James Cameron’s “Avatar” – My Thoughts

Today a dear friend of mine sent me an email that contained a link to a news story about the emotional impact the movie “Avatar” has had on many of its viewers. Some have expressed suicidal ideation, and some have told of their feelings of hopelessness. There are support groups springing up online to help people deal with their emotions after seeing the movie. There are folks lamenting the fact that humans cannot go and live on a pristine world like Pandora, and others who can hardly face their day-to-day existence now that they have seen the movie. Since I have been promising to write my own review of sorts, and with a nod to my friend, Franklin, I figured his email was the impetus I needed to do so.

Let me start in the middle – between the time I first saw the movie, and the present… I was stunned into silence as I left the movie and sat on a bench in the theater, waiting for my husband. As I left the theater, I literally could not speak, because I was choking back tears of outrage. By the time I got into the car with my husband, I was sobbing, and when I could finally speak, I was pouring out invectives for this culture and the society we live in.

Though I eventually dried my tears, my eyes twitched for hours afterwards, and they ached from the strain of watching my very first three-dimensional movie. It was thrilling, emotional, nearly engulfing me in the experience (I say nearly because 3-D glasses don’t work well with tri-focal progressive lenses), and the mundane quality of real life was accentuated for me on the drive home as I looked around at the ordinary cars and trees and roads and people and skies and mountains and, and…

It took me days to process the experience of the 3-D movie, James Cameron’s Avatar: a fact which didn’t stop me from going back to see it again the very next day. There was a certain “something” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on the first time through, but by the second viewing, I figured it out – something disquieting, something true and yet untrue, but which had wrapped its tendrils around my heart and squeezed it in a discomforting way. Loneliness. The sadness of the plight of the native peoples of this continent or North America was brought home afresh for me as I watched Cameron’s amazing ten-feet-tall sensual creatures glide before my wondering eyes. Immediately I felt the connection between the Na’vi and our own Native Americans. The fact that there was a nation full of indigenous peoples who simply called themselves The People in their respective languages was part of the loneliness I experienced as I watched the Na’vi tribal life.

Most European settlers who came to North America had no such tribal connections, and probably had no clue about what they were destroying in order to conquer the Native Americans. But sitting there in the movie theater, I was lonely for a tribe: for kith and kin who live and breathe and die together, who laugh and play and cry and work and sing and shout and have contests of bravery and distinguish themselves in their unique ways and yet are part of the whole clan. 

We Americans can barely live together in multi-generational homes. We are insular, separate, independent and alone for the most part. Having read the books, Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, by John Ehle, The Trail of Tears, by Gloria Jehoda, and more recently, Sacajawea, by Anna Lee Waldo, I understood that the natives of this continent had no chance to overcome the aliens that invaded their land. They were people of wood, earth and stone coming against people who had the iron horse and rifles and biological weaponry in the form of smallpox and other evils against which they could not stand.

But Avatar gave us a glimpse of the revenge that could have been. It offered the false hope of a do-over that shall never be realized. It is true that many white people became assimilated into Indian tribes, but they brought with them new technology that simultaneously improved the tribal life and sealed their doom.

Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden who promised Eve things that she could not even understand, yet he created a longing in her heart for more than she had in that perfect world – she could be like God, knowing good from evil – Jake brings his own technology to the assistance of the Na’vi in time to teach them the art of war on a whole new level. Never would those people be the same. In fact, where the old tribal ways kept their world in balance, now they were accepting a hybrid body with an alien mind as their new leader.

Which brings me to the second kind of loneliness Mr. Cameron’s movie stirs up: the feeling that there must be some other, or many others, “out there”. He switched up the old story of aliens from other countries coming to invade our world to steal our resources and subjugate our people; he made us the aliens, whom, after raping and pillaging and “killing our mother” [sic], have jumped to other planets to do the same to other native cultures.

