Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Island Between: A "Lost" Parable

Over the last few weeks or so, I've begun to re-watch the television series
Lost, on which there are already a few posts on this blog. I still don't think that there is another TV show that rivals its capacity for pure spiritual and philosophical insight, and I recently got a comparaitive insight about the show that I thought I'd share.

The bulk of Lost takes place on an island, convenently labeled and referred to as simply "the Island." This actually quite large landmass has remained essentially undiscovered, and with the exception of a small group of scientists, no one has been able to deliberately find it. To go there, one must be brought there. Whether they are the survivors of Oceanic flight 815, the crew of the Black Rock, or the French Science team, practically everyone who arrives there get thrown into its mess of jungles, ruins, and hatches without their asking for it. But the Island is more than a mess--as character John Locke noted very early in the series, "this place is different, special." It has a healing effect (both literal and figurative) upon those who land on it, and it is largely a result of the Island's graces that the characters in the series--those who were once "lost" in the tangle of their own lives--become found.

At this point, we could compare the Island to the Christian principle of grace--it comes without our asking for it, and when we let it work on us, it begins to heal us and our relationships. And as becomes increasingly clear throughout the series, the grace of the Island comes from the bright light at its center, and one might even say that the Island is just an "incarnation in rock" of what emanates from that light. In fact, one might even suggest that the whole series is nothing more than a slow manifestation of that light--a slow "opening of our eyes" to the luminescent power that reaches out to and binds together the various characters in the series. As such, it is fitting that the last scene of the series is a door opening to a bright light--what was there all along, but needed time and suffering to become clear.

But there is more to this principle than meets the eye. I would urge the reader to remember the core storytelling mechanic of the show: the flashes, back, forward, or sideways, that parallel the main storyline on the Island. Far from being a mere stunt to keep the viewer interested, I would argue that these flashes are a manifestation in cinematics of what the show and its Island are all about. Notice that each of these flashes show the intersection of two storylines--one on the Island, and one off. The Island is thus the intersection--the common ground, the "mandorla"--between not only the past, the present, and the future, but also between life and death and between the lives of the various people that come to it. 

To speak metaphorically, the Island is between all of us and between all things. Whenever the circles in the Venn diagram of two things interact--whether through love, through empathy, or what have you--the Island is becoming present. This place is merely another name for the "between-space" of all things, that which shares equally in the past  and future, the living and the dead, between cultures and genders and personality types. As such, to "crash" on this Island is to be forcefully made aware of the commonality between me and another. Such a crash might occur on a bus, when all of a sudden realize that everyone sitting there is a unique human being with his or her own pains, joys, and losses. It might also happen when someone else shares a few kind words with you, ones which changed the entire course of your day, week, or year. Moroever, such a crash might occur when you--under very unlikely circumstances--meet a peson who later becomes a dear friend or even a signficant other. 

To crash on the Island is to crash into togetherness, into belonging, into love. The Island and its light become increasingly manifest when we share and don't hide from genuinely loving discourse and action--when we "live together, so that we don't die alone." And as you find the common ground between you increasing numbers of people. points of view, and things, you become that much more comfortable there. And as we embed ourselves  in its strange and yet somehow familiar way of life, we begin to see that it is all light--a light that reaches out to us, changes us, and brings us together.

I belive that this "between-space" is very real. While it may not be an Island, I feel that it is both a comfort and the only way certain intellectual problems can be resolved. After all, how can one moment give way to another if there isn't some continuity between them? Or how could I ever communicate to you if there wan't some kind of medium between us? Indeed, how could any two things ever interact if the "between" weren't there, embracing and bringing together all things? This "between," which I figuratively call the Island, is invisible to us, and yet it is the only way by which things can be seen at all. It is the "too close to see," "the light which shines in the darkness, but which the darkness comprehends not." Thus, I belive that this between is the essence of love, of peace, and even of divinity.

This between is an unseen presence in our lives, that which "comes before" our ability to see and experience. And as such I think that it is the key to many mysteries of faith. To give an example, I believe that the reason the Book of Mormon has scanty historical evidence is because it didn't take place in history. On the contrary, the Book of Mormon took place in the "time between time" and "the place between places," that which I have here called the Island. How else could the Book of Moromon integrate elements from both the nineteenth century and the ancient near east (and if certain scholars are to be belived, then also the seventeeth century)? It is a paradox that makes sense only when you consider that it takes place in no one time but in the matrix from which all times are born. Indeed, I think that the way the Book of Mormon lends itself to "likening" is a testament to this point, for it not only speaks of events in some far-flung corner of the world, but of your life and its day-to-day concerns. If I am right, then how fitting it is that the Book of Mormon came through a Urim and Thummim, a lens through which all things can be manifest, past, present, and future!

If I'm going to be honest, I have to say that I think at least some of Lost is inspired. While surely some parts of it surely were just fodder to make suspense or to garner viewers, there is a frequent kernel of spiritual truth and good that shows itself throughout its episodes, one which testifies to our souls of something good and wonderful between us all.

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