LOST- Answering Questions that Were Left Unanswered When It Ended

LOST lives on!

The writers of LOST are getting exactly what the want- for their fans to continue discussion about what really happened in the finale and to give each other reasonable explanations for all the show’s mysteries.  Here’s my attempt at answering a bundle of popular questions.

“So did everyone who crashed on the plane died in 2004, and that’s why they were all in purgatory (“the holy lobby”) together at the same time?”  No.  Each character died at whatever point they died in real life.  Charlie drowned in 2004.  Jack was stabbed to death in 2007.  At some point later, as the island’s protectors, Hurley and Ben eventually died- whether they were murdered or died of old age, in who knows what year. 

Everybody at some point died, (like we all eventually will) but not because of the plane crash in the first episode.  Because the afterlife is not restricted by time, they all met up at the same time in purgatory (the waiting time before they go to Heaven) before entering Heaven together.  So all people arrive in the afterlife at the same time, essentially, since time doesn’t exist in the afterlife.  For more explanations of the finale, read this: LOST Recap: Finale- “The End”.

“Did Ben not go to Heaven?”  He did go to Heaven.  Eventually, maybe even ten minutes after everyone else.  But he wasn’t ready to enter when the rest of them were.  He didn’t feel worthy because of all the bad things he did in his life- he had trouble accepting the fact he was worthy.  But ultimately he redeemed himself by protecting the island post 2007 when he became the #2 to Hurley.

“How was Jacob able to leave the Island?”  Jacob was never really confined by the limitations of the past. 

“What did it mean to be “special”?”  This is referring to seasons 1 and 2, regarding the children.  They were special because they were children.  Since it was impossible for babies to be born after the bomb exploded in 1977, the Others (Ben, Juliet, etc.) wanted to raise them as their own, hoping they would eventually forget the ways of the world they were born into.

 “Why did Ben and Widmore hate each other and want to kill each other’s daughters?”  They got in each other’s way since they were both strong-willed men who were very focused on what they wanted out of the island.  Ben wanted to please Jacob.  Widmore wanted to make money of the island’s electromagnetic properties.  So when Widmore indirectly killed Alex, Ben wanted revenge by killing Penny.

“What was the Smoke Monster, and why no name?”  The Smoke Monster was a manifesto of the evil that was held inside the island by that plug.  I’ve heard that in the season six DVD’s, we will learn that the Man in Black’s name was Samuel.  But ultimately, the fact that he didn’t have a name just made us more intrigued by the mystery of it all. 

“Who was on the island before “Mother” and the twins?”  Other random people just like them.  They weren’t important since they were before Jacob and The Man in Black and had not contact with Jack Shephard, whose human life the show was based around.

“Is it really an island or a “cork” to guard the door between Heaven and hell?”  Not between Heaven and hell.  But between hell and Earth.

“What was the deal with the numbers? Just Hurley’s curse or did they have some importance overall?”  It was just Hurley’s curse- just a very interesting part of his life.  Some people’s lives are filled with peculiar coincidences.  Even the flight gates were these numbers, Jacob couldn’t have planned all the number coincidences.

“Was Jacob’s cabin built to contain the Smoke Monster? The ring of ash around it?”  Absolutely.  It was an attempted trap to contain him.  The holy ashes prevented him from crossing- we’ll never know why.

“Why did people “see” Walt after he left the Island?”  The Smoke Monster scanned the memories of people and would use those images as library of people to appear as.

“Where did Michael the Russian come from? And how did he know Korean? “  He seemed to have military experience, which would explain his ability to speak multiple languages, especially because of Russia’s proximity to Korea.  The Others hired him at some point based on his useful credentials.

“Who was Henry Gale that parachuted onto the Island?”  A random, unlucky guy who for some reason ended up there like the rest of them.

“In Jacob’s cabin, who said “Help Me” to Locke? And Ben couldn’t hear it.”  That was Jacob trying to recruit Locke as a candidate, but Jacob didn’t want to recruit Ben.

