The Paradox of LOST

Like many of you, I sleeplessly rolled the bed dreaming about LOST.

10:30 pm was eerie at my house. As the bass note echoed throughout the house and the LOST graphic swirled to meet us one last time, everyone got up and silently and numbly left. No conversation. No reaction – either positive or negative. One of my daughters tweeted later “she was still lost.”

As I read the Twitter reactions, it seems a mixed bag. One tweet: “I’m so glad I bailed on LOST back in season 3! Writing yourself into a corner without an escape plan is just not a good idea.”

I totally disagree.

To me, it was the best television season finale of my life. I vividly remember myriad series finales tinged with bitter disappointment.

I found the LOST finale brilliantly satisfying yet filled with paradox. And I’m totally okay with that. Here’s why…

First, every one of my predictions came true. I’m quite happy – and possibly a little smug – about that. Especially the first one.

“I think all the characters left alive will return to the real world realizing life leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. They will have a new understanding of what it means to live in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.”

Once you clarify the meaning of life and death, you will be able to trust them both. People that can’t distinguish between life and death are doomed to live on the island – forever.

Every human situation is a mixture of both life and death. A happy sadness. A delicious agony. And the big truths are usually complicated. The producers had enough guts to write themselves into a corner. Great writers (and great dreamers) do it every day.

We are a paradox of darkness and light, life and death, insecurity and security, weak and strong, coward and hero. Every action we perform has some quality of life to it, and yet a foreshadowing of death.

When we realize and accept there is nothing perfect in the world, as Jack did, we find peace in the world. It was a beautiful thing to watch Vincent the dog, sensing peace and contentment, come and lay beside Jack after his heroic deed.

It takes a heroic act of courage and extraordinary humility to accept a paradoxical world. Suffering breeds these qualities. Whether we like it or not. Deep suffering results in deeper joy – if you “choose” to let it. Let the words of Jacob reverberate “it’s your choice”.

After fifty years of life’s ups and downs, I am beginning to understand the paradox. I’m not saying I like it – just that I better understand it.

So for this older and grizzled me – the polar bears, number sequence, Ben’s schizophrenia, time travel, and myriad other unanswered questions are inconsequential. Fun, imaginative and entertaining, yes – but inconsequential.

What is consequential are the human universals.

We do live in a “sideways” world. A place that is imperfectly perfect. The paradox of life and LOST gives me hope. I have not suffered – whether self-inflicted or not – for nothing.

“I want to live realizing life leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. I want to have a new understanding of what it means to live in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.”

And that, my friends, is a paradox I choose to get LOST with.

What do you think?

65 Responses to “The Paradox of LOST”

  1. I completely agree. It was the perfect finale and I was satisfied with it before the first hour mark hit. I’ll be posting my own reaction, both to the show and to the naysayers, later today. LOST was a remarkable work of storytelling at its finest and will go down in history.

  2. Actually, as a multi-published novelist, I felt cheated by the LOST finale. The show has been a wonderful sci-fi/fantasy with great plot twists. I felt the writers/producers chose a watered-down, weak ending. I wanted it to fit the previous shows better and have a big finish. Instead, we got a wishy-washy, new age, feel-good ending.

    As with novel writing, the show should deliver what the previous segments promised. I felt they fell far short.
    .-= Lena Nelson Dooley´s last blog ..A TAILOR-MADE BRIDE – Karen Witemeyer – Free Book =-.

    • @Lena Nelson Dooley, Thanks, Lena. I suppose I wonder what you mean by “new age”. So many people, these days, use that phrase.

      Each of us view art with subjective eyes and that is how it should be.

      For me, it was brilliant – for you, it fell short.

      The beauty of art.

