Jack: I think…
Locke: That’s where you and I don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes, Jack – because you’re a man of science.
Jack: Yeah, and what does that make you?
Locke: Me, well, I’m a man of faith. Do you really think all this is an accident – that we, a group of strangers survived, many of us with just superficial injuries? Do you think we crashed on this place by coincidence – especially this place? We were brought here for a purpose, for a reason, all of us. Each one of us was brought here for a reason.
Scintillating stuff. I just finished watching the Lost finale and, if you’re a fan, and you’re watching in Australia, there’s a very good chance you’ve just finished doing the precise same thing. You may be confused; you may still be sobbing uncontrollably. You may be slightly angry.
Me? I still don’t know how I feel about it. Part of me is satisfied, happy to have questions left unanswered, happy to have the plot be convoluted as a sacrifice to cohesive narrative.
But another side of me is a little underwhelmed; disappointed in the purgatory sub plot, disappointed in the inconsistencies – but strangely, throughout the entirety of the show right through to the conclusion, despite being an Atheist, I was never disappointed with Lost’s commitment to faith over reason.
I find myself relating to Jack, specifically with regard to his character arc throughout the six seasons. In the beginning Jack is the hero. He takes action, action flows through him. He lives in the present. He is a man of science. Jack fixes things by following logic through to its natural conclusion. Jack is, undeniably, an Atheist.
But in Lost, on the island, logic doesn’t explain everything. Things happen that cannot be explained by reason. As Lost develops we begin to see Jack’s flaws curdle at the surface. His need to fix things gets in the way, complicates things. His stubborn path towards logic in the face of the supernatural begins to frustrate and challenge us. And before we know it he is no longer the hero. Why can’t Jack see the obvious, we ask, why does he stubbornly cling to logic in the face of the illogical?
And this is where John Locke comes in, the man of faith. The man who rose from his wheelchair and walked; the man who talks to the island; the man who believes in destiny. At alternate times we’re encouraged to see John Locke as the hero, and at others the villain but, invariably, Locke’s faith is never questioned. Locke is a strong character when he has faith, and weak when he doubts that faith.
With faith, John Locke can rise from his wheelchair and walk. Without faith he remains a cripple. With faith he can bend the island to his will, and rescue his friends. Without faith, he comes close to destroying the island.
And all the while, as we watch Locke’s struggle with his own faith shape and distort the island itself, Jack continues to stubbornly follow the path of logic, and never wavers until he returns home.
But at home, back to the grim realities of a life without the supernatural, Jack crumbles. He struggles, turns to alcohol and drugs and, at his breaking point, screams “We have to go back!”
Back where? Back to the island, back to the supernatural, back towards faith in destiny – back to all the values he had previously rejected.
Then eventually, as Jack dies, sacrificing himself through faith to protect the island – to protect the supernatural and all it stands for – he finds himself admitting that John Locke was right. After death he returns to his friends from the island; they gather in a church, fulfilled, redeemed in their choice in faith over reason.
And as an Atheist, strangely, that conclusion never disappointed me, never frustrated me. Strangely, in some ways, it comforted me.
Why? Well, I think it’s because, ultimately, I’m a tragic Atheist, nostalgic for the time when faith was easy, when I could believe with the ease of a child. It’s comforting to believe in God, and it’s comforting to believe in eternal life – but for me the truth is far different. The almost unbearable price of consciousness is the bleak awareness that, some day, we all will die.
But we have to let go. And as much as Lost is about faith over reason, it’s also about letting go. There’s nothing I’d love more than to be stuck in church with Jack, Sawyer, and John Locke, heading towards the light and eternal bliss, but in my heart of hearts I know that is simply not a truth that I can subscribe to.
And I have to let go.
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