Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LOST Finale

It's taken a few days to soak it in, to sit with it, to process it, and now I am finally ready to proclaim that I am completely and totally in love with the LOST finale.  So much to say, so much to digest, I'm still finding it really hard to talk about, write about.  Was it flawless?  No.  There were things, tiny little things, that we could nitpick.  But it was still perfect.  It wrapped up the stories that mattered most to us.  It wrapped up the Story, which is what it was all about to begin with.  It satisfied.    

Below is a full copy/paste of the best reaction to the finale I've read so far.  I think Travis Prinzi really gets it just right.  My tag-on thoughts are in purple.  

LOST Finale: Why I Loved It
by TRAVIS PRINZI on MAY 24, 2010

It feels like the days afterDeathly Hallows all over again. A great story which sparked a pop culture phenomenon has come to its conclusion: some people loved it, and some loathed it. I’m in the former camp, and for much the same reasons I was in the pro-Deathly Hallows camp: the story accomplished the imaginative satisfaction of ancient human desires. 

Spoilers below.

The biggest mystery of this season has been the Flash

Sideways. Is it a parallel universe? Will the two universes cross? It turns out everyone was wrong. The Flash Sideways is a postmodern Graytown (from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.) It’s like Lewis’s Graytown, because the people there can stay or leave as they feel ready. Consider that AnaLucia wasn’t ready, that Eloise was not prepared for Daniel to leave, etc. But also consider that Christian told Jack that all the castaways “made” the place, because they needed it. Keith and I noticed this connection to Great Divorce as well. I think any LOST fans who have read it are at an advantage to be understanding and accepting of the ending. It opens the eyes to such a different (and in my opinion more truth-ful)l way to view the afterlife than the one we are commonly taught by evangelical Christianity. 

And in that case, it’s like King’s Cross. Harry perceives his meeting place with Dumbledore as King’s Cross, because it’s his own perception. What he believes actually shapes the place. In Lewis’s Graytown, the place is what it is and looks like what it looks like. Graytown’s citizens disagree on the meaning of the place, but not its makeup. At King’s Cross, and in this Sideways world, the place looks like what its inhabitants make it in their own imaginations. But all are able to proceed to love eternal when they are ready. The Harry Potter connection I had considered, but not fleshed out well enough to draw this parallel to King's Cross. It's a brilliant observation.

As the story ended, the people sitting with me immediately began discussing: So is the Sideways real? I just smiled to myself, being too exhausted to formulate an answer. I wanted to say with Dumbledore, “It was in their heads, but why on earth should that make it not real?” This, yes! What LOST did was make the statement: what is in your head is real. Imagination vindicated. Faith vindicated. Spiritual reality vindicated. And again, yes, yes, YES!

In other words, this was logos epistemology, as I had hoped when watching “Across the Sea.” The light of the world is in every person. We recognize it in each other. We recognize the spiritual reality within and behind the physical world, and it’s in our minds – in our imaginations – that we perceive the truth. Just note the way the show opened and closed: Jack’s eye. And then remember your eye symbolism from Harry Potter. This insistence on perception is important, I think, in understanding LOST's final scenes, and especially the whole Flash Sideways conceit. We saw most of the Flash Sideways through Jack's perspective, as he is the ultimate hero of LOST's story. But not entirely and only through Jack's perspective, because he was not the most important character in the story. They all were.

People who wanted mysteries “solved” would have hated the answers. Why? Because these are mysteries unfathomable to the human mind. The imagination is the best hope of perceiving them. The Sideways was more real than what happened on the island, not some fancy or dream that fails to give answers. The Sideways gives all the answers that really mattered. Who careswhat the stupid numbers were? The mysteries of eternity find their way into the world in manifestations we just don’t get. Who cares what the numbers are? In the end, there is peace. There is love.

To me, this is exactly the kind of bold ending that was needed. LOST was never going for a spooky/creepy ending. This isn’t a Gothic story. It’s not The Twilight Zone. It’s myth. YES!

More than that: It’s the best television can possibly come to creating a eucatrastrophe, a “sudden joyous turn.” The reason the LOST finale was bold is because in these days, happy endings are bold. Ken Tucker nails it:
Lost went out in a manner that was refreshingly not like that of so many dramas, which tend to become more dramatic, serious, and bleak in an effort to prove their ultimate profundity. Instead, the longLost last night was a combination of a greatest-hits album and a lively Sunday-school lesson. Everyone was forgiven; everyone smiled.
Other things I loved:

Jack and Kate: It was always supposed to be Jack and Kate. Sawyer/Kate always annoyed me. Agreed.

Sawyer and Juliet: Kate could never settle Sawyer into the kind of loving person Juliet did. As Evangeline Lilly astutely said, Kate and Sawyer were “good at stumbling together.” Juliet and Sawyer flew together. Really, really agreed!!!

