We all know that life imitates art and art imitates life. I am fascinated by almost all of the characters on LOST, but for me, the most complicated and interesting survivor of Flight 815 is Jack Shephard. My spell checker tells me that this is not the correct way to spell “shepherd”. Perhaps the creators of lost intentionally wanted “hard” to be a part of his name. After nearly five seasons of the story unfolding, we have seen many times where Jack experiences something…. “hard”.
The linear storyline that begins at the plane crash paints Jack as a hero and a leader right away. Someone who takes charge and makes decisions. A man of action. (On a side note, it’s an interesting play on words of our site here: man + aging + actions.) Nobody takes a vote, but Jack is obviously the de facto leader.
Through flashbacks, we learn how Jack has become a successful spinal surgeon. By watching and shadowing his father, he takes on what he believes is valuable in his father, while trying to reject his father’s “weaknesses”, namely alcoholism. Jack has a very systematic approach to growth and life. Everything is fixable. He sees the pieces that make up a person, or a situation, and attacks or rejects those pieces that seem bad. In this way, he is making the WHOLE person or situation…better.
Oddly, it is his greatest surgical triumph that leads him to a romantic relationship and marriage. His problem with fixing Sarah, though, is that he cannot understand what he did to fix her. She believes that he fixed her, and adores him for it. Jack does not believe in miracles, so he does not know how to explain how she was healed. He continues his role of “fixer” in their relationship, until there is seemingly nothing left to fix. Their relationship peaked at its genesis. After a few years, Jack kisses another woman and quickly confesses it to his wife, along with promises to fix their relationship, be more present with her, be a better man, etc. But for Sarah, it is too late. The relationship ends.
Jack’s ability to compartmentalize things does serve him well on the island. When he gets scared, counting to five allows him to focus in on his task and block out everything in the way of that task. When something needs to get done, Jack does it, or finds somebody else that will. He has the largest impact on the group as a whole, based on his actions. Jack thrives on problems, because they give him a chance to offer solutions and execute his plan. In life, this is particularly important, because not many people believe that a world without problems is right around the corner.
If you can define your task, focus, and complete it, you will succeed in many things. BUT, if you let your ability to accomplish tasks define WHO YOU ARE, then disappointment, sadness, and frustration are inevitable. My friend Ric McClain often said that we are “human beings” not “human doings”. It seems that Jack fell into a trap of letting his actions define who he IS. It leads him to accomplish the main task of the survivors…getting off of the island. What joy does this leave him with though? An addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. Instead of being a leader of society, he is now a borderline sociopath. There are no tasks to complete as big as the ones he has already completed. His identity and foundation are shaken.
In part 2, I would like to share my thoughts on Jack’s low point: staring down off of a bridge, contemplating ending his life with a jump. Until then, please leave any comments about your thoughts on Jack’s journey, or the struggle to be defined by your actions.