“Who was Dharma and were they important? Were their experiments important? ” They were a group of scientist who came to the island to explore the capabilities of the island and its mysterious electromagnetism, which obviously healed people of cancer and caused the crippled to walk.

 “Who built the 4-toed statue?”  An ancient people group a long time ago, possibly the first to inhabit the island- one of which may have become the very first protector of the island.  Maybe centuries before Jacob was born circa 10 A.D.

“Libby used to be crazy and was in the institution with Hurley. Then she was fine and sold Desmond her boat?”  She was unstable- she was absolutely crazy at times, then at others, seemed perfectly normal.  The craziness was taking over her normal life.

Got more LOST questions?  I’m ready to tackle them.  Just leave them in the form of a comment.  Thanks.

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Adventures in Thailand: Monk Footprints and Bed Bugs

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.  The Thai version.

After recently revisiting some memories from the summer of 2004 in Thailand, I must have tapped in to some sort of parallel between my life now and my life at age 24, because there is some therapeutic and natural about replaying those stories out loud (or by typing them out and reading them).

It all started a few days ago when my friend and former  college roommate Josh Taylor sent me a text message asking what the best phone number to reach me was.  A few texts later, I was jogging his memory (and mine) with a reference to “monk footprints”…

During our week long vacation from teaching at Bangkok’s Global English School (all schools had a mandatory closing for a week due to the International AIDS Conference being held in Bangkok that year), Josh and I decided to take an excursion to Chiang Mai and Koh Samui by overnight train, motorcycle, and plain.

In our overnight train ride to Chiang Mai (Thailand’s 2nd largest city) up in the North, our seats converted into beds for the night.  Right across isle from us on the train was a middle-aged Buddhist monk, dressed in his drab orange robe, marked with animal tattoos all over his head (to fend off evil spirits).   Despite the loud bangs and rumbles off the tracks throughout the 12 hour ride, the monk’s constant religious chants were a bit distracting (and kinda creepy).

But when in Thailand, you learn just to go with it.

As nighttime approached, the train attendants came through the isles to transform our seats into beds.  The monk headed to the restroom.  When he returned, he used Josh’s bunk bed (which was on the bottom) as a stepping stone to get up on his top bunk.  He wore no shoes.  His bare feet, which were caked with dirt, left “monk footprints” on Josh’s white bed sheets.  Moist, mud-infused footprints.

Therefore, the phrase “monk footprints” will always be a legendary term between Josh and I.

When we arrived in Chiang Mai early the next morning, we rented “motorcycles” (a loose term in Thailand, as it basically often means a glorified moped) by paying $4 a day and handing over our American driver’s licenses as a security deposit (which does seem a bit risky; turns out, a few weeks later I spent two weeks in South Korea with my sister and my passport was stolen).  After a day of exploring (and getting a little lost) the city, getting curious about what the Chiang Dao Cave was as well as what the “live monkey shows” were all about.

Because the school in Bangkok we were teaching at is a Christian school, we were able to have it arranged that we could sleep in a church in Chiang Mai for free.  Can’t argue with a free shower and bed for a few nights.  Of course, the shower water was ice cold (which isn’t a horrible thing in a country with a climate similar to Miami).  And as for the sleeping arrangements: two plastic sleeping bags on a cold, slick cement floor on the second floor in a building with no air conditioning and a garage door as the main entrance.

The best part though, was the fact it was impossible to stay asleep for more than twenty minutes at a time.  Not because of the heat alone, but because of the tiny little biting ants from whom we evidently were invading their space.

And yet I count all of these as fond memories.  Backpacking through Thailand for me was a rite of passage.  An adventure that will always be part of me.  Maybe one day when I become a rich, successful author with a book on the New York Times Best Seller List, I can manage to find the money and time off to go back.

Until then, Thailand remains a magical, mysterious place that sometimes I think of as a dream world in a parallel universe that only exists in my mind.

A billboard we saw at a bus stop there- a Thai clothing company switched the "A" and "E" of Abercrombie to make their "own brand" of clothing.

Josh having a random Thai meal on the train before his seat was converted into his bed.