  3. Brad Illian May 24, 2010 at 10:04

    Maybe I’m just too black and white, but I didn’t like the way it ended. I’m so confused. I don’t know when they died or what the whole alternate reality was about. I like answers and I don’t feel like I really got any. But I do appreciate what you’re saying about living with questions, etc. I tend to focus too much on the goal and miss the journey, the process. So maybe this is good for me! But I don’t like the way I feel when I think about the LOST finale. I was enjoying it so much but the end came and I just didn’t have answers…so confused! Help me understand, Randy! :)

    • @Brad Illian, Brad, remember, I said, “I’m not saying I like it”–I just understand it a little more.

      You are certainly on to something when you say “I tend to focus too much on the goal and miss the journey, the process. So maybe this is good for me! ”

      That is so true of my Westernized goal-obsessed self. I so often miss the beauty of the journey. And unfortunately, one of the few things that slows us down is suffering.

      I’m personally tired of everything having an explainable “religious” feel good ending. I need to continue having questions and paradox – because that is real life in this world.

    • @Brad Illian, Brad, my thoughts were they all died at different times. We were viewing it at Jack’s time. He dies much in the way as he awoke from the crash on the island. This alternate universe was kind of like a purgatory. To me I loved the symbolism of the church, being reunited with ones we love and the gate keeper to heaven being a man called “Christian Shepherd”. I loved this series because it was unpredictable and personally my mind loved so many of the smaller clues that were laid out. Like Randy I love a good paradox. I want my mind to sit and ponder the unanswered questions and I love the intelligent conversation and thought provoking twists. I think I would be unsatisfied if they answered all the questions in a clear and concise manner. I think some of our questions may have been answered but not easily seen. Others are for us to determine and imagine the end result or the reasons why.
      .-= Carol Asher´s last blog ..Did I just think that? =-.

  4. I LOVED this post Randy. Confession…I didn’t watch LOST but I still resonated deeply with every word you shared about the mystery of our lives as believers and the call to walk hand in hand with joy and sorrow. It’s only when we are not afraid to die that we are ready to really live.
    Thanks Randy!

  5. I loved the finale. I thought the writers created a beautiful symmetry with the series, provided an interesting twist on the hero motif, and allowed fans of the show’s characters to celebrate the End with them. It was both joyful and heartbreaking all at once. The sci-fi mysteries always kept me interested and guessing, but I was more invested in the characters’ lives than anything else.

    It’s interesting to think back over the Sideways story from this season and consider what kind of “life” everyone had created for themselves. They weren’t all sipping piña coladas by the pool. They still had struggles. Kate was still a fugitive, but in this world she was innocent. Sayid still couldn’t be with Nadia, but she was alive and happy. I can’t articulate what that means as well as you probably can. Fascinating stuff. I will miss this show.

  6. Randy,

    The Lost finale left me feeling complete. I must say I loved every minute of the past 6 years!

    My Sunday School teacher said it best “Lost is like golf. If you don’t get it then no explanination will suffice and if you do get it then no explanation is necessary”. I must say Randy that I believe I “get it”!

  7. Your response of figuring out how to live in a paradoxical world is spot on. And honestly I can appreciate the ending because of that.
    Being a youngin (23) even understanding what it means to live in the world let alone in between two worlds is hard enough.

    But yes, I want to get lost in all of that.

  8. I felt that it was a fitting end. I still have questions, but I don’t think that I would be as happy with it if I didn’t have questions. I’m anxious to see what is included on the blu-ray that will supposedly answer more questions. They worked the emotional strings beautifully, as I haven’t been this emotional since the finale of Boy Meets World(I’m not joking either. I was very sad). I agree that Vincent laying down by Jack in the end was one of the most memorable moments of the show. You could sense the overwhelming feeling of peace in the end.

    I caught some of Kimmel this morning and was a little disappointed. The alternate endings were funny… but I expected more. And some of the cast seemed like they didn’t even want to be there (see:Matthew Fox). The open of Kimmel was brilliant though. With the audience watching. If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Hulu.
    .-= Wes Brawner´s last blog ..Lost:The End =-.

  9. Great thoughts, Randy. Like I said on Twitter, I somehow managed to love and hate the ending at the same time. Even though I loved the spiritual themes of the show – I think that’s what drew me in to begin with – I was a little disappointed with the spiritual nature of the resolution. It was almost a “that was IT?” feeling for me.

