Lost is coming to a close, with a finale that is almost sure to be a disappointment, at least to naive viewers who demand closure from their narratives. I have some of those feelings myself, but mostly the show has succeeded in driving away those everyday expectations. I really believe that it is a sign of artistic ambition (success is another matter) when a show or other work defies genre conventions and makes the viewer/reader wrestle with them (Bolano's 2666 is another work like that, a novel that refuses to act like a novel and constantly veers off in other directions).
I'm not all that sophisticated myself, and one of my perpetual irritations with the show is how it can't decide if its science fiction or metaphysical fantasy. The island has "pockets of electromagnetic energy", but it also has [spoiler alert] twin brothers who are all but immortal represent the light and dark forces of the universe. Make up your mind, which brought down the plane, physics or metaphysics?
But then it occured to me that maybe the show is more sophisticated than I give it credit for. After all, I am perpetually trying to articulate my own half-baked, vaguely Platonistic notion that non-physical entities (ideas, selves, souls, gods even) have a legitimate form of existence, but that their existence is always implemented/incarnated in physical stuff. When I see people confused about this I just want to smack some sense into them. Well, not to get into that stuff here, but it seems that it applies to the world of Lost. Why can't the electromagnetic energy be a manifestation of the spirits, or vice versa? Why can't ideas be both immaterial and material, and Certs be both a floor wax and a dessert topping?
So the question remains (for a few hours) whether the show, in its wrap-up, can make a contribution to this perpetually thorny philosophical problem while also providing the requisite amount of explosions, deaths, flashbacks, and ominous musical cues?
[[update: well, that was about as disappointing as expected. Ultimately, the show at its core was neither SF nor fantasy, but a very vanilla character-driven drama. Thus the perfunctory and unsatisfying activity at the heart of the island, with the giant cork and all, compared with the rather touching character reunions in the sideways universe as the characters reunited with their true loves and got their memories back. Didn't make much sense, except on the emotional level.]]
On a somewhat related topic, I took the kids yesterday to the Maker Faire, a yearly event that represents a concentrated dose of the artist-techie-hipster-tinkerer community (lots of Burning Man type of stuff, without having to endure a eight-hour drive to the desert). It's related because the people there all engaged in giving material form to ideas. I am somewhat in awe of this. While I view myself as a maker, most of the stuff I make is made of words or symbols. Manipulating actual matter takes too much work. Yet here are these people willing to take the idea of a mobile 15-foot high mobile robotic giraffe, or a vehicle shaped like a cupcake, or a musical instrument involving two giant Tesla coils, and do the hard work of turning them into real physical things. While mostly I admire the sheer effort and energy that go into this, a part of me dismisses it as a waste. There's something in me (and I learned it from the culture I grew up with) that thinks of matter as lowly and values abstraction and disembodiment over anything tangible. I've been fighting against tendency my whole life in various ways, and going to events like the Maker Faire is one way of doing that. The immaterial spirits animating this festival of matter-workers were (ahem) palpable.