Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do I need to slide? No, you need to learn.

What world do you live in? Where I exist, reality does not bow to my whims, comfort and happiness are a result of the ideas and effort of men, today was pretty good, tomorrow can only get better, and I face the world and other people with an earnest and sincerity. I want to see them do well. I want to see me do better. It benefits everyone. Most importantly, if I don't outdo them, it benefits me. Go ahead, write the greatest television show ever and make millions. I won't be jealous. I'll enjoy and appreciate it. (Thanks, Lindelof & Cuse.)

Except, I don't think you live in that world. I think you live in a world that is cruel, cold, and unforgiving. Like the Buddhists say, life is suffering, and that pain comes from everyone else taking at your expense, when all you're trying to do is give, because you're the only damn good person there is. And since you're so alone, it's ok for you to play their game. After all, they started it.

You see, there's something I'm fundamentally having trouble understanding now-a-days. No matter how down I've felt, now matter how dark I thought my future was, no matter what, my instinct is never to lie, cheat, steal, smear, slur, denigrate, manipulate, coerce, sling mud...well, you get the idea. On the other hand, those things all seem to be the tactics on the tip of your tongue. There's literally a time in every day when I sit back and say, "How does someone think of something like that?" ("I'm not a good person, Charlie.") See? I didn't even intend to reference LOST, but I couldn't help it. I agree with them on this point. The only reason you're a bad person is because you think you're a bad person.

DTR is always telling me about "sense of life." He said that's the reason I love LOST so much, we share a sense of life. I'm beginning to really agree with him. Sense of life is your basic feel of the world. Everything you believe, whether explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, is thrown into a pot (your brain) and boiled until it reaches the gas stage (your feel of the world). For me, sense of life is the best metaphor I've ever heard for the soul. Except, we can control it.

In our politically correct culture, we're not supposed to say that certain activities are linked to certain types of people. Well, they are. People with similar senses of life are going to be attracted to similar behaviors. I'm going to fall back on my old partying example. Contemporary, partying doesn't mean getting a bunch of friends together and celebrating. It means getting shit ass drunk and, hopefully, fucking. What type of people are going to be attracted to this activity? People with a negative sense of life. They need to destroy themselves because the world, and themselves suck. But wait, this only happens during college, right?

Put aside my drinking rant because I'm about to say something really important. In our society, and I'm speaking as an American here you dumb pseudo-arrogant fucks with "globalized perspectives," we have prescribed moments that are supposed to change our sense of life, moments when we "grow up." Yup, growing up is the contemporary metaphor for gaining the proper sense of life. You hit puberty. You learn to drive. You graduate high school. You have sex for the first time. You graduate college. You get a real job. You get married. You buy a house. You have a children. All these moments are supposed to change your sense of life just by their happen. Supposedly, we've crafted a life path that intrinsically gives us a good sense of life. The only problem is, it doesn't.

To return to the drinking topic, something I've been struggling with is the idea that the partying stops when people graduate from college. Now I understand that while, to me, it's an arbitrary cut off, to everyone else, it's an actual cut off. The only problem is, they're wrong. The partying doesn't stop. These pre-prescribed events don't change a person's sense of life. There's only one way to change a sense of life. You have to truly experience your experiences.

An experience is not worthwhile just by it happening. You have to engage in it. If you don't engage in it, you are a passive participant. If you do engage in it, you are an active actor. This divergence returns to my two worlds dichotomy that I started with. If the world sucks and all that depressing crap, you're just going to let things happen and try to get out live. If the world is good, then you're going to try to do what you can to make it better. The latter builds a positive sense of life. The former builds a negative sense of life.

The problem is, I think, that you form a sense of life before you even realize what one is. Then, if you're passive, things only go downhill from there, snowballing into an emo spin cycle of "the world sucks" and "I suck," and, if you're active, well the opposite happens without a much perkier metaphor, like you constantly get boob jobs and you stare at your breasts in the mirror because they look awesome. Wait, where was I? Oh, right, the problem is by the time we realize what our sense of life is, it's so difficult for us to change it because it's so ingrained in us. It's like Hoyt said in the new True Blood, whenever anything goes wrong he has to stop himself from running back to his Mom and doing everything she says. That's his sense of life. That's one of the best portrayals of sense of life I've ever seen because it's elegant in it's simplicity (insert evil laugh here).

How do you fix a sense of life? You do what Hoyt did. You recognize it and tell yourself to resist it. How do you resist it? You learn. You see, we're not living in parallel universes and I don't need to slide out of your awful one like Quinn Mallory until I find the positive one I believe in. No, you need to seek out new experiences and learn to build a proper sense of life. (Side note: Yes, I believe the way we raise children, generally, gives them a debilitating sense of life because they don't learn about the world properly).