    Even though they left it open for interpretation, you could still make a case for my “cycle of good and evil” theory I’ve been throwing out for the last 3 years or so. The plane crash at the end – is it a new plane crash? Is another cycle starting with Hurley protecting the island from an opposing force?

    I love that they left enough unanswered questions that we can hypothesize like that, but I hate that they wrapped it up with a neat little afterlife bow.

    Oh, who am I trying to kid? I’ll probably go back and watch them all again :)
    .-= Mark Lee´s last blog ..Guitars, day two: glad to see some of those red boxes fill in! =-.

    • @Mark Lee, Ha!! Thanks, Mark. But be very careful not to “mention” it at the house. Maybe Steph will relent soon.

      Thanks. I LOVE your theories. And certainly and happily the “good and evil” permeates the universal essence of the show.

      I think (I hope) I’m beginning to realize the massive importance of the human universals.

  10. Jen Jarnagin May 24, 2010 at 10:33

    I thought it was beautiful b/c of the simplicity. Evangeline Lilly said that this show was mainly about the characters, so it was fitting that the resolve be strictly about them and their realizations. The idea that they were wandering in death until they all found each other and remembered, is not a new one. It echos some other sci-fiction/fantasy works, “The Last Battle” C.S. Lewis, “Riverworld” Phillip Jose Farmer. But it had LOST’s unique spin. I loved that they were not in a tormented Purgatory. They each were finding redemption in their stories with each other. Like Jack’s dad said, the most important things they did in their life, they did with each other so it was fitting that they all wait for each other. I loved Hurley being the ultimate protector b/c he takes care of people and giving Ben grace by asking him to help him lead, then inviting him to join them. Ultimate redemption for such a great character.
    I’m still wondering about a few things, but am at peace with it all.

    • @Jen Jarnagin, Thanks, Jen. Very, very insightful comments. Hurley was indeed a tremendous, life-giving character. Beautifully and sensitively played. Many times last night, I forgot I was watching television. So emotional.

  11. Joshua Phillips May 24, 2010 at 10:47


    I totally loved it and felt satisfied at the end. I personally thought the writing and the way they ended it was brilliant. Not knowing till the last 15 minutes of the show that the sideways world was actually a pergatory type existance, it left me in the tension of the two worlds till the end. And I love that it left you both with a sense that the stories were finished and at the same time not finished. Finished in their redemption/completion in the sideways world where they could “move on.” Not finished in the since that there was life that went on after Jack died on the island. Our family (4 kids, 3 of which are teens) spent a while debriefing it. It was great to think about the group on the plane that hopefully made it back to safety and had a life after the island. Thinking about Hurley and Ben running the island with their new, better “rules.” Maybe they lived for hundreds of years! Did Desmond survive and make it off the island? Rose and Bernard likely lived out their days on the island.

    So how brilliant is it that it gives you an ultimate completion but left much to the imagination! The key scene was the conversation at the end between Jack and Christian. If you’re still confused, I would suggest you rewatch that conversation a couple of times and perhaps the end will make more sense. Randy, like you, I tossed and turned all night digesting the show and agree it was the best series finale ever!

  12. I loved the series final, but I didn’t love the ending. If felt almost like the sixth sense, but it wasn’t as big of a shock. Almost every year of lost the season finale is the best episdode. It always hooked me in and made my jaw drop. I still loved the show but the ending wasn’t as great as some years past.

  13. Great point, Jen. I too noticed parallels with “The Last Battle”. And wasn’t it cool that they brought the Narnia reference full circle? Earlier in the series they used the “Lamp Post” to go back to the island. And it happened to be in that same building…
    .-= Mark Lee´s last blog ..Guitars, day two: glad to see some of those red boxes fill in! =-.

