From 2004-2010 American television had a show that ran for six seasons on ABC. The show was called LOST, and I, along with my family and close friends, were HOOKED.
Each week we would tune in live, or watch it downloaded from iTunes, to see what was gonna happen to Hugo, Sawyer, Jack, Sayid, Kate, Claire, Jin, Sun, Charlie, Desmond, and John Locke, to name just a few of the members of Oceanic Flight 815 and this huge Hollywood cast. It was, as one would say, good television.
But, gosh golly, it would leave us confused. Each week, the fated LOST logo would burst onto the screen accompanied by the deep rumbling bass thud, and all of our hearts would immediately drop. In unison we would yell “Nooooooooooo!” to the TV Land gods. Then would come the barrage of questions. Oh, the questions.
• Who is the smoke monster?
• How did The Others get on the island?
• Where are they, I mean, WHEN are they?
• Are they all dead, in purgatory, in hell?
Come on! WE NEED ANSWERS!
The creators and directors of LOST have given us an amazing six season story arc, despite how you may feel about the series finale (I personally liked it, in case you’re wondering). While (inspectionally) reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” I couldn’t help but think about LOST’s Jack Shephard, as well as the multitude of ‘hero’ characters in film, art, poetry and books. Any cursory web search will connect Campbells work to that of multiple Hollywood blockbusters (ie: George Lucas’ Star Wars). That has been well-documented.
Back to Jack Shephard. The statute of limitations for spoiler alerts has long since past, so deal with it: Jack Shephard is the hero. From the opening airplane crash scene it is clear who he is and the centrality of his character to the larger narrative. It would not surprise me if I were to discover that LOST creators J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cruse (among others) were avid students of Campbell’s writings in their development of the monomyth on the heroes journey. Campbell’s understanding is that humankind all have similar core concepts written in them – a way in which the story unfolds that is consistent across the world and across time.
This monomyth is one hero with a thousand faces.
To quote Campbell at length: “Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of myth” (Campbell, pg. 1).
These myths and the journey of heroes are the lenses in which the entirety of humanity can be seen and experienced. That’s a bold and yet brilliant thought. In LOST, Jack Shephard had to wrestle with his destiny as the hero. Conversely, John Locke embraced the posture of nemesis. Others grappled with their specific place in the grand narrative; their glimpses towards greatness; their ebbs and flows within the “magic ring of myth.”
The reason we resonate with stories such as these is because they creatively inform us as to what we are capable of doing, if we risk to go beyond the veil. We are called to more, especially in Christ Jesus. We are invited, in Matthew 16:24, to “take up your cross and follow me [Jesus]. This is The Quest(separation unto initiation).
I’m drawn to Luke 9 when Jesus sent out the Twelve in his power and authority “to drive out all demons…cure diseases…proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (vs. 1,2). On this journey they were to “travel light”(no staff, bag, bread, money or extra shirt). Later, in Luke 10, another group, this time 72 people, were sent out with similar instructions. Luke 10:17 tells us that “The seventy-two returned (Campbell calls this “The Boon…returning with the gifts you received on The Quest) with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
Jesus’ reply in vs. 19,20 is noteworthy: “I have given you authority…However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In other words, on your journey remember who the hero actually is. It’s not you, it’s me (paraphrasing Jesus).
On the wall of my favorite Salem, Oregon coffeeshop is the phrase: “YOU ARE THE HERO OF YOUR STORY.”
I don’t completly disagree with this, and certainly I believe Campbell would concur, however, I wonder if a better, more biblical understanding would be “YOU ARE THE HERO OF HIS STORY.”
HIS Story. History.
P.S. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve watched LOST. Perhaps I will wrap up this blog post, make some popcorn and BINGE. I still haven’t figured out the whole smoke monster thing.
12 responses to “LOST”
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LOST was my ALL-TIME FAVORITE! I still can’t make peace with the ending. I feel like their needs to be a LOST AGAIN series to provide answers to some of the remaining questions that I have. LOST was a brilliant example of the Hero’s Journey. I have been having an issue acknowledging that a hero can even exist in an evil and harrowing experience. Your writing made me pause and think about it differently.
“Jesus’ reply in vs. 19,20 is noteworthy: “I have given you authority…However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, on your journey remember who the hero actually is. It’s not you, it’s me (paraphrasing Jesus).”
Thank you for that. I am going to keep that in my heart as I struggle with finding the Hero in dark and ugly situations (Tyre Nichols Incident).