Don't think my sense of life is perfect either. I actually feel guilty about being attracted to a girl. Why? Because I've been taught that when you feel an attraction, you're supposed to stuff it down and ignore it. If you express it, you're being oppressive to the girl...unless she's attracted to you first (which becomes the stereotype of an attractive guy). Then you can express attraction all you want because you're being generous. Generous? Yes sex is used to gain self esteem (not express it), so if someone is attracted to you, they're trying to take from you. Guys should give to women because they've oppressed them through out time. Thus, you should only be with girls who are lesser than you and girls tell you when it's ok to express sexual desire. But, women shouldn't give to guys, because it would be degrading for her to be with a lower guy. All of this crap I've internalized, from when I was young, builds a sense of life that tells me relationships are inherently manipulative and dishonest and only guys who are the stereotype of attractive actually are attractive and get to be with a girl and have sex. Real healthy, right? I know! Trust me.

See, we all have something to learn. My already awesome sense of life is growing as you read this. How's yours?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Final Night Farewell

The most tragic choice thrust upon us by the contemporary culture is the one between others and ourself. Choose the former and you are headed for a life of classlessness, pleasure seeking, and underachievement, where your greatest goal (never acknowledged explicitly, of course) is to collect them all, as if people are nothing more than oddly name creatures that fight for you on command. Choose the latter and you are headed for a life of respectability, happiness, and achievement, where your greatest goal is to produce what your mind finds that you should, as it is the highest authority of which you can think. The choice is tragic because the former excludes the latter, yet is the popularly endorsed perspective, but the latter doesn't exclude the former.

You can be you or you can be everyone else. The popular response, of course, will be to say it's not such a black and white choice, not so cut and dry, not so easy. You can't not care about people at all, they'll say. Except, they're missing the point completely. The point is to care about people because they make your life better (because they seek to make their life better), not merely because they are people. If you spend time with people who are classless, you are telling them classlessness is acceptable. If you spend time with people who seek pleasure, you are telling them pleasure seeking is acceptable. If you spend time with people who underachieve, you are telling them underachievement is acceptable. These statements are especially true if you are around a person when he is immediately acting in such a manner and you don't hold him accountable for it. That accountability is how you care.

True friends, lovers, family members, and human beings want others to act respectably, find happiness, and achieve. Everyone else is participating in an animalistic race to the bottom.

(Note: Pleasure is immediate and dissipates rapidly. Happiness is long term and sustains indefinitely. Pleasure is a good thing when it is part of your happiness, but is debilitating when it is not.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Mirror Moment: Clemson in the Rear View

S6 of LOST relied heavily on the motif of mirror moments as a metaphor for people looking back on their lives after they had died. I don't think you should only look at yourself then. Yes, what happened, happened, what's done is done, but it's important to consider whether you take pride in or are disappointed with the way your life was/is going.

When we're young, checkpoints are easy to come by. Society tells us when they are, certain ages, certain "rites of passage," pretty much every school year. The older we get, the less frequent these checkpoints are, especially once you've gone through most of the "rites of passage" (not necessarily talking about myself here...I'm also thinking Checkpoints might be a good name for a show, maybe about a NASCAR driver or NASCAR fan culture). Fortunately for me, right now is one such mirror moment. I am closing another chapter in my life, one that has immensely amazing for me.

Clemson, I fell in love with you. You seduced me with your simplicity and saccharine sweetness. I studied all week and watched football on Saturday and Sunday. Everyone was generally pleasant and affable. The contrast from where I was from was a welcome one. I'll never forget the first couple days when I was here and I crossed the street when no one did. The don't walk sign was up, but there was no traffic coming, so I did what any good Northerner did. That was when I realized it was different down here.

Then I fell in love with the world. Despite everything that was being taught to me, that had been taught to me, I had the mental wherewithal to reject what I knew to be untrue and continue to seek the answers...and I found them. I finally understand. I know what the world is about. I know the meaning of life. They always said the question was impossible to answer. I mean, it's 42 right? But it's not. It has an answer. I'm not saying I know everything. There are many things I have only passing knowledge of or am ignorant of. I am saying that you can know the meaning of life. You just have to look for it.

Then I became disenchanted with you, Clemson. I earned my MA. My eight hour Saturdays writing my thesis in the library were over. I poked my head up and didn't like what I saw. Teaching college, paradoxically, granted me more free time than studying in college did, and I use that time to venture into the social world. What I discovered was homogeneity, more than any burgeoning Emo kid or "non-conformist" could ever complain about up North. It went deeper than any fad, style, or physical appearance. It was an attitude."I'm ok, you're ok." An accepting of the status quo. A lack of desire for improvement, let alone self improvement. A lack of that something extra that put you over the top, that killer instinct.