Josh having a random Thai meal on the train before his seat was converted into his bed.

Me playing a song at the Thai church we camped out at.

Adventures in Thailand: Live Monkey Show

Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey.

After our curiosity was peaked from seeing several signs for “live monkey shows” while driving motorcycles through the mountain city of Chiang Mai, Thailand (during the summer of 2004), my college roommate Josh and I decided to drive further up the mountain to put ourselves in a vulnerable situation: to venture into whatever a live monkey show was, up in an isolated village where we were indeed the only “white people”  (or “farang”, as the Thai natives called us, which simply translates “foreigner”) for possibly hundreds of miles.

The anticipation rose in my mind like the dust on the unpaved road leading the site, having just turned at a hand-painted wooden sign with a picture of a monkey putting his hand in a jar with the words “LIVE MONKEY SHOW”.  I imagined a sort of a toned-down Floridian Sea World time of venue, with possibly even a hundred people in the audience with us, as was the case with the live elephant show we saw (where the elephants played soccer and painted pictures).

We cautiously marched up to the front window.  With the ticket girl basically speaking no English whatsoever, she called out the manager to help answer the question, “How much does this cost?”  We were expecting around $5 per person, based on the elephant show price we paid earlier.  Instead, he grunts to us, “Ten dollars per person”.  While that may not seem like a lot in America, that’s more like fifty dollars in the U.S.

I began walking away, only half-way caring about seeing the show, partly out of the mindset: “What are we getting ourselves into, anyway?”  Josh stayed behind as the Thai man was eager to negotiate a better price.  It worked.  We got in for $4 per person.

We hesitantly paid our dues and asked if we were late or early for the next show.  The man’s response: “On time.  Show begin soon.”  He smiled.  We walk in.

Cement bleachers.  Enough seating for about 5o people.  And there was only one other person sitting there with us in the audience.  A Thai guy.

We looked around for signs of activity.  About twenty feet in front of us (we were setting about halfway towards the back of the venue) was the flat cement “stage” and a Thai girl standing, happy to be there, looking at us.  By the time I had the chance to say to Josh, “So we must be pretty early, huh?”, the other audience member began walking up to the stage.

The Thai girl simply said, “Welcome… to live monkey show.”  Then the Thai guy who was just moments ago a fellow audience member, was indeed the show’s leader.  He brought out a monkey.  An impressively trained monkey, who did push-ups, sit-ups, could find the hidden key in one of five cups turned upside down and rearranged, and who dove off a small diving board into a miniature pool of water to find a coin, sometimes while blind-folded.

Of course, to make sure it would become a memory we would not forget, we both had the chance to become “volunteers” to help in the act.  It’s the only time I’ve ever had a monkey in my lap.  Fortunately, he didn’t bite me.

After forty-five minutes of live monkey antics, the show was over.  We knew this when the Thai girl walked back up to the stage and said, “Thank you” and did her Thai bow to us.  Then she walked back to the ticket booth, returning to her other job.

So that’s a Thai live monkey show.  The Thai guy who runs the place serves as an audience member and ring leader, and the Thai girl is the ticket booth operator and announcer.  And a trained monkey with a metal shackle on his foot is the star of the show.  And evidently, two white guys sitting in the bleachers constitutes as a full audience.

When does the live monkey show begin?

As soon as you show up.


Adventures in Thailand: Man Cave Time Machine

What’s the difference between 1) our memories of actually events and 2) our memories of old dreams?  In theory, not a lot.

The events that have taken place in real life can actually change the course of history and can produce tangible souvenirs such as photographs which can be taken to prove them in the future, whereas the events that occur in a dream do not really have the ability to do those things (though sometimes dreams do predict the future or inspire a person to “be a better person”).

Whether it’s a remembered actual event or a remembered dream, either way, it’s in the past now and it’s just a memory.

If we could take away the two exceptions, that actual events change the course of history and can produce tangible souvenirs whereas dreams don’t, how is a six year-old memory different than a six year-old dream?

