When Real Life Feels More Like Purgatory

September 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm , by 

Ten months.

Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.” -Wikipedia’s definition of “purgatory”

I’ve never actually met anyone who truly believes in purgatory, yet I feel that the general population is familiar with the idea of it.

On the final episode of Lost, the people from the Island who had ultimately lived their lives for the goodwill of others instead of greed and selfishness, reunited and reminisced in purgatory before entering Heaven together.

For those who are not Lost fanatics but like the band Coldplay, in their song “42,” some of the most memorable lyrics include the refrain, “You thought you might be a ghost; you didn’t get to Heaven but you made it close.”

Most of us don’t believe in the actual place, but for me at least, there is something pretty fascinating about the concept. I think it’s so easy in this life, in this culture, in this country, to feel like we are lost, or at least that we don’t belong wherever “here” is. We want to think that we deserve to transcend this lowly and boring situation, asking the question:

“What am I supposed to learn from this? Why am I here?”

My life has been filled with stretches like that. Even right now, my wife and I are having to adjust back to the busyness of our full-time jobs in Nashville, this time with a kid; which is a completely new balancing act for us. We are having to figure out and work out our new lifestyles and schedules, making time not only for the three of us, but for the two of us, as well.

It’s a purification process that is not easy; but it is necessary. We can see how natural it can be to let your kid consume your leftover energy and thoughts, slacking on making conscious efforts to keep the marriage relationship fresh and engaging. But we don’t want our lives to end up like Everybody Loves Raymond.

Ultimately, we are being forced to mature our marriage relationship. This “forced maturity” is sort of the whole point of purgatory. You suffer until you overcome.

Not that I am constantly immature or naive, or maybe I am (?), but I am always needing to grow in a way that I never could have without entering my newest purgatory.

But really, the more I think of the literary device we know as purgatory, the more it just seems like a straight forward yet abstract way to describe life itself; the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, we are made ready for Heaven, at best.

We may figuratively compare our lives to hell at times, but really, hell is an eternal end; it’s never-ending loneliness and destruction. Purgatory is temporary.

I don’t mind viewing life as purgatory. Until I pass on in to the afterlife, I will always have much more growing up to do, more necessary suffering, and one more level of maturity to reach- even if I live to be 80.

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.

Lowercase Punishment

“Cruel and unusual punishment” is a relative term.

Today as I was driving back to work from my lunch break waiting at a red light at a major intersection consisting of 3-lane roads, there was this guy in a big pick-up truck who basically ran a red light in the midst of a lot of traffic. And I thought, “If only a cop was here to catch him…”.

Then I thought, “What if I had the power to obtain and punish him myself?…” The way I would want to punish him is by annoying him, for his crime of causing a potential wreck that could have affected a lot of people.

What if I could punish him without taking anything away from him? What if I could simply freeze his mind for one nanosecond in real-time, but in his mind, it would be for any amount of time I choose? Like I could freeze him for 20 hours in his mind, and everything he saw in that nanosecond would not move at all, like an annoying skip on a DVD? It would not affect his body or future at all. He would not miss anything.

Think of it this way: Sometimes you’ll wake up from a dream and it feels like you were dreaming for hours, even all night- but in reality, most dreams only last less than a minute. What seemed like hours was only seconds.

Now imagine having the power over someone to control their unconscious state for only a second, but during that fraction of a second, it would feel like however many hours, days, or years as you wanted. But the person’s eyes would be open so they had to look at the same thing during what felt like a long time.

The criminal would not age any faster than the rest of us. But if someone did something very bad, you could freeze their mind for a nanosecond in real time but 30 years in “dream time”. It would kinda be like purgatory, except the criminal couldn’t move around and nothing in sight would move neither. It would bore them out of their mind.  But we couldn’t let this power get into the wrong hands. Good thing I’m not a mad scientist.

For a similar post by the same author, read Capital Punishment, In Theory.

“Help us someone, let us out of here. Living here so long undisturbed, dreaming of the time we were free. So many years ago before for the time when we first heard ‘welcome to the Home by the Sea’. Sit down, sit down as we relive our lives in what we tell you.”
-Genesis/ “Home by the Sea” (1983)

“In the delusionary state, no wonder he’s been feeling strange of late. Nobody here to spoil the view, interfere with my plans…Steady, lads…and easy does it. Don’t frighten him! Here we go…”
-Paul McCartney/ “Mr. Bellamy” (2007)

“Such a mean old man…”
-The Beatles/ “Mean Mr. Mustard” (1969)

LOST Recap: Finale- “The End”

I loved it.  Absolutely.  And I believe it was the best, and really, only way, to end the show.  But it just took me 24 hours after watching to understand why.

