Losing Lost: A Rumination On The Past 6 Years Of My Life
Last night was the penultimate episode of Lost, and what an episode it was. Pieces are being moved into place for the end-game, and the events transpiring on the island were just as exciting as the set-up in the “flash sideways”. For me it is a bittersweet moment to behold as it all builds toward the finale on Sunday. You see, I was there from the very beginning. I know many people who jumped on board with Lost later in the show’s life, whether it was after the first season, the third, or the fifth. They went back and caught the reruns or DVD’s and caught up to follow it on TV. Lost has been a show with an addictive quality, and many I have come across have chosen to follow it through DVD only, waiting for each new season to be released and never watching it live on air. And against all odds, I even have a friend who didn’t start watching until the fourth season and just jumped in without any knowledge of what had transpired before and has caught the Lost fever (he has since went back and watched what he had missed out on). I have nothing against any of that, in fact I am all for every person having their own unique Lost experience of how they got hooked. But for me and my experience, it all goes back to that fateful night of September 22, 2004. My love of Lost and my original investment in the show was just as much indicative of my life situation at the time as it was to the appeal of the show itself, and as I’ve grown and matured and my life has changed, so has Lost with it. Let me take you back six years in my life.
*****WARNING! MILD SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVE NEVER WATCHED AN EPISODE OF LOST BEFORE!*****
The 2003-2004 year had been a rough one for me. During the course of my senior year of high school I had surrendered my life as a missionary against major opposition from my Grandpa, with whom I was very close. This had put a strain on our relationship that was still tense. I had determined that I would go to Bible college as I graduated in May 2003, and I spent my summer with my best friend in the Philippines working with a missionary and experiencing the mission field for the first time. It was an incredible spiritual high point for me. Then I returned to the states ready for college and I found myself slammed in the face by reality. Through various circumstances that I won’t go into detail on, God had clearly shut the door for me to leave for Bible college. At the last second I found myself enrolled in the local community college and as all of my friends embarked off and left Hutchinson, I was left behind. My daily life consisted of school, work, sleep, and do it all over again. I developed some good friendships in the workplace and I still had my home church and my best friend around that year, but I was still left wrestling with God why He would hold me back and keep me in Hutchinson. I really did not want to be there, and my attitude as a result was less than sunny and I was probably at my spiritually weakest point during this time period. Admittedly in retrospect I can see the experiences God put me through during this time period, the connections He made for me to minister to others, and the timing He worked out for me to arrive at Bible college when I did, make the friends there that I did, and meet up with my now-wife in perfect orchestration with all of this, but back then I was just a bratty, immature teenager who didn’t get his way and was all “woe is me”. As I wrapped up my first year of community college and began my second, even my best friend, who was a year behind me in school and now graduating, was now leaving for the Bible college I had intended to attend all along. Now I felt truly “alone” and I was not looking forward to the fall.
During this time period in my life, I had deeply immersed myself in television as a means to fill my time. I certainly had watched TV up to this point in my life, but never with any true consistency in following specific programs. But now I had an intricate system in place. My first year of community college as the fall season began, I had bought the TV Guide issues that had outlined every new show of the season and every returning show. I researched them out, determined which ones sounded the most promising, and charted a map of my TV viewing schedule. Because of my constant work schedule, I would program the VCR in my bedroom to record all of my shows each week and then I would proceed to watch them as soon as I got home. Because of the busy TV lineup, sometimes I had the VCR’s in our living room and my parent’s bedroom going simultaneously, and I was probably taping around 12-15 hours of television each week. I still have those old VHS tapes that are filled to the brim with the original airings of numerous shows. Because of this though I got on at the ground floor with some incredible shows like Arrested Development and The Office before they had garnered so much attention. I enjoyed tons of shows that lasted for a number of years or are still on, like 24, Smallville, Ed, The West Wing, Angel, Veronica Mars, Everwood, Scrubs & The O.C. I also watched the brief runs of shows that you probably have no memory of that flamed out quickly with cancellation and never survived the vicious battle royale that is prime time television: 10-8, The Lyon’s Den (which was really hooking me in), I’m With Her, The Guardian, A Minute With Stan Hooper, Come To Papa, Threat Matrix, Tru Calling, The Handler, Hack, L.A. Dragnet, Jack & Bobby, and Quintuplets. Some of them deserved a quick death, others held such promise, all of them now litter the graveyard of TV history. They will never be released to DVD and my VHS copies of some of these shows may be the only chance they have of ever being viewed again (perhaps I exaggerate a tad but you get the point). But as the fall season of 2004 began and I mapped out my new TV year, one show quickly rose above the rest.
