I just took my grandkids (12 and 14) to see the new 3-D, sci-fi movie Avatar that’s been breaking all kinds of box office records. It’s great science fiction and is told as a classic Joseph Campbell tale about the hero’s journey. Like Odysseus, Luke Skywalker and Frodo, the hero gets separated from his ordinary life and surroundings, is faced with almost impossible challenges, and lives to tell about it.
The hero in Avatar is a paraplegic ex-marine, who gets taken to the planet Pandora in a galaxy far-far away. His job is to support a scientific mission studying the planet’s native inhabitants; but its real purpose is to support a military/industrial takeover of Pandora’s treasures. Pandora has the largest deposit of the most valuable mineral in the universe; and wouldn’t you know it, the indigenous people live right on top of it.
In order to learn about them, the scientists have found a way to transform themselves into Pandoran natives. They become these sensually lean, blue aliens who can energetically connect to each other, to animals and to trees in a way that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of hooking up.
In his transformed state, the ex-marine is no longer paralyzed, falls in love with a Pandoran princess, goes native and (like Lt. Dunbar in Dances with Wolves) leads his adopted people on a journey of liberation.
The forces of evil have an overwhelming technological advantage; the natives’ greatest power comes in believing that a living tree contains an energy that will save them. It’s an incurably romantic story of faith, hope and redemption that will suck you in with its special effects. The movie is in 3-D, so the spectacular scenery invites you to become a full participant. Blossoms from sacred trees float into the audience, sailing over you are fighter pilots in missile-armed spaceships, battling Native warriors mounted on flying dragons fire bows and arrows. At the end of this movie, the audience applauded.
We had planned to go to lunch afterwards, and I couldn’t wait to discuss the movie’s contemporary implications… the ongoing saga of the annihilation of native people; greed and exploitation as a national policy; how far do you go in following orders that you can’t live with? There was so much I wanted to talk about, so much to teach.
I wasn’t flapping for more than two minutes when they started rolling up their eyes. Finally, both looked at me and said “Papa do you ever stop talking? This was a great movie, can’t we just eat?”
It never ceases to amaze me how my grandkids help me realize how little I have to teach them about what’s ultimately significant. We are hooked up energetically, they will love me flapping or not, and they know I love them back. That’s it, relatives, the only important question at the end of your life is, how well did you love?