If you have yet to watch the Lost series finale, then you may want to wait before you read this. If you never watched Lost, then you might not want to read this either, but c’mon, it couldn’t hurt.
To (somewhat insensitively) quote a great man, “It is finished.” The television series Lost has finally come to a close, after six seasons of unanswered questions, allegorical meanings and allusions, and a whole lot of stuff that didn’t make any sense. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
I am not a sci-fi nerd. I’m not a philosophy major or a psychology major or a theology major. I can’t delve into the mythology of the island or reveal theories for all of the crazy questions that the show threw out. But I did watch every second of every episode of all six seasons, and because of that, I can tell you exactly what the meaning of Lost was…for me at least.
There are two kinds of people – those that watched Lost, and those that did not. Ironically, they have one very big thing in common: for the most part, no one had any idea what the hell was going on. Throughout its entire run, Lost was notorious for its endless mystery, and for collectively tying its viewership’s brain into a gigantic pretzel. Many people, although enamored with the show and the characters and the mysteries it put forth, went down with the Lost ship, hoping that in the end, everything would make sense, and all pertinent questions would be answered. Technically, I don’t think that happened. But I also don’t think that was the point.
It’s been said, during the media and fan frenzy leading up to the Lost finale, that Lost is a show about characters, or about redemption, or about spirituality, or about mystery itself. But for me, Lost was about the journey of life, and every small, beautiful experience that is picked up along the way.
All of our questions weren’t answered. All of deepest hopes and wishes about the show probably didn’t come true. And life is that way. (I know that since all of this is coming from a lifelong sarcastic smartass, you might be raising your eyebrows right now, but just roll with me.) Lost represented the most basic foundation of life – the fact that everything doesn’t work out the way you plan, and that often times we define ourselves by our failures or short comings more than anything else. But rather, life should be about the path that we traveled, the moments we experienced along the way, and the people that we shared those experiences with. As the show said in its closing minutes, “That’s why all of you are here…Nobody does it alone…” The most important moments in our lives are the things we most enjoyed and learned from in the company of the people we most enjoyed and learned from.
Too often in life, people are striving for something in the future, looking forward to something off in the distance, working for the weekend instead of working for the week. I think Lost was trying to show us that this isn’t always the best thing. The end holds no substantive meaning or purpose if the journey was a pointless blur. It’s like a roller coaster: the end is only enjoyable if the ride down was super fun.
Back home in lovely Cleves, Ohio, there is a poster in the garage of my house, with a photo of a beautiful, picturesque pathway, surrounded by foliage and scenery that looks as if it were dreamt up from a Robert Frost poem. The caption on the poster reads, “Happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road.” I think Lost was trying to tell us the same thing. The ending (or finale, if you will) can’t be enjoyed if the trip that took us there was empty and void. And when you finally do reach the end, it is special because of what you gained along the way, whether it be from relationships or experiences or fleeting instances of emotion. Every miniscule moment has a purpose, and that’s what makes the ending so meaningful. Lost taught us that in the end, regardless of what you may philosophically or spiritually or religiously believe, every single person has to go through the same thing: “Not leaving, no. Moving on.”
Your life is there to help you learn and grow, to triumph and fail, to become the person you’re supposed to be. The end is there to help you remember all of those things, to allow you to look back and realize how it all made sense and all served a purpose. The end isn’t there to fulfill your life or answer all of life’s questions. It’s there to give us closure and finality, to allow us to take it all in, one last time. It’s there to help us appreciate the journey and all that we gathered from it. Maybe we end up in a better place. Maybe we end up in a terrible place. Maybe we end up with the memories of what we did and the people that we loved. Maybe we go on to live other lives in other realities or come back to this earth as a tree or a bird or a summer breeze. Maybe we rot in a six-foot hole. Based on what I believe, I know where I’m going, because my journey in life taught me that. But regardless, we all have to do the same thing at first, just like the show said: move on.
In many ways, Lost is also its own metaphor. Just like the ending of life, the ending of the show doesn’t give us all the answers. If you watched the show only to reach the finale and answer your questions, it probably held very little meaning or enjoyment for you. The satisfaction was in the journey of the show. It was in the voyage of the characters and their lives and the unsolvable mystery of the island. The joy was in the connections with others that watched the show. From the very beginning, watching Lost was something that my father and I did together. Even if we weren’t always sitting next to each other, we were always talking about it and discussing it, going back and forth to try and explain what was going on. It wasn’t the ending that made the show fun for the two of us; it was being able to share the whole experience together.
The satisfaction came from being able to talk to my friends about the show, find out what their favorite theories were or which of Hurley’s nicknames they like best. The satisfaction came from meeting someone for the first time, and yet still knowing exactly what they meant if they asked, “What the eff is down that hatch?” or “What is that big, black, smokey cloud thing?” or “What’s going on with this Flash Sideways world?” Our happiness for the show could only be found along the way, not at the end of the road. The answers weren’t important. The whole experience is what was important.
As deep and emotional as all of that sounded, there is no need to worry. I’m not sitting here bawling my eyes out or getting in touch with my emotions. I’m still going to be the same laid back, sarcastic, smartass kid. Seinfeld will still always be my favorite show. But that doesn’t take away from anything that I wrote, or anything that the show meant to me. It served a purpose, and in the end, I finally realized what the purpose of those six seasons was: enjoying the journey. The ending was there to teach me that. It all came full circle.
“You needed all of them, and they needed you.”
“To remember…and to let go.”
That was the “big answer” the show gave. That was what it all meant: every relationship, every experience (or every episode, every character) is there to help us enjoy life and remember life, enjoy the journey and remember the journey (or the entire series)…and then, to let go. When it ends, we all have to move on.
That is what I gained from Lost. Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m completely, utterly, and profoundly wrong. Either way, the beauty of the show was contained only in what it meant specifically to me – and in the end, that’s really all that matters.
Thanks for reading