Thursday, September 25, 2008

Charlie, John Locke, and the moth: An Object Lesson

I've really come to appreciate the ABC television series, "LOST." It is a carefully well-constructed piece of art. And like all my favorite shows, they really hone in on the character development.

The other night, I caught a re-run from the first season: an episode entitled "The Moth." It is a great parable. It involves Charlie, a drug-addicted former rock star who's stash is running low now that he's on this deserted island. He gives the rest of what's left over to his new friend, John Locke, who keeps it & inspires him to kick the addiction. What ensues is great drama, and would make a great sermon illustration sometime.


Charlie (menacingly): "Give my bloody drugs."


Charlie: "Did ya hear what I said? [...] I want my drugs back! I need 'em!"

John Locke: "Yet you gave them to me. Hmm..."

Charlie: "... and I bloody well regret it! I'm sick, man. Can't you see that?!"

John Locke: "I think you're a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I'm gonna prove it to you. I'll let you ask me for your drugs three times. The third time, I'm gonna give 'em to ya. Now, just so we're clear, THIS is one."

Charlie: "Why? WHY?! Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just get rid of 'em & be done with it."

John Locke: "If I did that you wouldn't have a choice, Charlie. And having choices, making decisions based on more than instinct is the only thing that separates you from him." [... as John points to a boar he's just captured]


[John Locke is skinning his boar & prepping it for roasting. Charlie comes stumbling up toward John with a single-minded look on his face, staring at John.]

John Locke: "Something wrong, Charlie?"
[spoken in a detached way. He knows something's wrong, and he knows exactly what it is that's wrong. He knows Charlie needs a fix.]

Charlie: "Yeah... Jack!... He's, uhhh... there's been an accident. At the caves. Jack's trapped in a cave in."

[John pauses to consider the gravity of the situation, but then continues skinning the boar before he asks...]
John Locke: "Is anyone trying to get him out?"

Charlie: "Yeah, there's a bunch of people there now."

[Still focused on skinning his boar...]
John Locke: "And why aren't you with 'em?"

[There's an uncomfortable pause. John finally looks up to make eye contact with Charlie, and then steps away from the boar to give his full attention to Charlie. Charlie is filled with shame. John's stare is pressuring him to not say what he wants to say -- to ask for the drugs back.]

John Locke: "You didn't come here to tell me about Jack, did ya?"

[With a great deal of shame...]
Charlie: "I want my stash, Locke. [...] I can't stand feeling like this."

John Locke [gently]: "Come here. I'm gonna show you something."

[John leads Charlie over to a small tree with a cocoon attached to it. He points at it with his knife and asks...]

John Locke: "What do you suppose is in that cocoon, Charlie?"

[frustrated at being force-fed a metaphorical lesson that he doesn't know where it will go or how long it will take because he just wants John to give him his stash back, he answers choppily...]
Charlie: "I don't know... a butterfly, I guess--"

John Locke: "No. It's much more beautiful than that. That's a moth cocoon. It's ironic - butterflies get all the attention, but moths, they spin silk. They're stronger. They're faster--"

Charlie: "That's wonderful, but..."

[interrupting, and pointing with his knife...]
John Locke: "You see this little hole? This moth's just about to emerge. It's in there right now, struggling. It's digging it's way through the thick hide of the cocoon.

NOW, I could help it - take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free. But it would be too weak to survive.

Struggle is nature's way of strengthening it.

Now this is the second time you've asked me for your drugs back. [John holds up a tiny bag of heroine] Ask me again and its your's.


[Scene begins with Charlie "jonesing" for a fix really bad. Sweating. Nervously shaking. Feeling awful. He walks over to John, who is waving a palm reed over his boar to keep the flies away as it roasts over an open fire. It is a slow, determined walk, and he does not make eye contact until a moment before he utters the phrase...]

Charlie: "Give them to me."

[John has a sour, disappointed grimace come over his face as he looks at Charlie very carefully.]

John Locke: "This is the third time. Are you sure you really want--"

Charlie: "I've made my choice."

[Charlie holds his hand out

John briefly gives him that disappointed grimace one more time, then reaches into his pocket, pulls out the heroine, and drops it in Charlie's hand. Charlie stares at it with a sinister grin -- like Gollum holding the ring & hissing, "MY precious."

But then Charlie does an amazing thing: he flicks the small bag of heroine into the fire. The fire consumes the heroine completely.

It seems that Charlie was tired of the withdrawls. He knew he had to face them eventually. And as far as he had already progressed through this spell, he didn't want to have to start all over & begin again at square one. Charlie had decided that there was no going back, and it was time to destroy the heroine.

A rye grin appears on John's face. He turns to Charlie, squints his eyes, and declaritively says...]

John Locke: "I'm proud of you Charlie"

[Charlie looks up like a lost puppy dog, not believing what John just said to him. By now John's little rye grin is a full-scale smile as he continues his admiration of Charlie...]

John Locke: "... always knew you could do it."

[Charlie furrows his brow, realizing the wisdom of John's statements all along. He looks up & sees a moth fluttering away. John sees it as well, looks down at the fire, and smiles a private smile of satisfaction.]


Anonymous said...

Like I said when we discussed this before... just fantastic. What a great 'object lesson.' ; )

Justmatt said...

This show has so many of these lessons! There is actually a book out (which I have not read) that goes over the spirituality of LOST. But, I like the idea of using these stories in a sermon series. I mean:
"Struggle is nature's way of strengthening it"

Replace "it" with "us" and That right there is a lesson to us all!

Unknown said...

You would never know or think that the island that the show is on could be real but if you pass it up an go back to try an see if your eye's wher playing tricks on you you'll never find it. But if you just keep going it will always be there. What do you think?