Sure, the North is full of self hating and bitter people, but I often think it's a bad thing that people in Clemson probably can't even fathom that level of passion about life, either way. It's cool. It's all taken care of.

Strangely, what pushed me over the edge about this town was Oliver Purnell resigning as the men's basketball coach out of nowhere. What was the result? Nothing. No one got fired up, in either direction. Another mediocre coach was hired. It was like Tommy Bowden all over again. What was inherently obvious to me after only a month here, that Bowden had to go, took three full years before enough people kind of clamored about it enough for it to happen. Then who was he replaced with? More of the same, basically. Why? There's no killer instinct. Win or lose, the money comes in, the support is the same. I'm not saying stop being fans. I'm saying what it means to be a fan changes based upon context.

Context is a big thing I learned, mostly through the Patriots. Sure, they won their championships while I was at Ithaca, but that time still seems like a dream, a myth that game them their legacy. My time in Clemson felt like their championship era. They've won a lot of games. They went 16-0, 18-0, 18-1 in devastating fashion (still have to give props to Tyree for that catch). They didn't win any championships, but it didn't matter. They're winners now. They have that legacy. More is expected from them. Great things are expected. And that's exactly how I feel.

I'm a winner now. I expect great things from me. I can't accept mediocrity or worse any longer. I've seen the Celtics return to greatness. I've seen the Red Sox win two champions. The first, while I was at Ithaca, seemed surreal, especially considering how they got there. The second, while I was here in Clemson, was very real and very powerful. Yes, Jack, the Red Sox did win the World Series.

You want to know how much it all means to me? I cried a bit watching that scene again. It combines two things I love a lot and, ironically, Jack wasn't the one letting the tears loose. That scene is one of my favorite of the series because what Ben tells Jack resonates so deeply with me personally. "That's why the Sox will never win the Series." They did, in real life. There is no fatalism. There is no determinism. We can improve. We can change (really, not the Obama kind). We can be what we want.

So, I'm leaving you, Clemson. I grew. You didn't. Don't fret. We'll always have Paris. I made some of the best friends of my life here. You know who you are, and I thank you for letting me into your life and accepting my invitations into mine. I learned so much about myself here. If you can step in front of a classroom and truly have something real to say, then you know true confidence. Thank you to my students who indulged me, from my growing pains and my mistakes to my successes and long conversations about LOST. I tried to teach you in the same way I learned: with unabashed honesty and passion. I hope you learned something. Thank you to the girls I spent time with or didn't spend time with at all or, oh, you get the picture. I can't explain the amount you helped me grow. The most unfortunate thing is you're missing out on more than you'll ever know. And that's the thing. You'll never know. Which is why you're not on my level (yet). What's amazing is I can say that now, and mean it. I hope you can catch up to me someday. Sometimes I see too much goodness in everybody.

When I look into the mirror now, I see exactly what I want to see. Where I've been, where I'm going, it's all less important than the fact that I'm here now and I'm truly happy about it, not in the short term hedonistic pleasure seeking way, but in the long term truly contented way. I honestly believe most people can say that. But I can. And I'm damn proud of it.

I'm JML. It's nice to meet you. Who are you?

(Btw, if you thought I was talking about you, I probably was. Have something to say about it? Say it. I encourage all of you to keep in touch. I want to hear about all the things you accomplish, and I'm here if you want someone to talk to. Only you can find the answers you're looking for, but I can share my experiences with you.)

Now, suit up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Yesterday: My apologies for being so slow in posting my LOST columns to this blog this season. I've been focusing on putting them on CulturEsponse (link on the right). I hope you've been following them there.

Today: I'd like to do some writing tonight, finish a project I'm working on and then write something for this blog, a sort of retrospective on the last four years.

Tomorrow: The last leg of my Clemson journey begins eventually giving way to an unknown future.

Wow, that last one sounded kind of dumb. Oh well, it's true.

Now if the rain would only stop so I could get some food.

The Midside: LOST S6E17 The End

Six years later, and it’s over. For those fans like us, who write and read columns, we feel like we are losing a friend or close relative that we shared many deep and important conversations with about the world. We are mourning their death. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse expected such a reaction so they wrote an episode, and a season, about the mourning process and death. (As my friend Nate wrote about here.)

