Friends have told me that I would love the show Lost, but for years I never watched, believing that a show about people stranded on a desert island could not be terribly interesting. For some reason I started watching the first season on the Internet and it didn’t take long for me to realize why this show was so highly recommended. Not only is the complex plot extremely intriguing and suspenseful, and characters richly developed, but the show deals with a host of philosophical, theological, and literary themes that leave one with ample food for thought and reflection. One of the major themes, perhaps the central theme, is the conflict between destiny and free-will.
Throughout the show many of the characters , while seeking rescue desperately, start to believe that somehow they were meant to be on the island – that they were brought there for a special purpose by fate. The events that happen to theme on the island are mysteriously related to their pasts and provide opportunities for redemption of past failures. This is where freewill enters the storyline. In these opportunities, they face moral choices whereby redemption comes, or make a tragic choice that leads to their downfall and harms their community.
Yet their will to leave the island is constantly thwarted by forces outside of their control. Even the few who manage to escape and return home are plagued by tragedy, and end up having to return. A few band together to form a plan to take charge and change their destiny to crash on the island by actually destroying the island with a hydrogen bomb sometime in the past before the crash (I know it sounds strange, and it is, but you have to watch it for this to make sense). This is how the last season ends – the bomb is detonated, but you don’t know the outcome.
In the first episode of the new and final season, the outcome is ambiguous because there are two parallel story lines (almost like parallel universes). One track is that the plan works, their flight never crashes, and they land in Los Angeles like nothing ever happened. The other track is that the plan fails, they are still on the island (though back to the future – 30 years later). The former plan seems to represent the path, and perhaps triumph, of freewill; the latter the path, and also perhaps triumph, of fate. It is not yet clear which path is ‘more real,’ but it should become clearer how these two alternative realities relate. I’ll be watching!
This show raises the question of what is the proper relationship between fate/destiny and human freedom. Some worldviews emphasize fate to the exclusion of freedom, others freedom to the exclusion of fate. In a later post I will attempt to show how a biblical worldview relates the two.