Last week on Lost, the late Dogen gave us a myth of scales. “For every man, there is a scale,” the Temple Master explained. “On one side of the scale there is good, on the other side… evil.” It was unclear if Dogen was saying that it would be best if the scale always tipped toward good, or if the scale is best when perfectly balanced—that reality requires a “unity of opposites,” to borrow a philosophical phrase. (I also like the philosophical phrases “lunch” and “Coincidentia Oppositorium,” which totally needs to be a Harry Potter spell.) Time will tell if Dogen’s scale thingie should be taken literally or metaphorically. Are we really headed to some Christian End Times or Islamic Day of Judgment/Day of Resurrection? Or do you think Dogen was merely pushing Sayid’s redemption buttons or playing to his I’m-going-to-hell pessimism in order to manipulate him into attacking Smokey?
Regardless, Dogen’s word-picture evoked for me another pair of opposing ideas, rival values that require to be held in balance within the field of tension that is our soul lest either one overwhelms us. We heard these values expressed in the season premiere of Lost via two lines that served as bookends to the episode. The first came during the opening sequence, after Sideways Oceanic 815 passed through turbulence, leaving Jack Shephard clutching his arm rests for dear life. Rose said, “It’s okay. You can let go now.”
The second line came toward the end, during that great scene between Sideways Jack and Sideways Locke about finding a cure for Locke’s damaged legs. Locke expressed skepticism/cynicism. Jack said, “Nothing’s irreversible.”
Rose’s perspective speaks of release and acceptance. Left unchecked, however, it becomes dark and debilitating — a refusal to let go of past pain. Jack’s perspective speaks of change and defiance. Left unchecked, however, it also becomes dark and debilitating — a refusal to accept our human limitations. Yet we need both values, existing in perfect balance, to live our lives. I defer to the Serenity Prayer to explain: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Or, in the words of the Gambler: You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
“You can let go now.”/“Nothing’s irreversible.” It could be the defining duality of Lost and the big theme of season 6. I’ll be looking to see how it’s expressed over the course of the remaining episodes to come.
As we continue to debate the morality of FrankenLocke (last week’s Temple slaughter was pretty damning, wasn’t it?), consider this thought. Last season, in the episode “The Little Prince,” time travelers John Locke and Sawyer caught sight of the season 1 moment when the Hatch erupted with light. Later, as they were trudging the jungle, the two talked.
SAWYER: … That light in the sky–it was from the Hatch, wasn’t it?
LOCKE: The night that Boone died. I went out there and started pounding on it as hard as I could. I was… confused… scared. Babbling like an idiot, asking, “Why was all this happening to me?”
SAWYER: Did you get an answer?
LOCKE: Light came on, shot up into the sky. At the time, I thought it meant something.
SAWYER: Did it?
LOCKE: No. It was just a light.
SAWYER: So why’d you turn us around then? Don’t you wanna go back there?
LOCKE: Why would I wanna do that?
SAWYER: So you could tell yourself to do things different, save yourself a world of pain.
LOCKE: No, I needed that pain to get to where I am now.
In retrospect, this small scene stands in thematic contrast with the most recent jungle trek that we saw Sawyer take, this time with Fake Locke. We saw them descend into a different kind of Hatch, Jacob’s cave, and there Fake Locke told him that this seemingly enchanted island, allegedly suffused with so much deep and important meaning, was really “just a damn island,” as unexceptional as the light that poured out of the Hatch during Locke’s dark night of the soul. Fake Locke then got Sawyer to agree to an alliance by promising liberation, the first in a series of devilish bargains that Fake Locke has offered the castaways this season in order to bond them to his cause. We saw him renew his promise to Claire to reunite her with her son, Aaron. And we saw him promise Sayid the one thing he has wanted most in the world — a life with Nadia. (Although I would be remiss if I did not note that what Sayid said was “the only thing I ever wanted, died in my arms, and I’ll never see it again.” I know some of you are wondering if Sayid actually meant Shannon, or if Dark Locke is going to do some kind of switcheroo on Sayid by giving him Shannon. “Dude! If you wanted Nadia, you should have been more specific!”)
Fake Locke is a tricky little devil. See, by promising our castaway heroes to satisfy the unfulfilled desires of our heart—love; children; meaning; justice—he baits them to hope, but also keeps them enslaved to their painful lack of fulfillment, or put another way, keeps them trapped in the past. Fake Locke is full of “Nothing’s irreversible” and totally devoid of “Let it go.” One thing Lost has shown us pretty consistently is that when characters remain stuck in the past and remain defined by past pain, bad stuff happens in the present. Further proof, then, that His Royal Smokeyness really is the prince of darkness. He’s certainly the antithesis of the John Locke of season 5 who told Sawyer that he was at peace with his past pain.
By the way, remember what happened after Locke loaded Sawyer up with that advice? Sawyer’s life got better. For awhile, at least. He put the memory of Kate behind him, then found true love in the Dharma days with Juliet. I’d like to hope that however miserable Sawyer might be, he remembers that The Way of John Locke leads to New Life — and that The Way of Fake Locke leads to a Lake of Fire. “Hell, yes,” Sawyer told UnLocke. Sounds about right.
Earlier, I quoted the “Serenity Prayer,” which has been credited to different authors. There’s a version that’s several lines longer, and the words echo John Locke’s live-in-the-present philosophy:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Of course, in the theology of Locke, “His will” was Jacob’s will, or what he thought was Jacob’s will. Right now, it looks like Locke was nothing but a big dupe. Then again, they say that God works in strange ways. Maybe The Island does, too.
I’ll be back in a few hours with my thoughts on tonight’s episode, whose title I am deliberately withholding from you as it contains something of a spoiler. But if you enjoy being teased about what lies ahead, check out this week’s Totally Lost, hosted by Dan Snierson and myself, which includes four cryptic tidbits about whatever it is we’re about to see. You’ll also see some footage of our visit to the Lost set during the shooting of “Sundown.” In addition to beholding our process of WTH?! discovery (we had a minimum of context for the scenes we saw), you’ll also learn what happens when a journalist decides to overstep his bounds and meddle with the work he’s there to improve. Good thing this is the last season of the show—I doubt exec producer Jack Bender would ever let us back for a visit after the stunt Dan tried to pull. Stupid, stupid Dan!