Jack, then Hurley: I was skeptical of Arabella’s position that Hurley would be the new Jacob, because I knew it had to be Jack. The way they made it Jack, then Hurley was fantastic. Hurley really is the perfect choice to go on protecting the island. Jack really is the perfect choice to, essentially, "fix it".

The symbolism of the church at the end. Deliberate pans to Jesus twice.

Watching them realize their paths and recognize each other in Graytown: Simply amazing. I’ve never smiled or teared up so much watching TV. And it never got old, even after I realized it was coming for every single character. And as I write this, I’m watching it again, and it’s still not old.

No answer for fate vs. free will: the mystery was left fully intact, and both fate and free will worked together as they mysteriously do. I was so afraid they’d end this will a clear and decisive nod in favor of free will trumping fate. They did not. Jack was “supposed” to be the new Jacob, and Jack made the choice to be the new Jacob. It was both a “predictable” choice by Jacob, and an authentic choice by Jack. This, one of the most brilliant things about the finale. About the whole show, really.

Jack and Christian at “King’s Cross”: Because that’s exactly what that conversation was.

John and Ben: “I forgive you.”

(Only one thing I hated: Sayid and Shannon. Never believed it, never will.) Doesn't bother me so much because I don't think the Sayid/Shannon reunion and moving on together in any way invalidates his love for Nadia or their relationship, because I don't think the Awareness/Awakening each Lostie experienced had anything to do with soul mates or true love (at least not in the romantic sense). I think each Lostie was brought to Awareness/Awakening by a raw encounter with the person whose connection/relationship/love/whatever had the most profoundly transforming impact on them. Sayid loved Nadia, he had a longer and probably more  real relationship with her, but somehow his brief love/connection/relationship with Shannon was more transformative for him. It had more impact on who he became and, most important, on who he wanted to become.

I’ll have more to say, I think, (me too!) but I don’t want to say it all here and not leave room for a robust and insightful discussion, (that and I'm just not ready yet) so I’ll turn it over to you after one last thought, and then see you in the comments.

Here’s the crazy thing LOST did to me. A friend of mine convinced me to watch it by saying that it was all about character studies, and that there were characters named John Locke and C.S. Lewis. A couple seasons in, I told him, “I love it, but not because of the characters. I love the mysteries.” But by last night, it was exactly the other way around. I love these characters. I love that they made their way, flawed and failing, through a messy, mysterious world, and the answer they needed was Love. A whole bunch more yes here.  It has always been about the character, and nowhere was that more apparent that in Sunday night's final episode.

And in the end,
The end is oceans and oceans of love, and love again
We’ll see how the tears that had fallen were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love, and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales.
~ Andrew Peterson, “After the Last Tear Falls”!

So? Did you love it? Hate it? No matter how you felt about the ending, I think we can all safely agree that this amazing show will be sorely missed!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

I spent some of my earliest years in a tiny little lake house way out in the country.  It was a small house, but that didn't matter because we had the whole outside to roam, and that's where we spent most of our time anyway.  The house backed right up to the levee, with Carter Lake (sort of a glorified canal, really) just on the other side and it was surrounded by cropland as far as the eye could see.  We had acres of mesquite tree-filled yard to play in, a beautiful walled-in courtyard under a terraced patio, and one teensy bathroom for four people.

We called it the Little Lake House, because it was, well, little.  And also because about a mile down the road was the Big Lake House, a huge, old house (a mansion in our eyes) that had been empty and abandoned for years.  Excursions to the Big Lake House were a pretty regular part of all that exploring and roaming we were always doing.  There are three things I remember very vividly about the Big Lake House.  I remember the sad, echoing feeling of large rooms once filled with family, laughter, friendship, but now empty and barren.  I remember the glitter-glow of a gigantic, gorgeous stained glass window that seemed to take up one vast wall along a grand staircase.  And I remember the mulberry trees.

The dirt road that led to the Big Lake House was lined with overgrown, wild-looking mulberry trees.  They were giant and they were beautiful and I was utterly fascinated by them.  Their graceful branches drooped low with dark, purplish-red fruit that burst sweet in my mouth and stained my lips and tongue.  The very grass beneath the trees was purple from the crushed berries and dyed bird droppings that littered the ground around them.  My mother told me that mulberry trees were used in China to grow silk worms (turns out she was absolutely right) and so I gazed at their web-covered branches and imagined myself as a Chinese princess whose little worm-friends were busy spinning silken garments to be worn at a royal ball.  Where I would, no doubt, meet a handsome prince and dance in his arms.

