The character Neytiri crouches and touches the earth.
Avatar is breaking box-office records, mostly because of the extraordinary special effects. Most of the movie is 3D animation, meaning the kind using 3D glasses. Another component of its success is the compelling story, especially its insights into human nature and our efforts to strive to be better people.
Human experience consists of two sides: the practical, materialistic, day-to-day world, and the spiritual world. Typically, people access the spiritual world through religion, meditation, the dreamworld and other methods.
In this movie, scientific researchers are working in tandem with a multinational corporation to interact with the Na'vi, the native humanoids on a rainforest-like planet called Pandora. To do this, scientists have combined the DNA of humans and Na'vi to crate host bodies that can be entered through a sophisticated computer setup.
One of the recruits for this job is Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine whose brother had originally been picked for the project but, unfortunately, was killed during a mission. Sully connects with the Na'vi and begins to learn about their lives.
This movie sets up a dichotomy between the human leaders of the corporation and the Na'vi. The corporate leaders are selfish, interested only in securing access to valuable materials which they hope to mine. On the other side, the Na'vi are in touch with the land and recognize the spiritual connection between them and all living creatures. They kill only as a means of survival and strive to walk gently in their surroundings. Clearly, the human corporate leaders represent the practical, day-to-day materialistic world, while the Na'vi represent the spiritual world.
Interestingly, the long tube that Sully and others see as their consciousness travels into their avatar bodies is similar to the tunnel that shamans describe when they travel to the spirit world.
The distinction between the two sides grows more clear as the movie progresses, as the human leaders push those under their command to take dire steps to achieve their ends. By contrast, the Na'vi join forces to try to protect the interconnected lives of their world.
Most of us can learn something from Avatar: namely, the importance of appreciating other cultures on their own terms; and the fact that the environment of our world is just as essential to our well-being as Pandora's is to the Na'vi. Yet, these simple lessons are all too easy to forget.
When Sully meets Neytiri, the daughter of the tribal leader, she refers to him as a baby, a child that cannot see. In many ways, that is what our Western culture encourages: an infantilized drive to demand everything we want, without worrying about the consequences. Instead, we should find ways to coexist.
I'm sure that we can all think of recent political and global events which would apply. Perhaps it's more productive if we look at our own personal lives and determine where we can strike a better balance between our day-to-day materialistic concerns and our spiritual needs. Regardless of your spiritual path, it's important to nurture that inner life, even if it means just taking a five-minute break to do some deep breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) while clearing your mind of everyday concerns.
Now in my second trimester of pregnancy, I am learning these lessons anew. Since I am forbidden to drink alcohol, I am once more learning to appreciate socialization for its own sake. I remember how I used to be, as a college undergrad, turning down drinks at parties: not out of any deep moral code, but because I knew I didn't need it to enjoy myself. All you have to do is ask my friends, and they'll assure you I do not need to be drunk to dance or be silly. It's refreshing to rediscover that side of myself.
In much the same way, it's best for pregnant women to avoid unnecessary medication unless prescribed by a doctor. While acetometaphine is safe, I try to avoid taking it. In my early days of pregnancy, I was getting almost daily headaches, until I realized they were caused by dehydration. Now that I have increased my water consumption, I don't have that problem. The solution, quite simply, was to give my body what it needs.
The same goes for sciatic (lower back) pain. I've learned that the best cure are some pregnancy-safe stretches. Often, the pain is considerably relieved. It's amazing, the healing properties of the body.
In our Western, materialistic world, we are always looking for easy fixes, for instant solutions. And yet, the better solutions are often less drastic and more subtle.
I take heart that Avatar is doing so well. While I realize it's mostly succeeding because of the impressive visuals, at the same time the message is getting out to millions of people. They, too, might soon begin to see the world differently, to say, "This world needs to change, and it needs to start with me." Maybe they, too, will strive to access the better half of their natures.
Sometimes movies provide spiritual insights.