In actuality, S6 and “The End” were just a logical extension of the basic theme/metaphor of the series. LOST is about life, as I have been saying for a long time. The characters' journeys, and the faith vs. reason debate, are supposed to parallel our own experiences and existence. It starts in the “Pilot.” Jack’s eye opens. He wakes up alone in the jungle. Hearing noise in the background, he sprints to the beach. After initially being greeted with a beautiful view of a clear ocean and cloudless blue sky, he rotates towards the noise to see the fiery, twisted metal wreckage of a plane crash with passengers strewn about. In other words, he’s born, alone as we all are, and is immediately thrown into the middle of it all. There is no preparation. You’re born and enter into the world.

The next few S1 episodes are named: “Tabula Rasa,” “Walkabout,” “White Rabbit,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” All extend the metaphor. The first is a philosophical statement on how you are born. The second is an important moment at the start of life: Walking up right for the first time. “White Rabbit” is about how you find something to follow down into the middle of it all. “House of the Rising Sun” is obvious. You get the idea. The rest of the series progressed from that point on. We explored the world (opened the Hatch). We worried about the future (flash forwards). We encountered what we’d been hearing about our whole life (the Incident). Then, like all good things, it had to end (TNG FTW).

Quite predictably, the last shot of the series was the reverse of the first, Jack’s eyes closing, bookending the story nicely. The life on the island had been lived. To drive home the point further, Lindelof and Cuse wrote a season of flash sideways that act as a metaphor for the mourning process. Yes, the mystery of the “parallel universe” has been revealed, and many people have been conceptualizing it as some sort of purgatory or something, but the actual explanation is much simpler. Think of the metaphor of the mirror.

The Whatever-atory is a metaphor for reflecting on your life while on your deathbed. Now we know what the point of the mirror moments were. It is commonly said that when you die your life “flashes before your eye.” Similarly, it is thought that when your death is imminent you think of how you could have lived life differently or better. These characters imagined a life where the Jughead plan worked, the plane never crashed, and the island was submerged, so it never affected their lives. It was a giant “what if” scenario where the characters revealed their deepest views of themselves and their deepest desires. Kate truly believed she was innocent and helped Claire. Sawyer was a cop, but worried other people would find him out for what he is (an unloved person because his parents abandoned him). Sayid still said “I’m not that person anymore,” yet was that person. Desmond had Widmore’s approval. Jack loved his son and his son loved him. Sun and Jin were never married, but ended up together in America with Sun pregnant with Ji Yeon. These examples are just what I thought of off the top of my head. We could go back and watch each episode again and complete this analysis more complexly.

Need more evidence that it all came from the characters’ minds? Consider what Christian told Jack in the “church." “They made the place so they could find each other and it exists outside time and place. It exists outside time and space because it happens at a different time for everyone." Look at Sawyer and Juliet. Juliet died in “LA X” mumbling things from “Whatever-atory” such as “it worked” (plugging in the machine) and something about getting coffee (which they agreed to do). We don’t know when Sawyer died, as we saw him get off the island, but it is presumably years after Juliet, yet they both experienced the same “whatever-atory” moment, just as they were all sitting in the “church” together at the end (a common association we all share concerning death and funerals).

How is it possible they are all really in that place at the same time? That question is irrelevant. Don’t try to conceptualize it in terms of time, space, and reality. You can’t. That’s the point of the statements by Christian. It’s a metaphor for how we mourn. It’s the reason why we see the conversation between Jack and Christian in the “church” at the end of the episode. Jack is on his deathbed and his life is flashing before his eyes. Then, the flash to Whatever-atory ends, and Jack closes his eye to die--as we focus on the fact that on their deathbeds the characters attempted to find each other, which is the ultimate point of the show.

(Note: An interesting thought now that we know that Desmond was dead for a bit in “Happily Ever After” and flashing to “Whatever-atory” is: Was Desmond dead after turning the fail safe key in the Hatch and flashed to a unique “Whatever-atory” for just himself based on his personal problems at that time?)

What this whole series is about is other people. Lindelof and Cuse answered the question, "Is humanity LOST?” with a yes and an explanation of “because we believe it is.” Their reasoning is that an improper application of faith corrupts us (as evidenced in the MiB/Jacob story) as we focus on the wrong things (God and not people). Logically, they then present us with a new definition of faith, which is based upon the idea that other people are what make life worth living.

More complexly, the meaning of LOST is a resolution of the faith vs reason debate with what I call “Hurleyism” or “humanistic faith.” In the first part of my column, I will explain how the episode (and series) leads us to this conclusion by discussing the rivalry between the MiB and Jacob and how that affected Jack’s life. I will then prove how Hurley is the most important character in the show and explicate what the writers’ idea of faith is from there. The idea, however, is self-contradictory, and I will prove so by discussing morality, decision making, and the idea of the self in relation to Sayid in the second part of my column.

