Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Moderns and Postmoderns on Lost

It appears, as I predicted to my wife that it would, that the Lost finale has created a dividing line between those with modern sensibilities and those with more "postmodern" sensibilities. I use the term "postmodern" here with some trepidation, because no one really knows what the term means and the connotations are myriad. The very fact that postmoderns feel the need to label themselves and the age we are in as postmodern, is in itself a very modern way of thinking and speaking. Yet, I will focus primarily on one aspect of what falls into so-called postmodern thinking: that is the suspicion of the idea that all truth can be reduced to "fact," something that happened, and can be verified and proven by science. Instead, postmoderns rebel against the idea that all truth must be conveyed by "fact" but instead see truth coming through a variety of vehicles, one of those being "Story" (I hope very soon to blog about the relationship of fact, story, truth, etc.).

The dividing line I am talking about is one of those who loved the ending of the series, and those who hated, or at least disliked it. Those who loved it usually loved it as a story, as the perfect resolution of the story that had been told about these characters we had come to know and love. Those who hated it usually did so because it didn't answer all (or really any) of the lingering mysteries and questions which arose during the show's six seasons. For a humorous and well done video about these unanswered questions go here.

I would propose that those who loved the finale for the story it so masterfully concluded did so out of a postmodern sensibility that cares less about the truth carried by "fact" (i.e., the mysteries of the island), but rather cares about "truth" carried by story. Some of the most profound mysteries and truths of the world and human nature were communicated by the story Lost created and could not have been explored more powerfully, or even at all, by fact or science. For example, these themes come out of the Lost narrative and display profound mysteries, truths, and messages: Predestination and destiny vs. Free will, Love, Community, Afterlife, Death, the power that moves and animates the world. None of these themes would be greatly affected by knowing what the numbers meant, or what is the relationship between electromagnetism and the light, or who built the three toed statue. All of these questions are fascinating, but are not integral to conveying the meaning and the truth of the Lost mythology.

I would propose that those who hated the ending of Lost, because it did not answer all of the questions and mysteries of the show, do so out of a thoroughly modern sensibility. For a Modern, only truth that is verifiable as fact and science can be considered valuable. Thus, the ending of Lost, which failed gave verifiable proof of fact for every question which arose during the series, was a supreme disappointment. Not only did the show not answer these questions, it left no means of solving these mysteries on one's own. People can continue to theorize about these questions, but no definitive, scientifically provable answer can or ever will be able to be given. That mystery is intensely frustrating to the modern and thus clarifies the difference of opinion with regard to the finale.

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