I live on a very peculiar island, and though I’ve been here for a long while now, I know almost nothing about it. I don’t know the reason I am here, nor do I know if there’s even a reason to be known. One day I opened my eyes, and here I was—knowing nothing and knowing no one, ignorant of all that had come before.
And I learned that this island was a place of strange science: I found out that I was spinning through space at thousands of miles per hour; my island hurls itself around a giant ball of light about a quarter of a million miles every day. And I learned that this island was a place of strange faith: ab aeterno, since time immemorial, men and women had put their trust in a man they couldn’t see or hear, believing he had brought them here for a purpose. The faithful built temples and statues in his honor, they killed for him and they died for him. The scientists didn’t believe he existed at all, declaring instead that they were only here as a result of a chain of meaningless circumstances—of accidents. Everyone who has ever been here has had the same questions: what is this place, and why am I here? People have tried to answer it in different ways; some have conducted experiments and dug into the earth in search of the truth, while some have put their faith in the belief that a higher power has rendered them special and purposeful. No one has ever come close to knowing, and many, many times we have gone to war to control this place. Knives, then guns, then bombs, in holy war.
And a man named John Locke told us that we were born tabula rasa, our mind a blank slate. He told us that nature demanded egalitarianism. A man named Carlyle said that “everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.” A man named De Groot debated fate and free will; when he died, his last words were this: “by understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing.” A man named Hume debated the same things, and determined that “a false sensation or seeming experience” could explain what we believe to be choices—only later do we realize that our choices were necessary all along. His rival, Rousseau, believed that man was a noble savage; before he went insane, he wrote of self-preservation that “patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” Some believed that a Good Shepherd laid down his life to save us, and that a Christian would rise again after death.
LOST was beautiful because it was about an island exactly like mine. Everyone dies, and one day I’ll die, like you, not knowing what this has all meant. We can ask the question (and Charlie put it best: “guys, where are we?”) all we want, but our existence is special because the earth is incomprehensible and magical, and no amount of faith and no amount of science will ever truly enlighten us. If you thought LOST was weird, well, it’s certainly no weirder than life. You think a sentient cloud of electric smoke is over the top? I think the fact that a screen in my apartment is currently showing me a live baseball game being played in Florida is, in a vacuum, no less incredible. Science fiction is relative: if you had never heard of the internet, or giraffes, or rainbows, you’d think those were science fiction too. Of course LOST was strange in its details, but those characters’ fears and moments of wonder were in many ways just like our own.
I love the way LOST ended. It resolved all questions the way they are resolved in our own lives. Dead is dead. Whatever happened, happened. Some things are irreversible, and you can’t fix the past. My favorite moment of the entire series came at the end, in the space between life and death, when Ben and Hugo told each other what a great job the other did as #1 and #2. Like Jacob and Richard, they must have protected the island for wonderful centuries together—and we never got to see it. And we never got to see it because we’re Jack. And the question we always wondered—the question we always will wonder—remained. What is this place, and why were we here? And they answered that too, in the most beautiful way imaginable: you don’t get to find out.
You don’t get to find out. There is fear, and death is a monster, and life is a monster, and there will always be others out there in the woods. But there is love, and we have friends, and as long as we are here we can believe whatever we like and make our choices and find the things that we can. But hail mystery! Some things can’t be found, because the most important things are lost. What is life? The reason we’re here? The thing we fight over, the thing we protect? What is death, and what happens after The End? You don’t get to find out.
So you can let go now, Jack."