Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Unedited Thoughts on Locke & Shepherd.

Well it's taken me six seasons to do it, but here we are. I'm writing a piece about Lost. I have jumped on the philosophical bandwagon and I'm throwing in my two cents.

We've entered the final season of Lost, and we're beginning to see some answers to mysteries that have been plaguing us since the first episode. I recently started watching season one again on DVD, and I've been reminded of why this is truly great television.

In particular, I've enjoyed meeting Jack Shepherd and John Locke for the first time. Both men arrive on the island, like every other character, in a place of desperation and brokenness. Locke, who has been paralyzed for four years, is feeling worthless and abandoned after being turned away from a walkabout because of his condition. Jack was on the plane with his dead father's casket, fresh out of a debilitating divorce, is going through a similar isolation.  Locke, miraculously, finds that he can walk again. Jack begins to see visions of his father.

As the show progresses, these two characters show themselves to be of seemingly opposing views. “Man of Science, Man of Faith” is the title of one episode. Jack finds himself at odds with Locke's blind faith in “the Island,” and refuses to accept the concept of fate or destiny that Locke seems to find so easy to live with.

Throughout most of the series, I found myself really rooting for Locke. His faith had a surety and confidence that is very appealing. He embraced the Mystery.  But as the series progressed, I saw John making choices based upon his blind faith that seemed questionable at best, and morally irresponsible at worst. It seemed that his faith had led him to become dangerous and unpredictable.

Meanwhile, Jack continued to hold blindly to his empirical view of the world. Only what could be explained logically made sense. Mystery and faith were not just to be tolerated, but rebelled against. Eventually, however, his faith in reason alone brings him to a point of utter brokenness, and complete failure.

It would seem that both of these characters, in their adherence to their flawed belief systems, are incomplete. Interestingly, each of these characters are named for something or someone that seems to contradict their personality.

John Locke, of course, is named after the 17th century philosopher, the father of modern empiricism. Empiricism, in its most essential qualities, asserts the belief that knowledge can only be derived from what is perceived and experienced, emphasizing the importance of scientific knowledge. Hardly the qualities that the John Locke of the island seems to embrace. In fact, these qualities seem to be seen most dramatically in Locke's rival, Jack Shephard, the “man of science.”

Jack Shepherd, the spinal surgeon, seems to embody empiricism and reason. It's intriguing, then, that he is apparently named from a biblical reference. It has recently been revealed that Jack's corresponding number is 23, an obvious allusion to the famous biblical passage from the book of Psalms. It is the passage that begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” If this was not enough, it has been revealed that, in at least one reality (!), he has a son named David. David, the psalmist and shepherd.

It would seem that, for most of the other characters on the show, they are carefully named for philosophers or people that give us clues into who they are as a person. Why, then, are these two particular characters, given such ironic names?

Because everything that rises must converge.

In one of the first episodes of season one, we see these two characters in their first true conversation. They are not at odds. They are not enemies. They are at peace. This is how they have always been meant to exist. Pope John Paul II often asserted in his writings that faith and reason are not at odds with each other, but rather, when functioning properly, compliment one another.

Locke, in faith divorced from reason, becomes dangerous and even murderous. Jack, relying on reason alone, becomes pathetic and self-destructive. These two characters, like the philosophies they embody, desperately need one another, and neither one will find peace without the other.

I don't want to make any big predictions, and without spoiling too much for the uninitiated, I can't say too much more about some of the more recent dramatic changes in Locke's character, but I believe that we will need to see these two characters acknowledge their need for one another. Faith and reason must converge. The psalmist and the surgeon must coexist.


Beth said...

Nice. Where are the pictures from?
Um, I know they're "unedited thoughts", but I believe that Jack's surname is spelled "Shephard". (I just wanted to try and be as impressively Lost-knowledgeable as you.)

Your Friend Aaron said...

They are from a new "Gospel According To" book by Chris Seay on Lost. Oddly enough, I had originally written it as "Shephard", but it looked funny so I changed it. I guess I edited.