Damon Lindelof is many things. First and foremost, as a TV writer/creator he is one of the two gatekeepers to LOST empire, a title which earns him both world renowned scorn and acclaim. Second he's a prolific feature film writer, having earned credits on gigantic films like the new Star Trek films, Prometheus, and the upcoming World War Z. With these accomplishments he's a massive figure, albeit somewhat polarizing figure in the nerd world, but I think it's time to add another identity to his growing roster: modern day philosopher.
Yesterday it was announced that Lindelof will be adapting Tom Perotta's excellent book The Leftovers as a TV series for HBO. The book deals with people in a small town who are left-behind after a "rapture" like event occurs and millions of people around the world disappear. I've read the book and found it to be a cool exploration on how faith, society, and religion impact the individual. This is a theme that Lindelof seems to have carved out a little niche for himself. Simply put there is nobody in modern media who makes people question their existence like he does.
I realize that this might make serious philosophers question their existence even more, but if you look at some of the themes found in his biggest bodies of work, it's undeniable. Take "Lost" for example, a story about people searching for meaning on a stranded Island, it quickly turned into a mediation on time, love, destiny, good & evil. and of course faith. The final season was practically inspired by The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the last scene was tossing around more religious symbolism at us than a tornado in Israel. Check it out below
Lindelof is saying here he belives that when we die we head to purgatory, but not a time to get judged purgatory, but rather a place to be with friends until you're ready to cross over. It's a nice idea and a great coda to an excellent series, but it doesn't answer the question; What are you crossing over to? Ahh, of course, the real question that all philosophers have to tackle - Is there a God? Lindelof tackled this theory in this summer's "Prometheus" a film that like "Lost" inspired waves of theories about what it all means.
With "Prometheus" Lindelof like "Lost" was earnestly tackling some big ideas that like all philosophers, he doesn't understand because he simply can't (no mortals can brah). Yet still his basic vision that our creators were bald super jacked alien engineers who lost faith in us and now want to kill us paints a pretty grim picture, don't you think? Rather, I think with "Prometheus" has taken his philosophy game one step further by both those tackling larger issues but also injecting modern Ancient Alien conspiracy mysticism into the discussion. Yet still, the crux of both of these stories come down to the individual, and how they process powers greater than themselves. Noomi Rapace's character in "Prometheus" and Jack in "Lost" both see their convictions tested. Do they turn to science or to faith?
This concept of science/practicality vs faith is everywhere in his work. Ultimately so far, we've seen his character's trust in faith not science/ logic. This is even true in his "Star Trek" reboot. In that film we see a central character born in a baptism of fire and then assume the mantle of leader not because of his science skills like his rival Spock, but because of his emotional beliefs. It may not be as clear as the symbolism of "Lost" and "Prometheus" but it's still the same.
I don't know any other screenwriters or entertainers that are exploring themes through hyper entertaining mass media and that makes Lindelof unique. He's got the gift of making us talk about our "theories" about his stories, and many of us (myself included) probably don't realize that what we're really talking about are the questions that have vexed us humans for generations. With "The Leftovers" he won't need tropical polar bears, time travel, or alien body builders to make us talk about what it all means. This is a good thing, because it's about time he stopped messing around and embraced this whole 21st century philosopher thing.