This is my Western Tribune column for January 13, 2010. I have seen Avatar twice, and probably will see it one more time. There are so many lessons to be learned from this film, it's hard to explain in 400 words. Here goes:
Picture credit: James Cameron's Avatar Wiki page
I will assume that most readers have seen the movie Avatar, but just in case someone reading this has missed the record breaking sensory feast, there will be no spoiler here. The details that I reveal have already been mentioned in news stories.
On Pandora, the planet like moon where the story takes place, a world is seen where the creatures and plant life – nature – are in tune and exist in a sort of harmony that still allows an acceptance of death and sorrow.
But in the year 2154 our planet has become “brown” and humans have found a new source for resources that are much needed on earth.
With that set up in mind, some conservative and religious leaders are claiming that there is a hidden message promoting a liberal tree-hugging, anti-Christian agenda.
Hardly. I mean, the message is not hidden; it’s the theme of the movie, with a love story entwined.
Nature is a powerful force, and we witness this every year with hurricanes and tsunamis and mudslides and such. Nature affects us in other ways as well, from the microbes that help us digest our food to the diseases that we seek to conquer.
On Pandora, rather than battling nature, the Na’Vi (the indigenous blue-skinned stars of the film) enjoy a spiritual connection to the other species with a simple understanding of the circle of energy and life.
We have tried to separate ourselves from the rest of nature, in part due to religious beliefs that promote us to a status above the animals over which we have dominion and just below the God we worship, but also because of what we have accomplished with the larger brains and opposable thumbs we developed.
In doing so, we link God and nature together in much the same way the Na’Vi link their natural life with their spiritual force, Eywa. We, or most of us, just don’t admit it.
Oddly enough, we have chosen to abuse our planet and ignore the signs of peril and the results are becoming evident, through climate change, and epidemics and such.
Nature versus God, or nature equals god, are arguments as old as humanity itself.
But as in the movie, nature “does not take sides.” Yet we will continue our attempts to shift the balance of life in our favor.
We may have to wait on the promised Avatar sequels to learn how that works out.