'Lost': Another look at the sideways world
It's the following day, and I woke up thinking, "I'll never recap another episode of 'Lost' again." I knew that going into last night, but it didn't actually hit me as I was writing it, nor after I posted it, nor as I went to bed. But this morning, it hit me hard, and I felt a little bit like Jack watching Ajira 316 fly overhead as Vincent laid down beside him. Aaaaand I need another tissue. Be right back.
OK, back again. That was a little embarrassing. I will say that writing that recap was actually one of the easiest things I've ever done here on the site. That's not me trying to brag here, it's just that when I say down, I knew exactly what I would write, and just wrote that. I saw everything wrong with it, and basically didn't care, because what they got right they got SO right that I myself let go of the things that I had been holding onto going into the finae. I don't think two and a half hours of emotional television wipes away the plotholes, inconsistencies, and lingering questions that remain as the show ends. But I do think those two and a half hours put those latter three things into proper perspective.
Over the course of the final season, I've posted weekly "Course Corrections," in which I tried to explain/reconsider/augment elements of my recap upon further reflection. I didn't do one last week, and I'm not going to do one this week. As we have come to the end (and really, "What They Died For" was Part 1 of a 3.5 hour finale), there's less that needs dissection and a lot more that needs reflection. Considering that I reacted to the emotional impact of the finale versus its plot machinations, it's fair to say I missed most of everything in my recap. But personally, I've moved on from talking about "theories" and entered the arena of "interpretations."
If there's one thing from my recap I would like to flesh out, it's my thought that Hurley created that Sideways World as a gift to his friends. If people picked up on anything in my recap and called foul, it was this interpretation. Which is what it is: A interpretation, not THE answer. Part of the reason I don't want to do "Course Corrections" so late in the game is that it engenders arguments for arguments' sake. And those arguments are what's going to sustain "Lost"-Cons for the next thirty years, but aren't entirely what I am looking to spark in the final days of this blog.
That being said, let me try and flesh out what I meant. This isn't meant to be THE definitive version of what went down, because the beauty of the finale lies in its open interpretation. Just as the church in the sideways world features iconography from many of the world's major religions, one can approach the last sequence of the show from a multitude of perspectives. I fashion myself a spiritual, if not overtly religious, person, but what I saw wasn't the power of faith in a higher being, but in fellow human beings. And no one caused more happiness for his fellow human being than Hugo.
"But," cried the masses, "Christian Shephard told Jack explicitly that they all collectively created that place to find each other!" True, but I think Hurley was the catalyst that turned desire into opportunity. He created something that Immanuel Kant called "The Kingdom of Ends," a place created by rational people that make decisions based on "universality." "Universality" stems from something called the "categorical imperative," formulated as such: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
What the Lostaways did, and perhaps by extension we all do in our everyday lives, is create conditions for a potential, and singular, Kingdom of Ends for ourselves. This Kingdom need not be in this lifetime, although it could be under the proper conditions. But since those conditions are just about impossible to create in the real world, these Lostaways subconsciously created the potentiality without realizing it, in their time together on the Island, through their friendship with each other and the unspoken desire that things could have happened under better circumstances. What they didn't realize, and I think Hurley later did, was that those terrible times on Craphole Island were in fact the perfect circumstances for them to start, but not end, their journey.
So let's go back to the lines that, to me, spoke of Hurley's role in crystallizing the unconscious desire of the Lostaways in what we've called the sideways world. After they think Jack has died in the cave, Hurley and Ben have this exchange.
Ben: He did his job, Hugo.Hurley then takes the unbearable burden of Island Protector and, rather than hoarding it, immediately redistributes it. He gives part of the responsibility directly over to Ben, in the same way that he redistributed food on the Island or his lottery winnings off of it. Rather than getting Desmond home as his first act of taking care of people, he gives Ben a measure of respect and honest and involvement that was lacking throughout his entire life. Hurley's categorical imperative was not to keep Ben isolated for his past but embrace him for what lay ahead. It's a fantastic payoff of one of my favorite "Lost" scenes of all time: the two of them sharing a candy bar outside of the cabin. Everyone loves Hurley. Even Ben.
Hurley: It's my job now. What the hell am I supposed to do?
Ben: I think you do what do you best. Take care of people. You can start by helping Desmond get home.
Hurley: How? People can't leave the Island.
Ben: That's how Jacob ran things. Maybe there's another way. A better way.
The word "home" above strikes me as particularly important, since that describes as well as anything where everyone in the church goes once consumed by the white light. Whether or not these people (and by extension, anyone) can go to that final destination without the middle ground of a sideways world is irrelevant to me. The fact that it exists is a gorgeous thing, a place for these people to have closure in a way that they could not have had otherwise. Some of you might hate the mundane explanation for "It worked" as talking about a vending machine as opposed to an entire timeline. But it's those seemingly mundane moments that make up the best parts of a life. I met my wife at a house party in Manhattan in 2003. Party wasn't that great. Doesn't matter. That's where I met my wife, while trying in vain to open a bottle of wine. That corkscrew didn't work. But we worked, and we worked starting from that benign moment.
As far as Hurley being unaware for so long in his own creation: honestly, this doesn't bother me in terms of my interpretation. If the sideways world was about giving people a chance to reconnect with themselves and each other in a way that needed to feel earned to matter, then I like the idea of Hurley giving himself that journey as well. If they all arrived in that space inside the church hugging each other...well, we'd cry BS, wouldn't we? Not only would there be no context for that scene, but it wouldn't have been earned, and it wouldn't have been in keeping with the themes of the show that life is hard but good deeds (those categorical imperatives) pay off in the end. If letting go was easy, it wouldn't be meaningful.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this over the coming days, but I am anxious to hear more of your thoughts on the ultimate meaning of the sideways world. So leave them below!
Photo credit: ABC