In the summer of 2004, my friend Josh and I rode “motorcycles” (they were more like mopeds) 40 miles outside of the mountain city of Chiang Mai in Thailand, in order to find an ancient cave where few tourists ever bothered to visit.  There were no signs in English once we got there.  No English-speaking guides.  All we knew it that it cost non-Thai people $4 to go into the cave and another dollar for a lantern to actually see around inside the place.

As we got to the back of the cave, our guide pointed behind him to what appeared to be a bottomless pit.  I picked up a rock on the cave floor and tossed it into the abyss and finally after about ten seconds, I faintly heard it hit the bottom.  I immediately imagined that centuries ago, prisoners were thrown down to the bottom only to be met by hungry lions.

There’s no doubt, Josh and I are some of the few American people to have visited the forsaken Chiang Dao Cave in Thailand.  Let’s assume that I don’t embed pictures of that event into this post and that nothing happened that day that changed the course of history (and it in deed, didn’t).

In theory, the events I told about in that Thai cave memory only actually happened because I said they did, a theory that I brought to life in Snail Trails.  Especially if Josh forgot about us going to that cave.  No souvenirs.  No life-changing actions.

So what if I only dreamed that event happened?  What if while I stayed in Chiang Mai I only drove by the signs for Chiang Dao Cave, but never took the time to visit it?  What if all I did was just dream that Josh and I actually went there?

How would that dream be any different than it really happening?

For another related post, here’s The Interstate to Memory Lane

my roommate Josh from Liberty University

the 2004 version of me either trapped in the actual Chiang Dao Cave or in a dream

An Untamed Lust to See the World

Visiting the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World back in 1990 must have really left an impression on me.  Because now I want to travel the world,  for real.

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, “Who’s Says” by John Mayer came on the radio, and while it’s been in my head ever since then, there’s a particular line that I keep dwelling on: “plan a trip to Japan”.

It opens up this can of worms for me, one that I try to keep out of mind and out of sight: The realization that I will never be able to travel and see the entire world, in all its beauty and mystique. 

To see the ancient and modern wonders of the world.  To meet the people who live in those countries.  To eat their food and drink their wine.  To publish a photo album on facebook from my travels to these places.

I have seen a few countries of the world: Ecuador in 1998, Trinidad and Tobago in 2002, Thailand in 2003 and 2004, Korea in 2004, and New Zealand in 2007.  But that only made me thirst for more.

Best case scenario: I would have to earn or win millions of dollars and retire early in order to be able to see all the parts of the world I want to.

Like Norway and Switzerland and Italy and Croatia.  So basically Europe. 

So since it would be disappointing to assume I’ll end up a millionaire and be able to travel the world in this lifetime, I should consider my next best option:

That when we get to Heaven, in the likeness of a glorified Epcot Center, there will be portal we can step into and instantly see any part of the world we want to. 

Even better, in any year.  Sweden 1983, here I come!

Paul Maley, whom I’ve never met and just happened to randomly find your website, I envy you and your 30 plus years of world travel…

Click below for enlightenment:

http://www.eclipsetours.com/ptravel.html

The Randomness of Easter

Back in 2004 when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, I was riding in a taxi with my friend Jessie.  We were on our way to visit a Thai museum and she was asking me about American holidays.  Describing what Easter is to a Thai native is somewhat confusing when it’s said out loud:

“Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus coming back to life after he died on a cross.  But it’s also a way to stimulate our economy because everyone buys a bunch of chocolate candy, sends gifts to each other in ‘Easter baskets’, and purchases some sort of pastel colored dress or suit and tie for the church service that Sunday.”

She asked me, “But what do Jesus and chocolate candy have to do with each other?”

The answer?  Here’s the best I can do.

The LSD tripping Easter Bunny and the general populations’ collective excitement over the candy and the traditional gift giving serve as a vehicle to force the non-religious to identify that there is some sort of significant meaning behind Easter.  They may not fully understand who Jesus is, but they at least know that a lot of other people recognize Easter as the day Jesus came back from the dead.