Today, Keith and I went to a favorite picnic spot on the banks of Lake Waco and I noticed, for the first time, the towering mulberry tree growing nearby.  It was covered in sweet, dark, purplish-red berries.  They say smell is the sense most strongly connected to memory, but I think taste has to be right up there with it.  As I stripped berries from branches and popped them in my mouth I was six years old again, listening to my mother's stories and dreaming myself a princess.  Keith and I ate and giggled and stained our mouths and fingers bright purple.  Even our feet were streaked with juice from the berries we trampled as we walked the fruit-strewn ground.

I felt lighter and younger, maybe even a little giddy from the vivid and lovely childhood memories that flooded me.  And a little bit wistful and nostalgic as well.  I had forgotten all about the mulberry trees.  I'd quit noticing them, quit seeing them.  I had forgotten about that little bit of magic they hold for me.  But you can be sure I'm going to start looking out for them again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Coolness

For all of you who wanted to be there but couldn't, this boils the whole three hour ceremony right down to the very most exciting, important part.

Congratulations, Dr. Reich (some more)!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Graduate

Ever wondered what a freshly minted Doctor of Philosophy looks like at breakfast on graduation day?

Proud.  That's how he looks.

Oh, and goofy.

And really, really excited.

After the ceremony in full regalia.

Very excited to discover the robes have slits for pocket access!

The whole gang at a celebratory lunch.

And a beamingly proud Dr. and Mrs. Reich.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Some Best Books

I just posted this in answer to Micah's plea for book recommendations and I thought I'd put it here as well (since I took all the time to write it out).  These are some of my favorite books (besides the obvious like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, or anything you might study in a high school lit class).  Many of them are not widely read, but I love all of them and they are some of the ones that I go back to over and over again.
  • First off, the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). So much more than your typical science fiction. If you haven't read it yet, you must. If you have, never mind. 
  • Moving on to The Book of Bebb by Frederick Buechner (or anything by Buechner, for that matter). Four novels in one, equal parts screwball comedy and heartwrenching melancholy, challenging theology and miraculous grace. 
  • 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (ignore the Oprah seal) is a long, rambling masterpiece of magical realism. 
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is mysterious and dark and a must-read for anyone who knows and loves the feeling of getting completely lost in a good story. 
  • Oh, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a short little volume best read slowly to really absorb all the beauty and wonder and meaning in it (sort of like The Little Prince, only more parable and less children's story). 
  • And you can never go wrong with anything by George MacDonald including Phantastes and, especially, Lilith
Anyone read any of these?  Anyone want to?  Want more recommendations?  I can keep going.

Monday, May 10, 2010

These Are Crazy Times

Taught Sunday School last Sunday.  One small child (who would resemble Hermione Granger in both appearance and temperament if Hermione were ever so slightly less endearing for being a bit bossier and meaner) informs me that she spells yogurt the British way:  Y-O-U-G-O-U-R-T.
Me:  That's very interesting, Hermione.  How did you learn that spelling?
Hermione:  I spell lots of things the British way.  
Me:  Is that from reading lots of C.S. Lewis?  I kind of picked up on things like that when I was your age reading Chronicles of Narnia.  
Hermione: No, I just naturally spell things the British way.  
Me (eyebrows raised):  Really?
Hermione (gloatingly):  Yes.  It's because I'm three quarters British.  And also three quarters French.  
Me:  Well, that's...a lot of quarters.

Spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday out on the road for work.  HR issues.  Meetings.  Visiting with farmers.  Snapping pictures.  Getting marketing feedback from customers.  Collecting testimonials.  Walking corn fields in 90 degree weather.  Sleeping in hotel rooms.  Missing my husby.  The summer marketing season has officially begun.

Thursday, tried to cram four days of work into one moderately quiet day at the office in preparation for meetings all day Friday.  Big meetings.  With big players at a big company.  That consistently causes big problems for us.  Big, long day.

Friday night we began prep work for another painting weekend.  Two twelve hour days, four trips to Lowe's, three cans of paint and one pair of completely ruined jeans later- we are done painting the living room, entry alcove and bedroom alcove!  We're chipping away at this home improvement thing and it's a good feeling at the end of it all.  Not during it though, because the during part is pretty hard and horrible and mostly I just want to give up all the time.  But Keith keeps me going.  And it's worth it.  Half of our house looks utterly transformed and I'm looking forward to finishing the rest.

This week marks more crazy things.  Keith's graduation is five days away.  I can't wait to see him standing on that stage decked out in all his doctoral regalia.  Don't worry, will post lots of pictures.  We also have three sets of parents coming in town for the commencement festivities this weekend, so we'll be celebrating Mother's Day (late) on Sunday with a brunch at our house.  Still not sure how we're going to seat nine people in our little cracker box (eek!) but we'll figure it out.  I love hostessing, and have big plans for a lovely time.  Also, I've got major deadlines looming (like, today!) and more travel on the schedule (in weeks to come).

I should probably get busy.