Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost and Found

You're gonna be nowhere
The loneliest kind of lonely
It may be rough going
Just to do your thing is the hardest thing to do
I've been a big Lost fan from the beginning. I've seen all the episodes, almost always during their original air time. It's been a pretty sizable time investment for me. So tonight I watched the last episode with an awful lot of anticipation.

Warning: There will probably be some spoilers ahead. Deal with it.

I've always been much more interested in the characters and their relationships than I have the sci-fi/mystery aspects of the show. A lot of the questions that other people had just weren't questions that interested me. I was much more willing to accept things at face value and move on. A polar bear on the island? Sure, it's a strange island. Makes perfect sense... moving on.

So for me, this finale answered the technical, mystery aspects that I needed answered. What happens when the light goes out? People can die, the magic island stopping evil from escaping falls apart, etc.
It isn't really going to be Jack taking over for Jacob, is it? Isn't that too obvious? Yes, yes it was.
Are the sideways flashes real? Well... OK, that one got answered too. But in a less technical way. I'll get to that in a moment.

Other than those three, what questions could people have? It seems to me that any questions remaining are ones that don't really need to be answered. We can make reasonable guesses or accept that some of the Island's story escapes this particular bunch of castaways. Sure, it might have been nice to see the real Henry Gale end up on the Island... but that's a different story. It doesn't really matter to what we had in front of us.

More important to me, than all of the mystery questions, was the emotional storyline that followed the characters. Seeing how they ended up - who lived, who died, who professed their love for whom, etc. - was what it was really all about. I could run down my relationship with every character, throughout the show, and point out all sorts of brilliant elements that made them so compelling. But I think that, fittingly, one character really tells the story: Jack

I was always a Locke guy... (and when it came to Kate, a Sawyer guy). Jack bothered me. His utter lack of faith in the first 3 seasons drove me crazy. He was smart, he was capable, he had a compelling history and he always worked so hard to do the right thing. But it drove me nuts, because the right thing wasn't the logical thing, it was the faithful thing. And Jack couldn't see that. Until they got off the island. When Season 3 ended with the flash forward... it blew my mind. I didn't see the flash forward part of it coming until the end of the episode, when Jack said they had to go back. Completely blindsided me. But what was even more shocking was to hear Jack say that the Island wasn't done with them... to see that he had found faith. It was a glimmer of hope. Seasons 4 and 5 and even part of this past season, he struggled with that faith. It was still painful for me at times. But I'd seen the glimmer, and I knew it would be there in the end. And ever since the lighthouse, yeah, Jack was on board. He was going to do the right thing. And it was fantastic. Watching his journey, from skeptic, to novice, to believer, to Protector, to death... Amen.

It was all so very exciting because I loved all of these people. And this finale did something brilliant to reinforce that fact: it served as a clip show. Seinfeld is remembered for its awful clip-show finale. Lost should be remembered for its brilliant clip-show finale. Because the writers made the flashback/memory scenes a major part of the story. They weren't just nice recalls to earlier parts of the show, they were relevant to the story and moved the characters forward in a deep, emotional way.

Watching every character remember their past, remember their life, become aware of who they were, what they had done, how the died, how they lived, etc.... watching that gave us closure for each of the characters individually. It moved each of them that final step. It was like I was going through the stages of grief while watching the show and with each of the character's realization scenes I moved from mourning into acceptance. This was television at its best. Heck, this was storytelling at its best.

And in the end, well, it was like a great big reunion. Everyone was happy. It didn't matter that people had gotten into fights or gone their separate ways or any of that. Here they were, all together, and all accepting of each other and the lives they'd lived. It was as warm an ending as there ever was.

Finally, onto the big picture. What's it all mean? I suppose we'll never know exactly, and there's some beauty in that. Especially for an old philosopher like myself. But I think the best guess comes when we answer that question I asked before: Are the sideways flashes real?

