the ways in which LOST forces a reevaluation of our prejudices. Dr. Julia Guernsey-Pitchford juxtaposes LOST with Paradise Lost, demonstrating that the Island plays a pivotal role in directing the development and transformation of major characters. Finally, any LOST anthology in which I am a participant must include an essay on the enigmatic Dr. Christian Shephard. My third and most surprising take on the good doctor serves as the final essay in this volume.

In The Shadow of Greatness

For all our thousands of hours of study, we are but visitors to the Island (Episode 2.11).

MR. FRIENDLY: Let me ask you something. How long you been here on the island?
JACK: Fifty days.
MR. FRIENDLY: Oooo, 50 days. That's what—almost two whole months, huh? Tell me, you go over to a man's house for the first time, do you take off your shoes? Do you put your feet up on his coffee table? Do you walk in the kitchen, eat food that doesn't belong to you? Open the door to rooms you got no business opening? … This is not your island. This is our island. And the only reason you're living on it is because we let you live on it.

Mr. Friendly was wrong. It is not his island. Even Jacob, Jack, and Hurley, important as they are, are but temporary caretakers. People come and go. We fight and we make peace, we destroy and we rebuild. We corrupt and we create because we are Jacob, and we are the Man in Black. We are say-it-like-it-is Hurley and parse-your-words-carefully Ben Linus. But even the broadest collection of polar opposites cannot express the fullness of our beings. We are neither Other nor survivor, neither father nor son, neither slave nor free.

Mr. Friendly got one thing right: This is not our island. With Jacob, Jack, and Hurley, we are visitors. It only ends once, but we never witness the end with our own eyes, we never know the extent to which we contribute to creation and corruption. We can never call the Island our own. Jacob is “not a man you go and see. This is a man who summons you.” (Episode 3.20) If in our ignorance and nonchalance we are unworthy to just “go and see” Jacob, we are far less worthy of an audience with the Protector’s taskmaster, the Island.

Yet the Island is the destiny of everyone onboard Flight 815. That is to say, the Island is our destiny. If we are not worthy to darken the shadow of the statue this is nevertheless where we stand, where destiny bids us abide. We stand in the shadow of greatness. No one can ever own the Island. It is the Island that calls us, directs us, owns us. The Island is our destiny because we do not accept “surmises as dogmas and prejudices as solutions.” The Island compels us to reject the spiritual death of complacency, conformity, and mediocrity. There is nothing compromising or halfway in the Island’s call to exploit every faculty of the mind so that we might ponder, create, and dream.

Here then, in these pages, meditations and missives—dispatches and messages—from the object of our fascination: the Island.

4:51 PM
January 23, 2012

LOST Thought

Table of Contents

In the Shadow of Greatness by Pearson Moore

The Culture of LOST
1. Nikki Stafford: Haikus for the Journey
2. Erika Olson and Jo Garfein: Disguised Culture
3. Ryan Ozawa: Building The Transmission
4. Andy Page: An Adventure Without Polar Bears

The Mythology of LOST
5. Pearson Moore: The Cork Stone
6. Cynthia Burkhead: Dreams
7. Jo Garfein: Alice in Wonderland

The Theology of LOST
8. Paul Wright: Theological Syncretism in LOST
9. Jennifer Galicinski: The Lord is My Jack Shephard

Fathers and Mothers
10. Gozde Kilic: Daddy Issues in LOST
11. Erin Carlyle: The Mother Image in LOST

12. Jeffrey Frame: Four-Dimensionalism in LOST
13. Kevin McGinnis: Free Will and Determinism
14. Sarah Stuart Clarke: A Village of Odd Couples
15. Delano Freeberg: Quantum Phenomena
16. Cory Milles: The Power of Story

17. Jamie Smith: Sayid Jarrah
18. Julia Guernsey-Pitchford: On Paradise Lost and LOST
19. Pearson Moore: Christian Shephard

LOST Thought will be available in bookstores on March 9, 2012.

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