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Follow the Leader: Where we seek purpose

Jack and Kate have been captured and are sitting in Eloise’s tent, where Kate asks Jack about a comment he made earlier about Daniel Faraday’s idea to blow up the island in order to prevent Flight 815 from crashing (and Charlotte from dying) in the future.

Kate: You know, before we were caught you said that we needed to put things back the way they were supposed to be.

She pauses.

Kate: What did you mean by that?

Jack: If we can do what Faraday said, our plane never crashes. Flight 815 lands in Los Angeles, and everyone that we’ve lost since we’ve got here—

Jack sighs and smiles.

Jack: —they’d all be alive.

Kate: And what about us? We just go on living our life because we’ve never met?

Jack: All the misery that we’ve been through, it would just wipe it clean. Never happenend.

Kate leans forward, looking at Jack intently.

Kate: But it was not all misery.

Jack stares at her, and sighs.

Jack: Enough of it was.

Kate looks back at him, tears in her eyes.

After watching last week's episode of Lost, I started to wonder what would happen if the Losties changed time and prevented their plane from crashing, so I was delighted to find this subject a main one in this week's episode, “Follow the Leader.” I was particularly struck by the stark difference between how Jack and Kate approached the possibility—and what that reveals about where we humans seek meaning and purpose and how closely that is tied to where we seek redemption.

“Follow the Leader” opens with the scene of Daniel Farraday’s death, this time from Kate and Jack’s perspective. Jack latches onto Farraday’s plan to blow up the island with a hydrogen bomb while Kate is reticent—their conversation above getting at the main differences between them.

Jack—who found himself thrust into leadership in the aftermath of their plane’s crash on the island—feels a huge weight of responsibility for his fellow Losties and carries the burden of those who died. He also feels the weight of his choice to leave the island and the suffering that brought as well. He wants to fix and even prevent it all. For Jack, their whole journey has been dominated by misery—especially, I would venture, the misery of his own failures.

But as Jack continued to talk about destiny and purpose, I started to grow uncomfortable because Jack began to remind me of that bent in we humans to thrash about for a purpose or plan that will bring meaning or redemption—and how all too often we latch onto the wrong one. Jack’ logic—that he’ll prevent the deaths of those on the Flight 815 by killing everyone on the island now—is flawed, and Kate nails this several times during the episode when she draws his attention to that fact. The other flaw is that Jack's longing to erase all his misery and put things back and the plan itself has become more important than the people around him. His vision is so narrowly focused and his intent so concentrated that his heart is hardened towards the young 12-year-old Ben Linus, whom he refused to operate on after Sayid shot him. While we all long for redemption and meaning, it seems Jack is making the mistake of manufacturing his own at the expense of those around him.

Kate, however, sees things differently. In all the pain and misery (even that caused by her own hand), Kate has discovered the beauty and goodness and joy in the journey, including the relationship she and Jack formed, which changed each of them for the better. But I particularly noticed this in the relationship Kate had with Aaron, the infant she brought off the island with her and loved and cared for as her own. Even in the deep pain of giving up Aaron (when she revealed him and gave him to the care of his maternal grandmother), she seems to have been transformed by what it is to love and be loved. She sacrificed her own interests and needs for the best of that child. But Kate’s care for others goes beyond those for whom she feels deep affection. For Kate, it’s beginning to appear she believes deeply that the life of another—even her enemy—is sacred. Later, when she and Jack meet up with Sayid and Kate informs him that she and Sawyer had taken the young Linus to the Hostiles who saved him, Sayid asks Kate why she did that. She looks at him irritated, “Why did I do that? Since when did shooting kids and blowing up hydrogen bombs become okay?” In Kate’s own journey admittedly full of stumbles, she’s finding strength, meaning and redemption in sacrificing for and loving others.

And all this invites us to examine ourselves. How do we approach life? What do we see as our purpose and where do we find redemption? Is it dominated by our own failures and the misery we see around us? Or do we see light in the darkness and find love in the suffering? Are we so focused on our plans and “purpose” for life that we lose sight of the sacredness of life? In our fight to bring right-ness and just-ness to the world, do our tactics mirror those of darkness or do we walk in and bring light? Are we learning to understand that loving others is a foundational purpose of this journey we’re on? Can we rest in the truth that purpose is found in loving God and loving others—that his love and life are the truest and most abundant redemption from the darkness both within us and the world around us? Or are we taking our own redemption and that of the world into our own hands?

Both Jack and Kate exist in me. As I walk with God, I’m growing more aware of my instinct to allow my own failures to grow into my own desperate plans for redemption and my agendas to reduce people to objects. I’m becoming more aware of when I lose sight of the sacredness of life and its Creator. But I’m also discovering the light and the love amidst the suffering. As I stumble along, I am learning to accept and live in the truth that the meaning and purpose of life is found in loving God and others. Like Kate, I am finding redemption and transformation in this journey.

Kate is still deeply flawed and has a lot to learn, and I’ve not lost faith that Jack will find redemption at some point in this journey we call Lost. But I really appreciate how the writers explore this journey—and the God-talk it brings into open spaces.

(Images: FOX via Youtube, where you can watch the above scene) lostctgy