Understanding the overall philosophy behind LOST will also reveal why Lindelof and Cuse focused so heavily on the characters and not the mythological answers in the final season and “The End.” Fortunately for me, I agree with them to the point that I understand why they did what they did with the mythology and characters. There’s a lot to appreciate about this series. It’s truly the best television show ever. It’s just “Hurleyism” that bothers me, so let’s get into it, shall we?


I’m about to delve into the mythology, but, be warned, the end point I reach will undermine the importance of the mythology. Huh? Yes, that statement is internally contradictory, but let’s save the critiques for the second part of this column. My intention right now is understanding. I’ve read a lot and heard a lot of people tell me that they think the mythology is irrelevant. How it is relevant is twofold. First, the mythology of the world shapes the context we live within. Second, the mythology was designed in a way to build a critique of the contemporary conception of faith so that Lindelof and Cuse could put forward their new definition of Hurleyism. This transition is best understood by looking at the failings of the MiB and Jacob, how those mistakes affected Jack, and how Jack ultimately passed the torch to Hurley.


The important thing to remember when looking at the brothers of MiB and Jacob is that they are both wrong and that condition causes them to be opposing forces rather than allies. While the MiB is turned into a cloud of black smoke, Jacob gains the supernatural ability to shape people’s life. It all begins with the CB and her misguided teachings and ends with the fruition of Jacob’s long con, and, tragically, it was all at the expense of the MiB.

The lasting impression of “Across the Sea” will always be the CB’s teachings to the boys. She taught them both that the basic nature of humans is bad. They come, they destroy…you know the mantra by now. In the MiB, this premise manifested in a sort of nihilism, a futility with dealing with people. You could say he had a “can’t live with them, can’t live without them" mentality. In Jacob, this premise manifested in a savior mentality. He spent his whole life trying to redeem humanity. The problem is he was trying to redeem them for his mistake.

Though the MiB fills the role of a villain in S6, his overall story is actually tragic. Upon his birth, he wasn’t given his name. Then, he discovered who he really was and was punished for trying to pursue it. Worse yet, he began to explore the island based upon his natural ability and was punished for it. The tragedy doesn’t end there. As he began his fall from grace, he used the curiosity of men to try and get off the island. The vengeful CB smote the people, causing him to respond by murdering her, which in turn caused Jacob to throw him into the light, taking away his body and humanity. How was his humanity stolen? His free will, the exercise of his mind, was taken away from him. He was forced into an oppressive either-or: Live on the island as an inhumane creature or destroy the light. Thus, his goal became to destroy the light, something which he never previously cared about. In this way, the CB turned the MiB into the villain with her poor teachings and actions. If she had simply let the boy figure out how to leave, no problem would have ever occurred. However, her basic belief was that man is so bad that reason can’t go unchecked. Her teachings had a similar effect on Jacob.

The portrayal of young Jacob as a bit slower and a bit kinder was not by accident. Before the CB, he was a harmless person. Afterwards he manipulated people over the ages for one purpose: To fix his mistake. What was his mistake? He vengefully threw his brother into the light, but, as I explained, vengeance was the CB’s MO. Jacob was too kind to act in such a manner naturally. Yet, over his life he grew to be that way because the CB planted poor ideas in his head about humanity and his brother. He accepted they were bad. He accepted that the light needed to be protected. He went about doing both and as he witnessed the results of his efforts, the MiB as smoke monster roaming the island, he realized his grave error. He hadn’t questioned his faith in the CB. He hadn’t been given a choice. Thus, he designed an elaborate scheme, a tapestry of lives that factored in free will to his design, not realizing his new mistake that you can’t plan pre-will, that a grand design is a contradiction of free will. Here’s where Jack Shepard enters the story.


Jack is Jacob’s solution. He is the perfect candidate to complete Jacob’s life goal, as he is similar to Jacob himself. Like the CB, Christian told Jack he wasn’t good enough. Christian made Jack feel like he wasn’t special. Thus, as with Jacob envying the MiB, Jack spent his entire life attempting to fill his need to prove himself. It’s why he needed to fix things. If he could just fix something important enough, his life would have meaning, and his worth would be proven. Note how Jacob’s entire life was spent trying to fix something, his mistake. The parallels between Jack and Jacob are not coincidental or unintentional. They’re the reason Jack became like him.