Mr. Cameron’s take on the human bent for conquering and assimilation is not a new story. C.S. Lewis did it (arguably) first, but by far he did it best, and was perhaps more deeply and keenly aware of the way human nature fails as he portrayed this very scenario in his first book of his celebrated Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet (1938). In this story, he lays bare the fallen man’s heart of greed and the need for dominance that is most successfully employed by he who has the biggest stick, but he goes far beyond Star Wars’ spirituality or Avatar’s technology by eloquently exposing the black hole that is the human heart without God. He brilliantly brings to the fore the arrogance, single-minded desire for conquest, and the subsequent humiliation of our species before those whose greatness we cannot comprehend due to the hubris that floats like a log in the proverbial eye. He employs a single Cambridge don on holiday, cleverly named Ransom, to save the world after he is forced aboard a spaceship that lands on a planet that is not only inhabited by flesh and blood creatures, but also accompanied by a spiritual presence his own home earth has not known since the great war in heaven.

Avatar’s hero, Jake Sully, cannot sense the “mother” of Na’vi at first, even though his Avatar body is derived of both human and Na’vi DNA. He is a warrior at heart, though his human body is badly damaged and his legs are completely useless. The audience experiences his joy vicariously as his own mind is connected to the grey matter within the Avatar body and he begins to work his hybrid human-Na’vi legs and feet for the first time. We all wonder how it would be to have a new body, especially those of us who are chronically ill and in pain, paralyzed, or missing limbs.

Jake plummets into the world of Pandora like a bull in a china shop. He stirs up the natural balance of the flora and fauna of the planet and nearly gets himself killed several times in the process. When Neytiri, daughter of the tribal leaders, watches the seeds of the Tree of Souls land on Jake, she determines that he has a strong heart. When she brings him home to meet mother and father, the fact that he is a warrior impresses them so much that they decide she, Neytiri, must train him in their ways – a decision that seems out of keeping with the usual tribal way of life (to kill the warrior of a threatening clan before he can kill them first), but which is vetted by Neytiri’s assertion that “there has been a sign.” Even near the end of the movie, when Jake turns to the Tree of Souls to connect “biologically” with the tendrils in his Avatar tail, after he finishes his prayer to Pandora’s deity, Eywah, Neytiri informs him that her job is merely to keep the balance on their world (shades of “the Force”), and that she does not usually answer individual prayers.

Jake has no particular faith in Eywah (a thinly veiled substitute for Yahweh), but like all good warriors, he knows there are no atheists in foxholes. So he prays to the earth deity – the biological creature that connects the entire planet together with its inhabitants, all apparently imbued with a sentient being unlike that of his own world. His loneliness and separation from his own species is felt here as he reaches out to something or someone he does not know. It is like that for people who do not know God, and I am convinced this struck a chord in the hearts of many viewers, whether they knew it or not at the time.

The Na’vi people’s physical connection with their strange flying dragons, and horses with six legs, is very reminiscent of Anne McCaffrey’s heart and soul connection between dragons and their riders in her Dragon Riders of Pern. And once more we are forced to recognize the loneliness we feel. This time it is due to the enmity that is between man and wild creatures, because the closest we can get to communing with them these days is usually horse-whispering, dog-whispering, taming certain wild cats, studying and training dolphins, keeping aviaries, keeping bees, wrangling rats and tarantulas, or owning household pets, etc. We observe them, we tend to them, we capture and domesticate them, and we may even be able to have communication on a very rudimentary level; we teach them to understand certain words and to give us calculated responses, but we do not know their thoughts any further than they have allowed us to observe. They go to the door to show us they need to relieve themselves. They cry at their food dishes to tell us they are hungry. They scratch us if we hold on too tightly, and they snuggle if they like our warm company.

But it was God who put enmity between Man and animal at the fall of creation when He provided skins from the first animals to shed blood in order to cover the nakedness of our mother Eve and father Adam. And try as we might, there is nothing we can do in general to reverse that trend, even though Creation groans for its salvation even now.

Did we kill our first mother, as Avatar suggests? The idea of Gaia, our mother earth (taken from the name Gaea, the Greek goddess of the earth and mother of Cronus and the Titans), dying due to our actions is not terribly far off the mark, but it is a lie that contains only a kernel of the truth.