  14. I completely loved the ending, Randy. I cried like a big baby. :) I pretty much cried throughout the show especially as the couples reunited. I think that what drew me to the show was story…the story of these character’s lives. They were flawed but redeemable and for me the ending satisfied my desire to know the end of their story. Though not every question I’ve ever had was answered, I felt it was exactly what I was looking for even though I didn’t realize it.
    .-= Elaina´s last blog ..Even if… =-.

    • @Elaina, I also felt tears coming up throughout the show. Emotional and satisfying! Thanks, Elaina

      • @Randy Elrod,

        Not sure if you ever read any of the LOST recaps out there. But I really enjoy Doc Jensen’s from Entertainment Weekly. I tend to agree with his take on what was going on in the church and what happened on the island. I’m still trying to think through all of my feelings and thoughts on this so I don’t want to go on and on here but I think Doc hits on the wave tops of my basic feeling (though I differ on some things).

        The other thing I’ve thought more and more about throughout today is that this show has sincerely had a profound impact on me as a writer of fiction. I’ve learned a lot from the writers beyond just being invested in the characters and their lives.

        Anyway, here’s the link to Jensen’s recap:,,20313460_20387946,00.html
        .-= Elaina´s last blog ..Even if… =-.

  15. I enjoyed reading your post, it definitely gives me some additional perspective.
    I admit I am still trying to piece my thoughts together on the entire life of LOST.

    You said you think the characters go on living in the real world. This is one of my biggest areas I am still uncertain about. At the end, I kind of saw it that everyone had died and in the alternate world they were “ghost” like beings waiting to be reunited with each other before they left to go to Heaven (or wherever they were going with the light at the end). Jack’s dad said that he had in fact died and essentially said that everyone in the room waiting for Jack had either died before him or after him. In addition to those comments, Daniel Whitmore’s mother asked Desmond if he was going to take Daniel from her. On top of things, Ben, chose not to “leave” with the others because he said he had some other things to take care of, which I assume was to reconcile things with his daughter.

    On the other hand, I guess Jack’s dad could have been referring to a death to their old selves or a death to the fear of dying, etc. Which would fit into the meaning as well. Anyway, I guess I’ll have to watch it again :)
    .-= Nick´s last blog ..Does Your Guilt Cause You To Accuse? =-.

    • @Nick, Wow! nick. Great observations. Gives me food for thought. I totally took it as death to selves and the ability to live their lives from now on. For instance, the symbolism of little Aaron. Thanks!

      I will definitely watch it again!

      • @Randy Elrod,

        There was one more thing I forgot to mention (Your mention of Aaron reminded me). Locke told Jack in the Hospital that he did NOT have a son. Something that was true before the island and was only shown in the new paradox world after Juliet detonated the nuclear bomb. If they are alive, the meaning behind what Locke was talking about would definitely have to be decoded for me, because it adds more questions to the story.

  16. The Polar Bears were explained. They were simply used as Dharma Initiative experiments. That’s why there were bear cages (Kate and Sawyer locked up) and that’s also why they found the polar bear skeleton in the Tunisian desert. They used them to turn the “donkey wheel” that hops the island, which shoots them out at the exit: Tunisia.

  17. @jmscrimpshire May 24, 2010 at 13:55

    You are tired of “religious” endings, yet the LOST finale decided to go beyond one religion and encompass all religions in the most grand statement of the whole show by having Jack and Christian have their conversation in front of a “multi-faith” stain glass window along with the many religious relics in the room.As I am sure you are aware, drama speaks loudly through its props and surroundings. They decided to make a gigantic “religious” statement with the finale. If they wanted to not be religious then don’t be pretend tolerant because that’s where truth dies…

    • @@jmscrimpshire, Ah. I think I understand your point. Not sure. But I certainly know that you took my words out of context.

      I loved all the symbolism. Thought it was grand.

      What I actually said: “That is so true of my Westernized goal-obsessed self. I so often miss the beauty of the journey. And unfortunately, one of the few things that slows us down is suffering.

      I’m personally tired of everything having an explainable “religious” feel good ending. I need to continue having questions and paradox – because that is real life in this world.”

