I don’t typically like watching TV. I spent most of my life as one of those arrogant types that scorn television as the haven for the intellectual plebians, while us scholarly patricians do things like read and play Sudoku.
When my wife was first out of the hospital and heavily medicated on Zyprexa, Lexapro, and Risperdol, she was so sedated that she was typically dozing off by about 8pm at the latest. And when you’ve had a long day together, trying to eek out some moments of gratitude and joy, and your wife crashes at 8pm, what the hell else are you gonna do than turn on the TV?
Thank god for Hulu and Netflix stream instantly, I was not at the mercy of the inhumane cable TV gods, and I could watch what I wanted. I feel deeply in love with “The Office” and the carefree comedy and awkwardness of that world. “Weeds” was a good time, really hooked me and had me questioning my life-long sobriety, and that was fun to entertain. But no show resonated with me like the hit ABC drama “Lost.”
I started watching “Lost” in mid-January, and I think I watched the whole first season in about a week. My wife would watch it with me, and she loved it as well. She slept through much of it, but I’d catch her up the next day as we’d walk the dog or bike ride. As the seasons added up and the show got weirder, her love for the show faded, but mine grew stronger. And now I write this on the morning of the series finale. I am not a multi-year Lost fan, just a multi-month Lost fan, but I still love it and am highly anticipating a night of Lost.
Let me explain some of the reasons that I like Lost so much, and how (believe it or not) it has actually taught me some valuable lessons. Even the thought of learning something from a TV show would have made me puke a year ago, but a lot can change in a year. So let’s look at what I like about Lost.
-First off, there is the obvious. It’s a show about survivors. People who crashed in a plane and want to stay alive. It was a stark contrast for my wife, who had survived a crash and yet wanted to die. After episodes we would talk about the motivations of characters and their flaws. I’d love to wax poetically and say that I used arguments of Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas when I would try and convince my wife of the value of staying alive, but I didn’t. Instead, I would reference Jack Shepherd, Sawyer, Kate, John Locke, and all the other Ocean 815 survivors, because it was more relate-able to both of us. I appreciate the show for giving us a common vocabulary with which to discuss the painful dilemma of suicide.
-Second off, I loved the mystery of the show. It’s a fucking weird show. When I visited my parents in Japan a few months ago, I wanted to download the most recent episode and watch it. My dad asked “So what is this show about?”
“Hm. Well, there was a plane crash, and the survivors end up on an island. But it’s not a normal island. It’s a symbol for the struggle between good and evil on earth, and there are weird people who already lived there called the Others, and the island can travel through time and space, and……ahhhh shit, I don’t know what the hell this show is about.”
Although the enigma of Lost is extremely frustrating for others, I find its mystical way of addressing main themes very relevant to me. At its core, it seems to be a running debate on the nature of fate and destiny. Is there a bigger plan for us, or are we just operating under the chaotic principle of chance? The first argument seems to support the idea of God, while the second seems to refute it. Built into this debate are various bizarre manifestations that really complicate the argument–polar bears, delusions, smoke monsters, and the works. It is clearly a very magical place, and so the question of destiny vs. fate is that much more heightened.
When I was hooked into the show, I could relate to that on a profound level. My wife’s delusions, as I have mentioned in the past, were intensely religious: she thought she was hearing the voice of God, she thought she had to be martyred to the devil to protect the world from evil, she thought she had to protect me, she thought she was the devil, so on and so forth. It was all some weird bizarre magical shit, very similar to Lost. And I was the very emotionally attached audience, watching this wild narrative unfold, and trying to make sense of it. What caused this? Was it her destiny to suffer like this? Was it mine? Had she or I done something to deserve this?
I remember in college when we were dating, I asked her: “Do you believe that we are following a plan, or that we are in control of our destiny?”
“Hm. I think that when I do something well, I am in control. But when something goes wrong, it’s for a bigger reason and it’s out of my control.”
I made a lot of fun of her for this answer. What a cop-out! The good stuff is your responsibility, the bad stuff isn’t.
But here I was, supposedly much more mature and insightful many years later, believing the exact same thing about God. For the first week of her hospitalization, I scorned God. I was pissed off and I thought that I was the one who could fix her. I would spend all day stewing over what she had said during our visit, trying to make sense of the senseless babble, to try and find a key to her recovery. It was frustrating. Finally, after about a week, I threw up my hands in liberating defeat. I couldn’t fix her. Only God could. A priest friend of mine emailed me and said “She is in God’s hands now, and there are no better hands to be in.” As soon as I trusted that, literally to the day, her doctor called and said she was making progress. That is some weird bizarre magical shit right there, and I dove head-first into it. I would go surf and imagine that each wave was a spirit that I would bow down before as I dove under it, and would lay prostrate in front of the spirits in prayer, to occasionally get up and dance with the right spirit to elate me to ecstasy. For about a month I was like a surfing shaman. I would go alone and would be in almost a tantric state in the water. If you paddled over to me, you would probably paddle away. I was seeing God everywhere and in everything. I feel desperately in love with the idea of a loving Creator, a giving force that was lifting me up to strength and recovery.
But I didn’t see God in her suffering or her delusions. That weird bizarre magical shit didn’t count in my lexicon. Which is weird. Because if I was accepting the mystical in breaking waves, why was I so adamantly refusing to see the mystical in those things which were overtly mystical? I refused to acknowledge that this force that I trusted, if it really is all-powerful, had let us crash so painfully. And that apparently it was the mystical force of evil that had done it. As my wife still insists today, she really was possessed by the devil. It wasn’t delusions. I don’t know because it didn’t happen to me. What wishful thinking, to accept the loving God but to reject its counterpart or the negligence that permits us to experience such pain.
So when Locke and Jack would discuss destiny and would try to make sense of the numbers of the smoke monster, and the show would never, ever, ever give us answers, I related. Because I was in a huge debate within my own heart about god and fate and destiny and you know what? There aren’t answers, at least not ones that I can access. They might be out there somewhere, but I’ll never know why this had to happen to my wife. I’ll never know what she experienced. I’ll never know if it’s the medicine that is working or the love that is working or if it is time that is working or if even any of it is working in the first place.
Just like Lost. The show will end tonight but I know there will be tons of lingering questions. There will be no sealed answer as to whether good or evil will prevail, because one cannot prevail over the other. We won’t know if there is destiny or fate. And the mythology of the show will last and will give us things to ponder and discuss.
My wife hasn’t been delusional in 7 months. She hasn’t been suicidal in a month. But it’s not over. We still have questions, and we probably won’t find answers. The mythology of her illness will last and will give us things to ponder and discuss.
The trumping force, over destiny and fate and good and evil, is faith. That is what I have learned through my many theological ponderings. And that is what I anticipate that the show will teach tonight. With faith, I am with OK with not knowing.