The entire show was just about Jack Shephard.  Everything else, including the island and its ability to heal people and time travel, the Smoke Monster, the Dharma Initiative, the Others, Jack’s friends, Jack’s enemies, the light in the cave… All of it were the parts of Jack’s life that ultimately mattered to his existence.

In the likeness of the movie Vanilla Sky, when you’re dead, it’s all over- so why focus on the character’s earthly life after they die?  But the writers of LOST took that concept to a new level by acknowledging that all the mysteries, actions, heartaches, and triumphs all boil down to one thing- the people that were involved in your life.

Even Vincent the dog’s best purpose on the island was to comfort Jack as he died.

I definitely plan to write much more in the near future answering the remaining questions about LOST: Why was The Man in Black never given a name?  Who was the first protector of the island?  Did it really matter that Desmond and/or Locke typed the code every 108 minutes?  What was really accomplished by Juliet sacrificing her life by detonating the bomb in 1977?

But as for today, I think it’s more important to focus exactly what happened in the finale.  The most begging question is what’s up with the flash-sideways?

The first time we saw the characters of LOST in the finale season, they were on the plane.  Note there were never flash-forwards or flash-backs during the flash-sideways, indicating no past or future in that timeline.  They weren’t reincarnated, having to live their lives all over again, in this version with the island being sunk.  The alt-reality was simply an “acknowledge your dead and that your life mattered” precursor to the afterlife, often referred to as “purgatory” or “the waiting room”; it started with the plane ride.

Keeping in mind that life on the island (and “the real world”) continued after Jack died, that Hurley and Ben served as the island’s protectors for the rest of their lives, that Claire, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, Miles, and Frank all left the island and lived normal lives back in the United States or wherever they chose to re-establish their lives… they all still died at some point.  Most of them of old age, living to be in their 70’s.

And once they died, before going to Heaven, they were reunited, having the blessing remembering how they mattered to each other.  And since time, in essence, doesn’t exist in the afterlife, they all met at the same time, since it didn’t matter that Jack died 40 years before most of them did.

But because Jack was the main character of the show, the show stopped with his earthly death.  The rest of the living characters lived their rest of their lives and eventually died, the show just didn’t continue to follow their earthly lives.

So when Jack died in 2007 (three years after originally crashing on the island), and (say, for example) that Kate died in 2051, they met at the same time in “the waiting room”.  (Because time doesn’t exist after earthly life ends.)  Then they went on to Heaven with the rest in the church.  (And Ben went once he was ready.)

The writers were clever to utilize a nearly universal belief that there is some sort of life after death.  The episode was quite saturated in Christianity (which was a smart idea since most of America identifies with some version of it), yet didn’t write off other popular international religious beliefs, thanks to the “major six religions of the world” stained glass window in the church.  The point wasn’t to depict any religion’s specific teaching on the afterlife as specifically accurate, but to instead play and expound on our perceived general ideas on life after death and the importance of the people in our lifetime after we die.

I don’t see how LOST could have ended any other way.  Yes, technically “all our questions” were not answered.  But it involves using our imaginations and clues from the show to fill in the blanks, as we as Losties have been doing the whole time.  It will bring me much joy to take matters into my own hands by filling in these blanks with many more LOST posts to come.

Comments welcome.

(They will most likely be spun off into a new post if they are interesting, insightful, or raise a good question; or instantly deleted if they are full of nerd spite: “NO!  You’re wrong!  What really happened was…  Looks like you never thought of that while trying to make your weak point, did you?…”).

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37320802/ns/today-entertainment/

LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 12- “Everybody Loves Hugo”

I’m getting a little nervous.  After last night’s episode, I can’t help but think that there are so many questions that will not be answered in the next few weeks.  It raised more questions than answers.  Here’s what I did learn from “Everybody Loves Hugo”.

1)     The “whispers” on the island are from the people who died there but can’t “move on” because of the wrong doing they committed while they were still alive on the island.  Despite the writers of the show promising that the island is not really purgatory or hell, it’s hard not to see it that way.

2)     Desmond has the ability to interact between both reality and alt-reality.  He ran over the real Locke in alt-reality after Faux Locke threw him down the well in reality.  Unless alt-Desmond was simply carrying out some shady dirty-work orders of his boss, Mr. Widmore and that ultimately Desmond’s attempted murder of Locke was to show the balance between the two realities, being that Locke had a near-death experience when he was thrown out of the window.  Of course Jacob saved his life in reality.  Will someone save Locke’s life in alt-reality?

Desmond, Charlie, and the Widmore’s aren’t the only ones aware of alt-reality.  We can now add Hurley and Libby to that list.

I don’t know why, but Ilana always annoyed me.  Ben Linus’s response: “The island was done with her.”  It’s funny how dynamite typically gets rid of annoying characters on the show.