Then Jackob finally fixed something, with an assist from Kate. Except, as they stood on the cliffs on the shore, the island shook below them, and Jack realized, Jacob’s mistake nearly brought an end to the island itself (the metaphor of the island as the world is pertinent here). He also understood what he needed to do to fix it. He needed to go back down into the Source and put the cork back in the hole, an action that would lead to his death, a death that would be the last negative consequence of Jacob, his mistake, and his tapestry. And the journey into the Source taught us some interesting things about Jacob and his unquestioned faith.

The most interesting thing about the Source is its design. It appeared to be excavated. There were skeletons strewn about. Most importantly, the cork itself was most definitely man made. Do we have our answer to the origin of the job of protector? Do we know why the CB hated reason? Imagine the following scenario, if you will. A group comes to the island and discovers, as the MiB did, that there are areas on the island where “metal behaves strangely.” They search and search and eventually find the greatest concentration of the explanation as to why, what we know as the Source. They dig down, punching a hole into the light, and what happens? The island begins to shake and break apart as the release of the magnetic energy is too much for the infrastructure of the island to withstand, perhaps explaining the existence of Hydra Island. What do these men do? They rush for a solution, creating the cork and plugging the hole. Except, they have to make sure the cork is never removed, so they create the job of protector and use the story of evil escaping into the world as a reason for it. Who knows, maybe they really believed evil was tearing the island apart. What’s most interesting is we can see why they would begin to distrust reason, as it nearly destroyed the island (in their view), and that this story strongly parallels Dharma drilling into the ground, hitting the pocket of energy, and creating the Swan Station and button pushing mechanism.

The actual truth value behind that story is unimportant, as it will never be confirmed. The point of telling it is its plausibility. What does that plausibility tell us? The need to protect the light to “save the world” is still unproven. Yes, Jack believed himself to be right, and clearly so did Desmond (as evidenced by their exchange where Jack admitted this was the first time he was ever right). However, throughout the series, characters constantly believed they were right (or wrong) erroneously. We have to judge Jack’s actions and beliefs on our own. If the major thing Jack believes at the end of the series is left ambiguous, what’s the point of him then? What’s his story?

Jack is the undermining of the conventional hero in order to emphasis the transition to a new character type. From the beginning, he was full of self-doubt, never really accepting his position of leader, nor did others really accept it. The conventional hero is always beloved, despite any questionable actions he might take. Some fans flock to Jack as if he is that archetype, but they simply are responding to what they’re used to, not what is displayed on screen. Likewise, when the conventional hero sacrifices himself, completing the Jesus myth (not the use of the Jesus statue in Whatever-atory), he is celebrated by many for his altruism. Take Neo in the Matrix trilogy as an example. After he sacrifices himself to the machines, the Oracle, little Indian girl, and the Architect (three programs that represent humans, programs, and the machines respectively) all spend the last scene of the movie reflecting on Neo. The little Indian girl makes a sunset for him. In LOST, Jack is only greeted by Vincent after he puts the cork back in. No, there is no fanfare for his death. It is a quiet tear jerking moment. It is tragic. He was taken advantage of by Jacob in order to fix a mistake that never should have been made. Except Jack realized this result (finally understanding himself and the world) and passed his role onto Hurley before he embarked on his suicide mission.


From the beginning of the show, Hurley was the most beloved character. His innocence and simplicity was charming. In many ways, he was the most identifiable character. I don’t even think any of the characters disliked him. More importantly, I don’t think he disliked any of the characters. He always saw the good in people and worried about their happiness. Let’s briefly recount the things he did. He built the golf course to give people a break. He took the census to learn who everyone was and protect everyone. He distributed all the food found in the Hatch. He turned Sawyer into a leader by duping him with the “worst con ever.” He fixed the Dharma van he found in order to prove you can “make your own luck.” A lot of the time, he also served as the voice for the audience, asking about the dinosaur theory, expressing confusion over Scott and Steve’s similar appearance, and infamously arguing with Miles over time travel. He was the character we were most meant to identify with and like. He was the character that was most concerned with positivity and helping other people.

These personality traits best embody Hurleyism, the era that began as soon as Jack told Hurley, “Now you’re like me.” This transition, and what it means, is best explained through two quotes. The first is how Ben advises Hurley to approach the role:
Ben: “I think you'll do what you do best: Take care of people. And you can start by helping Desmond go home.”
Hurley: “How? People can't leave the Island.”
Ben: “Those were Jacob's rules. Maybe there's a new way, a better way.”
Ben openly encouraging Hurley to make new rules, along with saying there’s a better way, is a signal to us that faith is being redefined. Protecting the island won’t be accomplished by making sure people stay away from the light. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to find it anyway, so focusing on it so much was never the point, especially because we can’t know if it actually needs to be protected or not. What should be the focus then? Ben tells Hurley he should do what he does best, “take care of people.” The focus here shifts from the light, or God, to people. In other words, faith isn’t about our relationship with God, it’s about our relationship with other people, especially because we can’t know if God actually exists or not. See how all of the mythology is coming together? But wait, focusing on people doesn’t tell us how to deal with people. We know saying their bad like the CB doesn’t work, but what is the alternative?

