Well, better late than never, I suppose. And yes, there are spoilers for both the LOST finale and Harry Potter.
I did watch the LOST finale on Sunday night. In retrospect it was quite possibly the worst way to spend one’s 40th birthday–all ruminating about death and loss and The Meaning Of It All. And even worse for me…coming away without a bundle of answers.
What I came away from the LOST finale with was this: Their lives were lived on two tracks at the same time. Picture a vinyl record with multiple songs layered from the outer rim to the center. Each song is its own entity and exists alongside the others. As the different songs get closer to the center of the record they have less of a distance to revolve so they must either widen to take up the same length of song time or the song must be shorter.
Track 1: The Island, The Crash, The Candidates.
Track 2: The “Flash Sideways”
Track 3: This is the shortest track. I believe it begins FOR JACK when the concert is over. At that point a version of Kate is there to take him into the chapel. He’s dead. In the Flash Sideways world perhaps he was in a car crash on the way to the concert. Who knows? It doesn’t matter because his narrative in both worlds ends at that point.
Everyone else is in the chapel but we have no clear idea of what point they left the other two tracks. So it’s entirely probable that Sawyer and Juliet dated, married, had babies and died 40 years later, coming to the chapel with both their versions of Track 1 and 2 were played out. Likewise Hurley and Ben were most likely on the Island for who knows how long. Could be 100 years. Since Track 3 is its own song it exists on its own time frame and doesn’t depend on the notes and lyrics of the first two tracks, even though the singer and the band are the same.
In its six seasons LOST came to remind me of a stoner friend I used to have years ago. Dude is now in a mental hospital (a la Hurley) but before he reached that rocky end he would sit around high on paint thinner or pot or whatever and trip himself out with ‘freaky’ questions. Whenever you were around him you’d hear him say ‘oooh, freeeekeeee, man’ over and over. He’d never follow his thoughts’ trails to a final place, and preferred to just linger on the trippiness of it all.
He was and is the main reason I’ve never been one to go in for drugs or drink as a form of recreation. Because while he was content to hang out at the “Whoa!”, I had to move down the road to the “Why”. And LOST, for all its easter eggs and philosopher names and putting a liberal arts education to the test, was firmly stuck in Whoa! for most of its run.
I knew that and had made my peace with it. So I guess I wasn’t really thinking we’d get too many answers.
But what I wasn’t expecting was for the Big Conclusion to have been pretty much ripped off from the King’s Cross chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
And yes, I know that with me you often feel that all roads lead to Harry, perhaps unfairly so. But when Christian Shepherd began to talk to Jack in those last few minutes pretty much everything he said was a Cliff’s Notes Yank version of Dumbledore’s conversation with Harry. I am a bad blogger because I should have sat down with a notepad and my copy of DH to transcribe the commonalities. That would be an excellent blog entry. It would also be something I just don’t have time for. But off the top of my head:
First we start with Dead Father Figures gently breaking the news to their ‘son’s about the younger man’s recent death. In DH it’s Dumbledore talking to Harry, who has recently sacrificed himself to save the world from the unleashing of evil forces. In LOST it’s Christian Shepherd talking to Jack who has…etc.
Christian Shepherd in describing the ecumenical chapelnacle where the two dead men: “This is the place you made together” i.e., it’s been created in their collective minds as a meeting place.
Dumbledore in describing the King’s Cross train station: “This is, dear boy, as they say ‘your party’.” i.e. the choosing of place was in Harry’s mind.
In both cases there is much talk of remaining and going on and the nature of death as something not to be feared but accepted as the next stage of the journey.
Of course I think it was all handled much better by Rowling in DH. I love those books because underneath the ripping yarns, JK Rowling has always been a Why author. I am hardpressed to think of one question raised over the course of the seven-book series that wasn’t answered in the course of the telling. She wove those stories and the philosophy underpinning them painstakingly. What we’re left with in the case of Harry Potter is a shimmering mosaic tale which illuminates the struggle of life and the acceptance of death. There are no cheap thrills in Harry Potter. No four-toed statues or smoke monsters designed to give us chills with no answer. And after all, when you’re ruminating about the nature of death, isn’t that the better course?
It both LOST and Deathly Hallows the newly dead hero questions the reality of the circumstances only to be told that just because something happens in one’s head doesn’t mean it isn’t real. As a lifelong reader and author who lives largely in her own head, that had special significance for me when I first read it. I felt as though Rowling gave us all a gift of understanding by embracing the nature of thought realms. Any reader knows how real a story becomes as it decorates her mind. But when Christian Shepherd said pretty much the same thing to Jack I felt cheated…not only because it seemed to be so stolen from the Potterverse but also because it seemed to serve as a stopgap, designed to prevent the authors from coming up with better answers.