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How we get 'Lost'

Wednesday night, we finally got the first two episodes of the fifth season of Lost, the physics-bending and finally-revealed time-traveling series about a mysterious island, those who want to control its power and the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 who crashed on the island and are caught in between. As we’ve come to expect, there were lots of reveals along with a slew of new questions, aptly explored in articles (like this one) and blog posts (like this one). As for me, however, I was particularly taken with a thread woven through both “Because You Left” and “The Lie”: how it comes to be that we get lost.

In a nutshell, it is three years after six Oceanic survivors and a handful of others made it off the island in various ways, leaving the rest of the survivors and the islands inhabitants behind—and the Oceanic Six are finding it isn’t the salvation they’d anticipated. In fact, things are pretty bad. Jack and Kate are estranged, and Jack’s using drugs again. Kate is on the run to protect Aaron, the son of another survivor she is calling her own. Sayid is regretting his choice to give into hatred and rage after the woman he loved was killed. Sun is yet consumed with her own hate and vindictive rage in the wake of watching her husband die. And heart-and-soul-of-the-series Hurley is locked away in a mental institution.

“How did we get here?” asks a despondent Jack at the beginning of the first episode. “How did all this happen?”

“It happened because you left, Jack,” says Benjamin Linus—a rather machiavellian character who for the time being is “helping” the Oceanic Six.

But it’s more than that. It’s not just leaving the island; it’s also how they left. In a decision they thought would protect the rest of the survivors, the Oceanic Six decided to lie about what happened after the plane crashed. But our true-hearted Hurley knew that was the wrong way to go. He tells them so in the beginning, that they should tell the truth, that if they all stuck together the world would have to believe them: “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life lying,” he tells them.

But he’s overruled—and that has its consequences. Near the end of “The Lie,” Hurley finally tells the truth to his mother, who (somewhat comically but lovingly) tells him, “I believe you—I don’t understand you, but I believe you.” It should be a relief to him, but the weight of those left behind and all the bad things that have happened since are weighing on him. “A lot of people died, Ma,” Hurley tells her. “And now this bad stuff is happening because—” Hurley breaks off and tries to find the words and then says simply: “We shouldn’t have lied.”

And there’s more bad things going on than Hurley realizes. Those left behind on the island are suffering through skips in time that are ultimately life threatening. The actions the Oceanic Six took to "protect" them are actually hurting them.

How would things have been different if the Oceanic Six had decided to tell the truth about their escape and those left behind? One thread in the entire series has been the strength of community. We’ve watched these folks act together and sacrificially both in overcoming adversity as well in protecting each other against and defeating those who would do harm. Another thread the series’ has been exploring is the power of confession and truth, which often bring about redemption for individual characters and the healing of relationships. So, if the six survivors had stood together and told the truth, perhaps they would have been able to overcome once more—as well as save those left behind. Then again, maybe not. But either way, those lessons and truths go unheeded by all but Hurley—and everyone is suffering a rippling out of growing consequences.

This isn’t so different than the challenges and choices we make in our own lives. In all honesty, truth and self-sacrifice are not easy paths to walk. They have their costs. But the choice to walk the path of deception has its costs, too—both in our own hearts as well as in the lives of those around us. One day, we look up and find we are utterly lost and far from home.

But, as in all good stories (and life, too), we have the ability to change the path we walk. We can turn around and go the other way. We can change the way we think. We, in essence, “repent” and find our way home again. And that seems to be the direction at least some of the Oceanic Six are heading. And I, for one, am interested in finding out where—and when—they go next.

(Images: ABC) lostctgy