Maybe it seems weird that asking that question could reveal the ultimate meaning of the show. But the real essence of that question cuts deeper: we want to know if the sideways flashes are real because we want to know if the characters are getting a chance to live their lives again, "uninterrupted." It's a question we all struggle with in our own lives. "If only things were different... if only there weren't some higher purpose pushing us in a particular direction... what would life be like?"

For some, the answer is that it wouldn't be that different at all (without the Island directing her life, Kate still becomes a fugitive). For some, the answer is a significant change (Sawyer is a cop). And for some, it's an almost completely new identity (Jack is a father!).

The beauty of the question is that we can never really know how things would have been different. If there's a higher fate directing our lives (and I do believe that there is), how can we know if we responded appropriately to it? How can we know we made the right choice? How can we reconcile our heart and our head? Do we lament our missed opportunities? Do we celebrate our narrow misses? What connections did we build and which ones did we fail to build?

That's what the sideways flashes were. They were the "life that could have been". They weren't actual - Locke gave that away when he told Jack that he didn't have a son - but they were potential. And in order to move on the characters needed to "let go"; let go of the potential and embrace the actual.

For me, therein lies the real essence of Lost. We can never know what other paths our life might have taken. We have to cherish the one it does take. And, like the final scene of the show, with that acceptance comes peace.

You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song

Monday, May 17, 2010

Phickle Thoughts

So it's my birthday today... I'm 29. Which is really just a math-minded person's way of saying "almost old."

A few years back I put up a quality post about my life to that point. It sums me up pretty good. All I've done since that post is graduate law school, get my first (and second) real job, and have a kid, so it's still pretty relevant.
I'm still a big Survivor fan. Russel has easily been one of my favorite players of all time. He's gotten robbed twice. And he's right, there's a flaw with the game. Russel suggested the flaw was that we didn't let viewers pick the winner. He's wrong about that.

The flaw is that at the end of the game it isn't about surviving. It's about getting elected. Those are very different things. If they really want to make the game about surviving, they need to come up with some sort way to make the final determination that isn't a popularity contest.

The whole thing has been a problem for a long time. It's allowed an awful lot of weak winners. And now it's allowed a weak repeat winner. Oh well. It's just a game, right?
I caught a tiny bit of the Miss USA competition tonight. It's even more of a joke than I realized. The part I happened to see was the eventually winner giving her answer to the big final question. It had to be one of the least well-reasoned answers in the history of pageants. And that's saying something. Essentially, her response was "I think insurance should pay for birth control because it's expensive." Actually, those are almost exactly her words.

Miss Virginia actually gave an articulate answer. She got third place. I'm surprised they didn't bump her down lower. The judges (Johnny Weir, Paul Dean, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) don't exactly seem like the type who would reward the people who actually deserved it.

Kind of the same problem as Survivor. Hmm.
I someday hope to grill a cake.
Looks like the Minnesota legislature is gonna have a deal in place to "balance" the budget. From what I can tell, a lot of it will be pushing the problems to the next governor and legislature (but of course, the current government can't actually bind the future governments, which means we'll get to go through this all again in another year or two). But that's par for the course with Pawlenty. He's been leveraging the state's future and debt spending for his own political career for far too long.

He talks big about spending cuts, but he's actually been approving spending - in order to make himself popular - for 8 years. And when forced to make hard decisions and actually cut the budget, he targeted public schools, health care, and local governments.

The man took office in 2003, amid significant prosperity. He promised not to raise taxes at any point when he was governor. This left him with a tough choice when the economy tanked - either raise the money the state needed by increasing taxes, slash benefits, or debt spend. He chose the later. Not a responsible choice. Now that the ability to borrow has significantly diminished, he's choosing to slash benefits. Truthfully, that's part of the solution. But everyone who looks at the problem knows it's not the whole fix.

Oh, and because local government aid has been drastically cut, local governments have had to significantly increase property taxes, which means that, despite Pawlenty's promise of no new taxes, most MN citizens are actually paying new taxes.

A class act, that guy.

Time is marching on
And time is still marching on