To understand how Hurley deals with people, the best place to look is his scene with Sayid in Whatever-atory. Sayid is the character who struggles the most with a moral appraisal of himself. He constantly says, “I’m not that person anymore,” because he doesn’t like the violent tactics he uses, yet he continues to use those tactics. His story in Whatever-atory stood out because it was the only one that wasn’t better, happier than the on-island story. This emphasis was intentional, as it lead to the following pay off, the speech Hurley gave as he attempted to help Sayid have flashes of his life:
"I think you're a good guy, Sayid. I know a lot of people have told you that you're not. Maybe you've heard it so many times you started to believe in it. But you can't let other people tell you who you are, dude. You have to decide that for yourself."
Once again, we see Hurley’s focus on making sure the other person is okay and happy, on making sure Sayid believes in himself. (The tidbit about deciding yourself is also interesting, but I’ll return to that in a minute.) Hurley’s speech is followed by Shannon being attacked in the alley, and Sayid rushing out to save her. They touch and both have flashes, ready to move on, just like all of the characters have flashes in Whatever-atory when they touch or connect with another person. This trope fits perfectly with what Christian tells Jack in the “church” at the end:
“The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you.”
“The most important part of your life” is not what you accomplished, your job, or yourself, it is other people. Why? Because you needed them. Just like Sayid needed Hurley to tell him he was a good guy before he could believe he was a good guy, we all need the same. This idea also fits nicely with how Hurley told Jack, “I believe in you, dude” right before Jack went off into the jungle with the MiB. And that statement is the mantra of Hurleyism. “I believe in you, dude.” Still though, the picture of this version of faith is still not complete.

To explain the “decide for yourself” portion of Hurley’s speech to Sayid, we have to look at his “#2” Ben. Ben is to the MiB as Hurley is to Jacob. Part of the tragedy of the MiB and Jacob story is if they had just worked together to protect the light, Jacob’s innocence would have been put to good use, whereas the MiB would have never been turned into the villain. Likewise, Ben always wanted to protect the island, but went about it with Machiavellian methods that the MiB used. He purged Dharma. He used his superior intelligence to lie to, manipulate, and con other people. Now, by putting it at the discretion of Hurley, his ability will only be used to help other people. Their relationship is similar to the relationship Hurley has with Desmond in Whatever-atory, as Desmond is the one focused on giving knowledge (flashes of their lives), and Hurley is the one everyone loves. Thus, we can also look at what Desmond tells Kate before he brings her to the concert:
Kate: "Hang on a second. You bust me out of jail and make me put on this dress so that we can go to some concert and you won't even tell me why we're here."
Desmond: "No one can tell you why you're here, Kate, certainly not me."
Kate: "You're the one who brought me here."
Desmond: "I'm not talking about the church. I'm talking about here."
Just like Sayid having to decide who he is himself, Kate has to decide who she is herself. How are they going to do that? They’re going to use reason. Except, just like Sayid, someone had to tell Kate she had to figure it out on her own. She had to be given the go ahead, the OK, the moral sanction (if you will). Someone had to have faith in her. It’s exactly like how Ben is the #2 and Hurley is the #1. In other words, faith is first and reason is second. But don’t forget what faith is about. Faith is about other people. They’re what make life worth living, the relationships you form with them. It’s about having faith in other people, faith that they’re good. Then, they will also believe they’re good and use the reason to figure out the how and why. It is what I call “humanistic faith” or “Hurleyism.”

There you have it. The meaning of LOST: Humanistic Faith. Hurleyism. “I believe in you, dude.” It’s why the focus was on the characters, not the mythology. We’re all born into a world with a complex mythology that sets the context for us, but the odds of us learning everything about it are almost nonexistent. To reveal all of the mythology would have violated the life metaphor of the show and blurred the point: “I believe in you, dude.”


The term “humanistic faith” is an oxymoron as well as the ideas it identifies, that reason should be secondary to faith, that people are what make life worth living. Holding such an ideas, living your life by them, actually produces a contrary goal to the one that Lindelof and Cuse portray it as reaching in LOST. To best understand the contradiction, we should look at the character of Sayid and how his mantra “I’m not that person anymore” demonstrates a negative view of self that inhibits him from properly understanding “good” even though he is making moral decisions most of the time.

