Lost In Myth: The Karma of “Namaste”


1karmaAs you’ve probably noticed, the title of a Lost episode often hints at more than just the episode’s story on a surface level. Many times, it provides a clue to its mythological messages as well. This was true of “316,” of “LaFleur,”* and now of “Namaste.” While Buddhist/Hindu principles pop up in Lost every so often, I was hoping that they might be a major theme of this episode due to its title, and I was not disappointed.

Namaste is a Hindu expression of meeting or parting that has made its way into yoga classes, spiritual circles, and Lost fan jargon in the Western world. However, much like Lost episode titles, there is a deeper meaning to the word. From a Buddhist or Hindu perspective, when one says, “namaste,” one means: “the light/spirit within me honors the light/spirit within you.” In other words, one person is recognizing that we are all one light or spirit and seeing themselves in the other person. Trippy, ain’t it? Even trippier is how this is related to another Eastern philosophy. If we are all one, then anything we do to others we are actually doing to ourselves. This is the very essence of karma.

Put simply, karma is the idea that our actions come back to us in this life or the next. In “Namaste” we see this theme repeated with just about every major character in the episode.  Take Sayid. In his past, Sayid was a torturer of prisoners. In fact, Lost has already shown us how karma caught up to him when he was tortured by the husband of one of his former victims (Amira) and also by Rousseau. In another episode, Sayid has Ben as his prisoner and 2Ben Imprisoned with Sayidfeels that he cannot be trusted and should be killed. Sound familiar? In “Namaste” Sayid 3Ben With Imprisoned Sayidis thought to be one of the Others by Radzinsky who feels that he cannot be trusted and should be killed. Of course, Ben was not killed and neither is Sayid. Still, the fact that the tables have turned becomes even more apparent when a young Ben visits Sayid in his cell. Perhaps Sayid’s Habitat for Humanity work has paid off his karmic torturing debt however because the only torture Ben doles out, is a mustard-less sandwich.

Speaking of Ben, he got some karmic payback in this episode too, based on his actions in “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham.” After getting all the information he needed out of an unsuspecting Locke, 4Ben Gives ItBen took him out of commission with an extension cord to the neck.  In “Namaste,” after 5Ben Gets Itgetting all the information she needed out of an unsuspecting Ben, Sun took him out of commission with a paddle to the head. It didn’t kill him, but technically, Locke didn’t really die either. As in life, with Lost, what goes around comes around. In fact, this concept may give a hint to Ben’s ultimate intentions.

Ben has done a lot of killing in his time. So karmically speaking, when the freighter gang came to kill him, they should’ve succeeded. But as Ben points out in “Namaste,” they didn’t. Perhaps then, Ben hasn’t really killed anyone. Or, maybe he has killed but it wasn’t for selfish purposes but for the overall good of the world…or at least, the island. This might explain why instead of killing Ben, the freighter crew only wound up killing themselves. Now that’s instant karma.

Karma doesn’t always have to be bad—you can get good karma too. For most of his life, Sawyer had been a selfish conman. But after sacrificing himself to save Kate, he paid his dues and is now playing the role he’s always wanted—the new sheriff in town. His selfless karma has had a ripple effect too in that he’s now helping to save Kate and the gang again. Sometimes, when we pull a one-hit-wonder that’s directly opposed to how we’ve been most our lives, the universe throws us another test to see if our new ways stick. So far, for Sawyer, it seems as though they have. Of course, Sawyer still has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, which is probably a good thing. We all know what happens to Lost characters once they solve all their issues. (Add neck slicing sound effect here.)

Even without his pissy attitude towards Jack though, I still don’t think Sawyer’s story is done. His mythological 6LoveTrianglematch is Kate, not Juliet. If Kate is Princess Leia, then Sawyer is Han Solo to Jack’s Luke Skywalker. This kinda makes Juliet, Chewbacca—a loving partnership but nothing more. If you think that Juliet and Sawyer will last, ask yourself this question: why would the writers go out of their way to show us that Sawyer had real feelings for Kate during the Claire baby delivery flashback scene only to ignore it? They wouldn’t and they won’t. (BTW, why is it that Sawyer falls for women when they are helping to deliver babies—both Kate and Juliet? Perhaps because he longs for the family he never had?) Juliet’s purpose is to domesticate Sawyer—a skill he needs to learn if he’s ever going to have a successful relationship. Throughout her life, Kate always ran away, but by caring for Aaron she settled down. Now at last, the two of them are ready for one another! Watch the magic.

Even though Lost throws us a lot of twists and unexpected endings, it has yet to contradict classic mythological storytelling. Even Jack’s story is typical of the hero’s journey: rise, fall, redemption.  As Sawyer cuttingly points out, Jack has always dealt with issues by reacting. This has brought him to drugs, alcohol, and nearly killing himself in the outside world. Now, he has been metaphorically reincarnated on the island to try again. His karma will bring him the same type of issues he had to deal with before, only now he’ll have to deal with them a bit differently. Jack must now take a subordinate role (Workman) until he can either successfully excel as a leader or come to terms with not being one. Either way, he must accept that he cannot fix every little problem. Similarly, Locke has the same issue. He has also been reincarnated to either succeed as a leader or accept that others are going to tell him what to do. Either way, he must stop being a victim and stand up for himself when others try to take advantage of him.  There’s a big difference between being a team player and just being played.

Over a lifetime, karma serves to keep us stuck in the same loop of repeating occurrences until we step up and change our habits. It is like the metaphorical skipping record of time on Lost. What we do, keeps happening to us, causing us to do what we did before. Will Sayid try to torture or kill little Ben? Will big Ben seek revenge on Sun? Will Sawyer cheat on Juliet? Will Jack turn to drink and drugs when he can’t control his situation? The message of this season seems to be that it is time for the characters to move on or they will continue to be stuck in time. And stuck in their lives. With only 25 more episodes remaining, I think we’re going to finally see some real progress. Or else, expect a Lost spin-off.

*See “Lost In Myth” columns from these episodes for details.

Marc Oromaner
is a New York City writer whose new book, The Myth of Lost offers a simple solution to Lost and how it provides hidden insight into the mysteries of life. He can be contacted in the discussion section of The Myth of Lost Facebook page.

The Myth of Lost is available on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com.

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The Layman posted at 2009-3-19 Category: Season 5

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