Americanized Easter is a vehicle that is not against Christian Easter.  It points people in the right direction.

This past Easter it occurred to me just how big of a deal that Easter is to Americans, with or without the solid understanding of what the day is actually celebrated.  My wife and I spent the weekend with my family back in Alabama.  We literally had to leave the church service because there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit.

So we left the Baptist Easter service and hung out at the Methodist church next door.  Because everyone that’s ever gone to church shows up on Easter.  It’s a major American holiday.  More major than I realized.

I kept hearing “Happy Easter” from everyone and seeing it as status updates on facebook.

Even last night Jimmy Kimmel was talking about his mom still giving him an Easter basket, though he’s now 42.  And he talked about how someone stole his friend’s seat before the church service started and all he could think about during the mass was punching the guy who stole the seat he was saving for his friend.

Funny.  And it shows that behind all the silly American traditions, that even the famous and influential Jimmy Kimmel recognizes there’s more to Easter than what’s on the surface.  In his joke he specifically stated that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus.

And I can relate to Jimmy.  I often want to punch annoying people in the face.

Party Like It’s 1999: My Ten Year Class Reunion (Fort Payne, AL)


Last week as I mentioned to people here in Nashville that my 10 Year High School Reunion was coming up on Saturday, I was surprised to hear more than a few respond with, “Well I’m not going to mine. Everybody I want to see or talk to from high school, I already do. Most of those people I didn’t like then, and so I know I won’t like ‘em now.” Not one tiny part of me can relate to that statement.

On the same token, there have been times when I have hyped up an upcoming event in my mind for weeks or months, only to find my high expectations were not met. Again, this was not at all the case.

Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the Fort Payne Class of ’99 is a special group of people. Yes, I am being bias.

If the definition of a true friend is someone you can be apart from for years and the next time you see them, you can just pick up where you left off last time, then I have more friends than I realized. Because that was the case with everyone that was there.

I saw how warmly my wife was accepted by everyone there. (It actually reminded me of when I introduced her to my family a few years ago.) How often an official introduction wasn’t even necessary. Just straight to conversation like an old friend. That sort of instant familiarity with a large group of strangers is rare.

Ten years can definitely change people in a way I hadn’t considered; by bringing them to a more similar place in life than they were in before. Kristin Bailey Gardner works in journalism, whereas I am jealous that she is. Kim Thomas Clowers married my 2nd cousin, meaning we’re related now related and see each other at family reunions. And the should-be action movie star Morten Maaegard, the foreign exchange student from Denmark our senior year, was in the same parts of Thailand as I was in 2004. (He actually flew in from Europe for our class reunion- that is impressive.)

When an event this big goes so right, I have to take a look at why. Aside from a bunch of cool 28 year-olds all truly wanting to be there, a lot of it had to do with the planning. Tabitha Thomas Greenwood found and followed a formula that was flawless. First, during the day, we met at the new city park. That was a way that those with children could bring them and have something for them to do as the adults caught up on life.

Then that night just us adults met at an old yet restored hotel and restaurant in the crafty/artsy neighboring town of Mentone. Our senior yearbook was placed on a table along with a memorial of the four we’ve lost since graduation: Grant Dobbs, Derek Hood, Brooke Craig, and Joey Kean.

It was like a big house where after dinner we could just walk around and hang out as the band played. That was the ideal casual environment that kept everyone comfortable and in good spirits.

I have heard of class reunions where people had to pay $100 just to get in. Ours was affordable, practical, fun, and perfectly planned. We could have met in the Santa Fe room at Western Sizzlin’ (or The Sizzler as it’s known in the rest of the country). But no, the Fort Payne class of ’99 does things right. We knew not to play around with something as monumental as our one and only 10 year reunion.

There definitely is a dream-like quality about seeing so many old friends again after so long. Like a blurry Vaseline-on-the-camera-lens kind of feel. And because so many truly looked the exact same as they did in high school, it was kinda like a dream where we all just appeared in the same place and the only thing that really changed was the time in between the last time we were all together.

Eleven year reunion, anyone?