Jonita, your reply brought to mind an oft-quoted remark from Mr. Rogers…
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers
Evil has always, and will always exist (until the return of Christ that is), and I find great comfort and purpose in this hopefully truth. Wherever there are “dark and ugly situations” we can be sure there will be beauty rising up from the ashes.
I still have a love/hate relationship with LOST, even after rewatching the entire series during COVID. All those end-of-episode questions still remain unanswered!
But more to the point, thank you for bringing Campbell back around to Jesus’ journey. I struggled, and I’m probably not alone, to separate the bits of Campbell’s thinking that I resonated with (yes, a healthy dose of mystic Christianity and finding God in the story) vs. his clearly universalist spirituality. Campbell’s thinking has been so influential over generations, I’m wondering if you run across this type of thinking in your church ministry? In other words, has this “all paths” thinking subtly influenced American Christianity?
There is no question (in my mind) that the “all paths” mentality has, and will continue to have an impact upon classic, Judeo-Christian theology and belief. I see it smattered all over my church and community, albeit more so within the community than in my particular congregation. But once a way of thinking become prevalent culturally, it’s only a matter of time “the church” has to wrestle with it’s pervasiveness. I think the most popular way this kind of thinking has been manifesting itself is in the “you own your truth” or “do what feels right to you” arguments. It’s just shades of degrees from “all paths” thinking, as I see it.
I just watched episode three where Jesus calls everyone in and says. I am sending you out two by two. Heal people, cast out demons (I guess that is a one – two punch) and prepare the way for me. I thought the directors and actors caught the “human” response, “Is he talking about us? We are NOT ready!
Rejecting the call…(or sort of living in disbelief) that they would be sent out by themselves!
I may have missed the point, I felt that Campbell was willing to put Jesus on the shelf, along with the other myths. I came from a Catholic/Animist Background and recognize a team member when I see one. I wonder if Campbell’s faith developed beyond what I read and viewed (there are lots of You tube videos of him speaking. I like to think that mine has. Thanks for your comments…Shalom…Russ
I’d like to think that ALL of our faith journeys have developed…hopefully for the better!
Help me understand what you mean by “Campbell was willing to put Jesus on the shelf, along with the other myths…” I’m not tracking with you on that point. Appreciate it!
I am not sure if I was impressed with Campbell. It appeared to me that Campbell was a Catholic/Animist, willing to align with different belief systems…Alarmingly I saw his thoughts as helping other academics/writers/students come to the place where all paths lead to God. Pick a god, anyone works.
In one you tube video he said Christ in us, was like the a similar practice with the Hindu worship of Shiva. He left the viewer thinking, that Christ was a myth…still processing this…thanks for your comments…shalom…Russ
When you shared the passage from Luke 9 of the disciples being sent out, my mind pictured the scene from The Chosen titled “Two by Two”. The episode portrays how the disciples might have felt when Jesus told them to go, giving them power to drive out demons and cure diseases. Who, me? is the question. . . no not you. . . Jesus IN and THROUGH you.
I wonder if Jesus’ intent in sending them out 2×2 was to mitigate what he knew (because he’s GOD) would happen to them emotionally? He knew they would question. They would experience what we are all experiencing even as we do this degree: “imposter syndrome.” They would wonder “why me?” and yet have another person to bounce those questions off of. That’s a good reminder Cathy.
Hi John. Thanks for taking me down memory lane! While I am tempted to wax eloquently about the show, I will control myself and limit my comment To your final point: I wonder if we could even get more biblically accurate by changing the phrase to,” Jesus is the hero of the story and each of us are privileged to play a small part in it.” That not intended to come across as the quintessential Sunday school answer (How can ‘Jesus’ be wrong?!); Instead, it’s meant to challenge the innate and often unhealthy desire within all of us, but perhaps particularly tempting for us in the North American context, to want to be heroes. heroes for Jesus, no doubt, but heroes nonetheless. That’s something I’m trying to wrestle with in my very convoluted blog post.
John, I too go lost in the LOST story! I loved it and couldn’t wait for next episode. I’m feeling a need for a binge too! I also think the unanswered questions are a key part of it? We aren’t always meant to know all he answers? We learn to get comfortable with the non answers? We learn to not like the answers we get? It seems a lot like faith to me. I really liked the balance you found in being the hero, that yes we are to be the hero of HIS story! It is His love, His life that shines through us.
Thank you for that reminder and for the example of Lost as the Heroes Journey…I even like that there was a Heroines journey with the character Kate! Let’s talk Lost in Oxford…if we have time. I now realize we don’t have enough time for all of this in those days together!
“We gotta go back, Kate. We gotta go back.” – Jack.
I get spine tingles thinking about that scene.