      Hope that helps.

      Please combine those statements with the context of the post.

  18. @jmscrimpshire May 24, 2010 at 14:14

    I see what your are saying and I agree. “God speaks to us loudly through the events of our lives” Fredrick Buechner said and I agree. I believe that is the journey, but I’m just saying they could have left out the religious broad brush.

  19. This really was a paradox. Rewatching the finale with the understanding that every sideways character’s “awakening” is their realization that they are dead is heartbreaking. It’s also joyful because they have the realization that they are together even in death.

  20. Wow! You all survived the finale. You found your way to real life. You’re not Lost. Hahaha. I’m just teasing. Bad girl, I know.

    No, serious now. I like your post. Was it realy like you write it here? Than if we would have watched it together and I had questions about it would you explained me like you wrote it here? Than I probably would have watched it. Although I’m doubting because I don’t like series and I think I’m too simple for these kind of films.
    Still, I like what you wrote. If I understand your post correctly, we can’t appreciate life if there is no death, struggle, pain. I totally agree on that. I leave it to this. It’s getting late on this side of the world. It’s 20 past 10, to bed and up early in the morning, to the gym. Bye bye. Good day, evening, night.

  21. Just a thought, has anyone thought about the symbolism of Jacks actions in the final fight and the last part of the show in comparison to Christ on the cross. Think about it.

    Stabbed in the side

    Sacrificed himself so that his friends could leave the island and have “salvation”

    Not saying that he was the messiah or anything…..

    Just a thought…
    .-= Wes Brawner´s last blog ..Lost:The End =-.

  22. LOST Fantasy Island on steroids, after they left the island Mr Roarke turn to Tattoo said OMG who were those people as Tattoo said good bye to”The Plane”. Where was Steve McGarrett and Danno all this time.
    Just having fun Great Post. Many people are having quetions this is a great start.

  23. Why does no one see that the Lost ending was really the triumph of Evil over Good?!

  24. So thought I was the only one who saw that. Makes me want to go back and watch all 6 seasons again just to look for all the hidden symbols and references.
    .-= Carol Asher´s last blog ..Did I just think that? =-.

  25. When I first watched the finale, I was disappointed in the ending….just the last 10 minutes or so. I have since gone back and watched it again…and this time I “get it” better. I am also one who doesn’t understand about your “return to the real world” prediction in that we never see them back in the “real world.” The Flash sideways appears to be a self-created (“This is the place you created so you could find each other”) purgatory…not the “real world.” They are all dead, though we know some lived longer than others (Hurley and Ben apparently spent some time on the island as a protector and helper).

    I will also disagree with the overriding sentiment that it was “all about the characters, not the questions.” I was drawn in each week because of the characters’ struggles with an unknown force that was the island. Yes, I was curious to see which guy Kate wanted, but I was way more concerned over what the island was doing to them and what it was. This probably speaks more to my personality than I would like to admit… :)

    Good, though-provoking post Randy!

  26. I’m with Nick on this. The sideways world is a purgatory of sorts for their souls to live out their lives again, to learn from their real lives and wait for one another so they could move on to a peaceful heaven together.

    You’ll notice that in this purgatory, many are trying to live out what they really desired in their lives… Desmond works for Widmore, because in life Desmond desired respect from him more than anything (the reason he took the boat to the island). Jack’s desire was to have a good relationship with his own father, so he creates that relationship between him and a son. Claire finds a stable family and is able to raise her child. Sawyer still tries to bring the real Sawyer to justice, but does so in a respectable way. The list goes on.

    When they reach that peace, they are able to come together. Ben isn’t fully at peace from his deeds yet, so he stays behind. Ana Lucia doesn’t join them because she has yet to learn her lessons.

    I thought it was brilliant.
    .-= gitz´s last blog ..Plan B =-.

    • @gitz, Awesome. It was brilliant!! I just feel they are alive. No purgatory. But that’s just my slant!! Thanks, gitz for joining the conversation!!

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