Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Bob Dylan Highway 61
Five years ago, one of my best friends, a man we’ll call B, was engaged to be married to the wrong girl. The wedding was set, planned, and we’ll assume partially paid for. B and his wife to be were weeks from sealing their fate before all who had eyes to see and ears to hear. With less than four weeks to the ceremonies, B called everything off. Now one might argue that such an action was a horrible thing to do, and in some circumstances I would agree. Marriage is the holiest of holy unions. It’s a spiritual covenant, an absolute devotion to one and only one person with whom a man will spread his seed. B’s close friends were shocked and amazed. We’d hoped and prayed for divine intervention, Please O host of hosts, step into this disaster lest B is stuck frequenting beanie baby conventions for the rest of his small town Illinois life. She instilled resignation in him, a kind of “yes honey” attitude about life. Yet he broke from the bondage of a supposed destiny. Somehow, someway, he had the foresight and the cajones to change his life. And the rest is history.
Wednesday’s titillating episode of Lost touched on enough subjects for me to pontificate upon from now until quittin time. Eternal recurrence, Catch-22’s, the Bible, deception, red-shirts , sweaty sex, Phil Collins….it was a smorgasbord of world class story telling. Desmond’s struggle with perception was the spoke around which forty-three minutes of kinetic eye candy spun. Our ever-doubting literal visionary, hero of a thousand lives, has had a tough go about things in his young life. Like my good friend B, Desmond was set to marry a woman about whom he had second thoughts. Doubt crept into his mind and ate away at his faith in his impending marriage to young devout Ruth. Poor Desmond drowned his uncertainty in a series of pints and ended up on the footstep of a monastery: from Desmond the monk to Desmond the drunk in eight pints and a gutter or less. Then on through a vow of silence of which all of God’s chaste chosen men were sure he’d fail. But not Desmond, he’s a hero in case he didn’t know it: Desmond for whom God has much greater plans. “Sure he does,” Desmond quips over a swig of fine, 100 quid a bottle Moriah wine. Like so many deeply tormented heroes of literary past, he doesn’t know it or doesn’t believe it.
Brother Campbell saved Desmond from the gutter and thus from his doomed marriage by taking him into the Abby. Campbell’s name is most likely a reference to my very own American Idol, the mythical guru Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on his belief that all religions and myths point to one source, the liberation of the Christos within each and every man and woman, the infinite, that which has no name yet exists infinitely and eternally. He spoke of following one’s bliss as the source to liberation in life. This coming from a man who practiced what he preached. Through the depression he spent 5 years of his life hanging out in a New York cabin reading books in lieu of finishing his Doctorate. Nevertheless, whereas Joseph Campbell was not a devout Catholic, Brother Campbell was, and no man who professes to be a monk can get pissed on a bottle of rare Moriah wine.
Now where oh where have we heard of Moriah wine? Oh yes, Genesis (catch) 22. Genesis 22 tells the tale of Abraham’s true test of faith. In it, God comes to Abraham and tells him the time has come to offer up his son Isaac as sacrifice. Good old Abe trusts in the Lord and heeds the call. He gathers up his son, two men, a donkey and some supplies and heads for, you guessed it, Mount Moriah. It is on this mountain that God tests Abraham. Slaughter your son and prove to me that your trust is focused with laser like precision on my will.” Is Abe worthy of the promise given to him by the Lord that he will be the father of a multitude of nations? In the flashback, while discussing the Abby’s choice in naming their wine Moriah, Desmond struggles to come to terms with this difficult story. “One might argue that God needn’t ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son.” To which Brother Campbell retorts in a heavy Scottish brough, “Well then it wouldn’t be much of a test, would it?” No sir, it wouldn’t, especially if the reward for such devout faith is a lineage as extensive as the stars in the sky.
Abraham bound Issac and laid him upon the altar in preparation of answering God’s call. The terror both men must have felt is enough to have me shaking in my boots some couple thousand years later. Abraham raised his knife to a blood red sky when out of the lofty blue God pulled a Deus Ex Machina. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the Angel of Lord. Silly Abe, God knew all along that it was merely a test of the Holy Emergency Broadcasting System. A ram was offered up in Isaacs’ place, Abraham passed with flying colors, and from his seed, Jesus, the son of man would eventually be born.
