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BY Mark Shea
My son and daughter-in-law have been hooked on Lost for
some time now, whereas Luddite me and the missus, who have no TV connection to
the outside world, have missed it.
now that the first three seasons are out on DVD, the kids decided that they
could not rest until they had introduced us to this strangely compelling world.
accomplished. I am officially fascinated. And, just as much, I’m fascinated
with the fascination.
the uninitiated, Lost deals with the fortunes of an apparently random
collection of people marooned on an uncharted island in the Pacific after a
plane crash. These include a doctor, a young woman with a past, a fat guy, a
snarky con man, a washed up musician and drug addict, a young pregnant woman, a
Korean couple, a father and his son, a stepbrother and stepsister, a former
member of the Iraqi Republican Guard and a rather mysterious bald guy.
this could be the formula for dorky comedy, as Gilligan showed us. But in the
hands of Lost’s creators, it becomes absolutely gripping drama.
And I keep coming back to the question of why? Several
things occur to me, spurred by the Catholic faith.
first thing is mystery. Lost is, like the universe, one vast mystery. It
confronts us, as reality and revelation do, with a world that is itself not
what we suppose, think or demand it should be. As the story unfolds, we come to
realize that we are in a story that was, well, folded by somebody.
some sort of system to it, it makes sense — albeit mysterious sense — and our
task is to grasp the significance of the various connections that are being
is certainly true in the lives of the characters, whose stories are only
gradually revealed through flashbacks. By means of them, we discover the
equally mysterious backdrop to their lives, a backdrop which allows us, like
gods, to see what motivates them when their fellow castaways cannot comprehend
their mysterious behavior.
discover the epiphanies granted them alone — and we see their secret sins. Each
person turns out to be a kind of revelation and a deformation of that
revelation — which is just what the faith says we are.
openness to mystery on the part of the show’s creators is — both refreshingly
and frustratingly — an openness to spiritual mysteries, as well. The island is
itself a sort of character, pregnant with mysteries and connections that are
of the characters (who is, to do him justice, a recipient of a miraculous
healing) talks of the island in something like divine terms.
characters have also had various strange spiritual experiences, including
visions of dead relatives, psychic premonitions and bizarre coincidences that
look a lot like divine Providence.
character seeks the sacrament of baptism. Another assumes, after a very garbled
fashion, the role of a Catholic priest in an attempt at redemption.
show exhibits just what our culture presently exhibits in its attitude toward
the universe: a sort of high pagan sensibility that respects the unknown and
numinous rather than pooh-poohing it.
a cultural marker, I find that to be very hopeful, because it is just the sort
of pagan sensibility Paul was addressing in his speech on the Areopagus
regarding the “Unknown God.”
denizens of Lost are lost in more than one sense. And unlike so much
of our culture, they know it and can slowly begin to acknowledge it.
I think, is no small part of the power of the show. It speaks at a visceral
level to themes that our civilization has lost a vocabulary to express. Every
single character in Lost carries a guilty secret he or she is afraid to
single character is battling his way through a jungle of misconceptions, taboos,
superstitions, personal trauma, temptations and confusion — all in search of
redemption and a connection, not merely with another human being, but with the
above all, every character is connected with the other seemingly random crowd
members in myriad and mysterious ways.
once remarked that the Gospels were riddles to which the Church was the answer.
Lost is alive to the fact that life is the riddle to
which the Gospels are the answer.
manages to convey this truth, not because it is made by good Catholics, but
because it is made by good artists. Gimme more!
Mark Shea is senior content editor