Elohim’s spirit breathed and brooded over the depths like a hen hovering over her chicks, and then God spoke and said, “Let there be light”, and there was light (Genesis 1:2-3).  God’s Spirit (Ruach) brooded over the void, as part of the Elohim (plural) of which our Father, Son and Holy Spirit are part.

In Revelation 3:1 Jesus speaks of “He who has the seven spirits of God…” so it is not heresy to believe that God, who made male and female creatures, could express Himself in several different genders (not to be confused with sex: male or female). In Luke 13:34, Jesus expresses his desire to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her brood, and therein also confirms the Genesis description of God brooding over the face of the deep. It also confirms His unity with the Elohim.

Adonai Elohim (God pl.) created Adam, the first man, and placed him in the Garden of Eden. Because God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, He caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and took a rib from his side and formed a woman, so-called because she was taken out of man. God created Adam from the dust of the earth, but God created Eve in a special way, taking her from the first man.

There are those who see the earth as their “first cause”, and therefore, they see her as their mother. Many indigenous tribes over the earth have a special feeling and bond with the earth, and they are close to its creatures and plants in a way that modern man cannot understand, or simply scoffs at. However, even those indigenous tribes, whether from the dark Amazon rain-forests, or the African plains, or the Native Americans, or the happy Hunzans, know there is something of spirit, which cannot be explained simply by observing plants and animals. Some imbue animals with certain powers, or wish to partake of their observed nature and character, and yet they reserve their total reverence and awe for a Great Spirit, from whom they acknowledge all things come.

For modern man, it is a “fact” that we humans are killing our planet – our mother – but we either err on the side of Darwin’s theory of evolution, or we have very short memories and don’t know our own true history and therefore conclude that all the damage to the earth is new and if we just slow down our “population explosion” and participate in “sustainable” projects, we can eventually reverse the damage we have caused.

In 1979 the Georgia Guidestones were created, and their message was written in eight modern languages, and clearly spelled out the agenda of the New World Order:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

Within these ten suggestions, a kind of new age Ten Commandments, we find the heart and soul of today’s cry for sustainability, and we can find many of its basic tenets are expressed by Mr. Cameron’s “Avatar”.

But we also see that the anonymous man, representing an anonymous group, has an agenda that supersedes and replaces the need for God. The Georgia Guidestones is the face of an agenda that goes against the very truth of God.

God created the earth. God is not dead. God created Adam and Eve. The serpent tempted Eve, and Eve succumbed. Her mate, Adam, who was present for the whole show, chose to fall with his woman. Because of our human “mother” sin entered into the world, and eventually she died. Therefore we did not kill our “mother” earth. In fact, our first mother killed our earth by introducing sin into the world.

But our Creator had a plan, and even as He killed the first animals to provide skins to cover our naked first parents, and drove them out of the Garden and away from the Tree of Life, He also prophesied a time when the woman’s seed would become the salvation of her race. One of her sons would one day crush the serpent’s head.

We are all born with the knowledge of our Creator God in our hearts. It is in our very DNA to remember that there is a God, no matter how hard we fight to try to disprove it. By virtue of that knowledge, we also know that there is a Paradise of God, and we long to see it.

It is my contention that the longing Mr. Cameron’s “Avatar” has touched upon is our innate longing to be reunited with our Creator, and to see that Garden of Eden – that paradise that was lost.

The bad news is that Mr. Cameron can only touch on that need and amplify that longing for beauty and heavenly unity that he shows us in fantastic three-dimensional images.

The good news is that God has promised that those who love Him, who come to Him, will in no wise be cast out.

Whosoever will follow will inherit the Kingdom of God. He sent someone better than Jake Sully, human-Na’vi hybrid. He sent His son, Jesus, wholly God and wholly man, to show us how to come to Him.

Everything is in perspective for me now. “Avatar” was an amazing movie, and a thrilling ride – I’m looking forward to the sequels. But “earth” is not my mother; it is just my temporary home, and I’m just passing through.

One more thing… The fictional Pandora was a remarkable place, and it awakened in many a longing for home. But if Mr. Cameron can imagine such a place, it can’t be heaven, because:

(9) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  (10)  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 1Corinthians 2:9-10

Pastora Covert

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