In the setting of last night’s episode, Desmond was convinced that the parachutist he saw in the vision was his beloved Penny. Penny, his beloved was coming to save him. All Desmond had to do was allow all the events to play out exactly as he saw then, including an arrow ripping through Charlie’s throat. Only Lost is about perception. Nerds like me and my Lostie brethren comb frames for clues late into the dark night. Desmond’s visions appear to him out of sync. He sees Charlie helping to rescue the parachutist, an event that could not have happened were he to have allowed the arrow to pierce Charlie’s larynx.
Which brings me back to the Bible, that living, breathing slab of metaphor, riddle, allusion and enigma. Why would Abraham offer up his one and only son to God, and what kind of God would ask for such a horrendous offering. The type of God, I might say, who is omniscient. The type of God who knows what you’re gonna do before you do it, so don’t worry about it and have faith. Anywho. In Genesis 22:5, Abraham instructs the two men and a donkey to “stay here….and I and the lad will go over there (Moriah); and we will worship and return to you.” We will return to you. We, after I slaughter my one and only son, will return to you. Abraham’s faith in God was so strong that he knew Issac would return. How? Shit, God only knows (what I’d be without you, Issac). Honest Abe was so utterly and hopelessly devoted to his creator that he believed even if he were to kill his son, God would have the power to resurrect him from the dead. Sound familiar?
Poor poor Desmundo is caught between a Catch-22 and a hard place. If he saves Charlie from the deadly arrow, he risks changing the vision. If he lets Charlie die, he faces a serious moral crisis of Biblical proportions. Yet to save Charlie means sacrificing the one thing that gives him hope in the f’d up world of Lost. To cause correct the future means to choose between action and inaction, destiny and fate. It wouldn’t appease the viewers if poor Charlie died, nor would it appease the Island Gods. Instead, Charlie is saved, he’s a believer now more than ever in Desmond, an apostle of sorts.
It’s interesting how such a concept bleeds into reality. It is only by our actions, our exercising of free will, that we shape our destiny. Nothing is written in stone within the realm of space and time. At any point we have the power to intervene or to sit passively. We are gifted with an inability to see the future, but the courage to change the things in life we believe. But like most humans just trying to get along, we become tripped up is in that devil spawned realm of doubt. I’m the king of doubt. Captain Doubt himself. I have a penchant, like so many of my brethren, to want to run away, as if moving further south down the coast would make any difference. Yet as the great Brother Campbell informs young distraught Desmond over that bottle of Moriah wine, maybe “you just spent too much time running away to realize what you may be running toward.”
While re-watching the episode last night, I couldn’t help but think of the unbelievable courage it took for B to back out on what was supposedly his fate in life. As I saw Desmond struggle to find his purpose even after what he perceived as a series of failures, I felt a certain kinship. Those very “failures” led Desmond to the one woman who truly loves him in the world. Desmond, having just been fired from the monastery, meets Penny while loading cases of Mount Moriah into her Range Rover. As the late great Kurt Vonnegut might say, “It happened as it was meant to happen.” That moment was the start of a race around the world for Desmond to reclaim what was right in front of him the entire time.
Hopefully my perception of this mad-hatter wonderland of a show is somewhat on point. Desmond will realize that the tests he’s passing, the sacrifices he’s making, the love he’s forsaking, are all for the greater good of Jack Shepherds herd of Lost sheep. I want to feel the same warm and fuzzy feeling about this story as I did when B married the girl of his dreams this past January. They met almost two years ago by happenstance or divine chance. Had B not stayed the course in his decision to leave the wrong girl behind, His-story would have changed the course of time. B found the woman he loved. I believe it was an act of God. He’s still trying to figure it out. I suppose it’s all about perception.
I’m off to make a mixtape.
Labels: LOST Season 3 - Catch 22