What Sayid is good at is being a soldier. He understands the best methods to make someone talk and the best methods to protect people. In a way, he is LOST’s version of Jack Bauer. When he finds himself in difficult situations, he relies upon those abilities to find a way out of them. Take his story in Whatever-atory for instance. Though he doesn’t want to hurt Keamy and company, the best way for him to protect Nadia and his brother is to use his training as a soldier. He doesn’t go anywhere with the intent of harming anyone, but when he decides the situation has reached a point when he needs to, he uses his skills. Likewise, when the Oceanic Six end up in Dharma times, he decided he should shoot Harry Potter. He did, but then punished himself for it afterward. He made himself feel guilty for nothing but trusting the judgment of his own mind.

What defines humanity is our ability to reason. No other creature has the capacity for rational thought, to understand the world. It is how we make decisions. It is how we know what is important. As Desmond and Hurley both said, reasoning is something only you can do for yourself. Only you can decide who you are and why you’re here. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you’re good and believe in you. Let’s look at it a little more complexly.

Since we are rational creatures, what is moral is living by the judgment of your own mind, but then, what is good? The point of life is to live. Therefore, good is anything that promotes life or promotes your best possible life. Your best possible life is a life that reflects your values. Your values are, of course, derived by your mind. Thus, a good decision is one that promotes your life and values and a moral decision is one that is made by the judgment of your own mind. Notice how a bad decision can be a moral one. Go back to the case of Sayid shooting Harry Potter. It was probably a bad decision, as it didn’t really accomplish much, but it was a moral one, as Sayid thought it was the best course of action. However, because it failed, Sayid felt guilty over it. What he forgot, though, is he is not omnipotent. We often make bad decisions because we don’t understand the complete context. You should endeavor to gather all the information you can, but sometimes you just don’t know everything. Still, the only way to pursue a good life, a life based upon what you value, is to trust the judgment of your own mind, yourself, above all.

What does all of this explanation have to do with Hurleyism? This conception of “humanistic faith” is built upon the idea that the ultimate value in life is other people. You need other people. You need them to believe in you. You need them to make your life memorable. The problem this presents is that it directly contradicts the notion of pursuing the judgment of your own mind. If what is most important is other people, then their values are more important than yours, as the quickest way to making someone like you and believe in you is to promote their values instead of their own.

Other people and relationships definitely present a very important value in life. However, those relationships must be based upon values that are decided upon independently. If a person in a relationship lacks a true sense of self, the relationship will ultimately fail. The Sawyer and Juliet relationship is a perfect example. She considered herself to be “the other woman” so much that she allowed Kate’s return to end her relationship with Sawyer…and her life. It didn’t matter how much Sawyer told Juliet that it was her, that he believed in her and loved her; she believed it was Kate. End of story. (It's interesting to me that the writers wrote this event into the story, but don't seem to understand its relevance to their overall philosophy.)

The problem with Sayid is not that he has no one that believes in him. Nadia is a perfect example of someone that always believed in him. The problem with Sayid is that he has a negative self-image. He makes the best decisions he can, but then feels guilty for making them. Why? Because he believes he is a bad person and can’t let it go. Here is where we find the internal contradiction of humanistic faith.

Faith is concept that has nothing to do with thought. Sayid thinks about his decisions, but believes he is a bad person. He has that division inside of him, and it causes his internal strife. Faith is based on nothing. It is trust for the sake of trusting. In contrast, humanism is a philosophy that is focused on humans. What defines humans? As I already stated, it is the capacity for rational thought. By making faith #1 and reason #2, you are subjugating reason to something that is anti-reason. It is no coincidence that Hurley, a character that couldn’t spell bodies in the first season, is the figurehead of this new definition of faith. Is that really who you want to model your life after?

This critique doesn’t mean LOST isn’t an amazing show. In fact, I think it’s the best television show ever. However, I disagree with their final philosophical point (though agree with many of their points along the way). Mostly, I appreciate their sense of life and think they understand people on a complex level, which would make sense if they truly believe other people are what make life worth living. Me? I’m just really glad Sawyer, Miles, and Frank survived until the end. I only wish we had found out who Miles girlfriend in Whatever-atory was. What’s my guess? Someone he met after he got off the island.


There you have it, the final Midside about LOST, the completion of six years worth of work. Some of you have been here since the beginning. Some of you have joined me more recently. Some of you called me crazy to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Some of you know me as a stoner Ayn Rand fan (I’ve never done a drug or drank alcohol in my life, btw). All of you took the time to read something I wrote. I appreciate it, hope you enjoyed it, and ask that you only do one thing as you go on to live your life:

Think about it.