I remember watching the pilot of Lost with amazement. This didn’t look like a TV show; it held the quality of story-telling, special effects and cinematography of a Hollywood blockbuster. It proved to be deeper and layered beyond what I had imagined from those mysterious commercials that had advertised it. I was intrigued, but it was still just a show amongst shows on my VCR schedule. But that all changed for me at the end of the fourth episode “Walkabout”. When the reveal of John Locke paralyzed in a wheelchair in the flashback rocked every conception I had about this man who had been trekking the jungles and hunting wild boar, I knew there was something special going on here. That was the turning point for me, and I’ve been a faithful fan of the show ever since. That first season was filled with moments that spun my head: the chill down my spine as Hurley revealed from the manifest that Ethan wasn’t on the plane, the speculation running through my mind with the discovery of the hatch, the mystery surrounding the curse of “the numbers”, and the intense season finale that blew away every episode preceding it.
As the second season began with a major shift in the location of the story and direction as the focus on the hatch and the button began, so too did my life shift as I finally arrived at Baptist Bible College. Watching that season proved difficult at times because of the restrictive rules that surrounded the school at the time (no TV’s in the dorm rooms) and I had no one off-campus that I could rely on as a fellow fan of the show to catch it every week. I had to have my Grandpa record it on his DVD recorder and mail me the discs, but I found a way. I even hooked my friends on the show when the first season DVD came out, though perhaps not with the best timing as it coincided with Finals week. I remember a 24 hour period where I realized we had spent 4 hours taking finals, 6 hours sleeping and eating, and the other 14 hours watching Lost continuously. Ironically looking back, I feel like our life in the dorms mirrored those bound to the hatch, with “lockdowns” (curfew, where the doors literally locked us inside the building), claustrophobic quarters, living in a building made in the 70’s and dated in its construction, etc. The highlight of that season was without a doubt the finale’s flashback focus on Desmond Hume and the incredible tragedy of his imprisonment in the hatch and the nobility of his sacrifice as he imploded the hatch. He instantly became my favorite character, although I did not anticipate his return.
The third season brought with it the same challenges as the second in the dorms. It also brought a fall block of only 6 episodes that fans denounced in their pacing and focus on The Others. I didn’t share their lack of enthusiasm, but there was definitely an entirely new feel to the show that understandably made some feel uneasy, not unlike the new situation in the dorms I found myself thrust into with an entirely new batch of floormates that I was not nearly as close to as the year before. Again, the season’s high point was the finale, and it left an indelible imprint on me. I was home from school at the end of the year and preparing to embark on a summer long trip to the Philippines again, though this time without my best friend in tow. It was an exciting and scary time. It felt like I was standing on the brink, like my whole world was getting ready to change dramatically, and the show mirrored that atmosphere with what is still one of my favorite episodes. Whether it was Jack’s confrontation with Ben, the revelation of the flash forward and “We’ve got to go back!!!!” or another spine-tingling moment with “Not Penny’s Boat” and the heart-wrenching death of Charlie, I carried that episode in my memory throughout the summer in Manila.
The fourth season started in the spring of 2008 and began a new way to enjoy Lost. Nikki came into my life and as the season began in the spring of 2008, so did our relationship. We now could tape it and watch it together on Wednesday nights after church and it added a whole new dimension to the viewing experience. Piecing together the present island time line with both glimpses of both the past and future now mirrored our relationship as we built upon our past friendship and romantic interest with a vision toward what the future held in store for us. The following year and next season was another leap forward, as we enjoyed Lost as husband and wife living in our first home, our little studio apartment. This final season is a whole new experience, with us effectively being homeless, traveling the road on deputation and watching Lost as best as we can based on where we are and what our ability is to set our own schedule and have access to a TV. But I’ve always been able to consistently follow Lost, if not through live broadcast, then through reasonably up to date viewings as it aired. This season has taken on a deeper good vs. evil theme that resonates with our missionary journey.
So as the finale looms ever larger on Sunday, May 23, 2010, I say goodbye to an era in my life. Lost was with me as an immature kid fresh out of high school and leaving my teenage years behind, through my college experiences that have seen incredible transformation in my life, to both the onset of my relationship with Nikki as we began our new life together and even now to today with the road ahead both bright and mysterious ahead of us. The future is like Lost, with a lot of unanswered questions that will slowly be peeled back and revealed in God’s timing, not our own. In an age of instant gratification, Lost was a breath of fresh air in its stubborn determination to give us the answers on its own terms and not at the beck and call of our demands. It has also morphed and changed as much as I have over the course of the last 6 years, refusing to stay the same and fit into the box people put it in during the course of its first season, and for that I am grateful. I will miss Lost. I will miss it a lot. But now I will have the opportunity to go back and rewatch it in a whole new light. Thank you to all who made this show possible. This is my farewell letter to the show that was with me when my life changed.