January 25, 2009


So we've begun watching the first season of Lost on DVDs from the library. What struck me pretty quickly was the recurring "every man for himself" theme. Even the characters who seem the most likable, or reasonable, or heroic suddenly go winging off into the jungle on some personal Quest that just has to be done. Right now, of course. In the rain, at night--it doesn't matter. Of course, the hero's quest inevitably intersects the path of at least one innocent bystander, and moving at such speed tends to make it hard for the hero to even see said bystanders before running them over.

The first lesson I see in this is that "no man is an island" (Sorry!). When trying to survive in a foreign land, we need each other. How well we get along doesn't change this at all; we still need each other. Nobody has all strengths and no weaknesses. Some jobs can't be done well alone--if at all. Nobody sees the whole picture. C. S. Lewis argued that a map--the collection of many people's experiences, stale though it may seem--is more useful than one's personal experience of the sea if one actually wants to leave the beach and sail somewhere. How much more we need others in the church, the body of Christ, if it is God who joins us together and gives to us different gifts and talents.

Furthermore, what we do has an impact on everyone else. How important we believe our fool's errand to be doesn't matter; our actions ripple out across the pond and can't be taken back if we realize it was a bad idea. The kid can't just run off with the dog whenever he's upset with his father, because then the dad has to follow him to keep him from getting eaten by the polar bears and monsters. The doctor's personal demons don't change the fact that people in need of medical care are lying back on the beach. "I just needed to be alone" doesn't cut it when a rescue party has to be sent out after you. Or when someone in the rescue party gets hurt in the process.

The second lesson is not to make important decisions while the adrenaline is flowing. Adrenaline produces many amazing physiological changes to help us in the "fight or flight," but one of them, tunnel vision, is not so amazing when our choices affect others. Not so useful when trying to analyze a complex situation. Not so helpful when when we ought to be thinking through the consequences that our decisions will have on those who are just a little too far to the side to focus on properly. The WORST time to make an important decision is during a crisis, when emotional, while under stress. That's when we are most likely to fight or flee to protect ourselves. When the "I" rears its ugly head.

How often we wish we could take back what we said in the heat of the moment. How much harder to take back our actions. To restore the confidence that others once placed in us. To reassure them that we actually do think they matter. To prove that we really aren't as selfish as we looked. To rebuild trust once it has been lost.

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