Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Avatar and Alter-Ego

I just saw the film Avatar - go here for the plot summary: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499549/plotsummary

The film takes you into a 3-D virtual world. The film presents this world as the planet, Pandora, inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Humans enter this world in two ways: 1. under the guise of science as Avatars and 2. under no guise at all but with guns blazing. There is a precious stone on this planet that can give earthlings all the energy they need to keep our machines (spaceships) going. Here think "Lord of the Rings" and the ring of power. The "scientist" cum "avatars" have surpassed the enlightenment era - science also considers that there may be mysteries on the planet that surpass scientific measurement (just maybe). They are not sure enough to stop taking samples of everything. The planet's people, rightly refer to themselves as the people or Na'vi,  just as America's first inhabitants called themselves. The Na'vi are living in a semi-paradise. (I thought of the film "Dances with Wolves.") Semi because there are a lot of dangerous animals. At least the humans find them dangerous.  Other than that it is beautiful and all connected through the webs of intricate threads held together by "Mother Pandora."

This film is a parable of us. Yes, you could get caught up in the virtual beauty, the dream world, the escape until the humans pursue. The humans must have original sin to be so downright disturbing. Hm, maybe the Na'vi also sin? There are hints of jealously and anger - even a rebellious daughter. It is hard for us to create worlds that don't hold up a mirror to us. After discussing the film with another sister I realized that what stood out for me was that it calls for integration of the two sides of our egos - which side is represented by the Na'vi and which by the greedy war-mongering humans? To be honest I am not sure.

We are moving into a post-modern era. This film reflects our dichotomous approach to this "new world." We are really at war seeking the precious stone (oil, money, goods). There are cultures we condemn without getting to know them (as Jake Sully eventually does in the movie). We believe that when we take care of mother Earth - mother Earth (you think of Gaia as the film progresses - more of a goddess earth) will take care of us. We dream of Eden - paradise - Pandora. We want to get back in - and when we do we won't be like the humans who devastate Pandora. We will understand that all is to be cared for, shared with others, taking only what we need (not want) and all will be provided for us.

Will our "original sin" reenter Eden with us? The tree of life was planted outside of the garden so we could reach its fruits this time. This tree is the cross of Christ. We can live in paradise - we are able to care for our planet and its inhabitants. Why don't we?  Because first we must realize that we are the humans and we are the Na'vi - we are the war-mongers and we are the innocents. As Christians we pray with St Paul "Who will save me from doing what I don't want?" and with Paul we believe "It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me."

Avatar is about our great desires for connection with each other, with our home-planet - with our primal and original beauty. Avatar is also about our inability to realize this holiness on our own. The good news is when we accept reality, stepping back from the virtual, then we find that the goodness, truth and beauty we seek is what has left us with great desire. We know that it exists, we know it is gift. As humans we are able to seek freedom. As Christians we are able to live in Jesus who said "I am the way" to paradise, "I am the truth" that you know is real, "I am the life" that bears the fruit from the tree of life that is within your reach. Jake Sully becomes the hero in the movie - the one who moves toward saving the Na'vi and becomes one of them. Our God has become one of us but not as we ever imagined - in Kenosis -emptying. Jake switched sides. He didn't integrate his ego. The world was still black and while. Our Christian invitation is to know our God as unknowable and yet very near to us. It is our vocation (call) to admit our sin and to acknowledge our lovableness. It is, in summary, the call to respond to the greatest love by loving in return.


Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP said...

Very nicely said. Although I think Cameron put everything into this film (from myth to religion to beauty, truth, goodness, sin and redemption and more) you have brought a Jungian perspective to light. This would make a good essay if you want to expand the areas you mention. My essay is posted athttp://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/riffing-myth
but I think there is so very much more to be said. Not a perfect film, but why are people going more than once to see it? What makes it compelling?

car said...

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