Reflections on Avatar

Since it debuted in December, Avatar has been a massive ship that has arrived in every port with record-breaking success. Ahoy mateys! Almost everyone has been on board and even I who rarely goes to a Hollywood film, went to see it. But when i left the theatre on Boxing day, I felt different than my partner and my friends. And I continue to feel different about it than most people I know.

Before you read on, remember that i am not here to rock the boat nor do I fancy a mutany. Arr, I am simply raising a sail from a slightly different angle.

Successful Graphics?
Yes, I can wholeheartedly recommend Avatar as a visual feast. I really appreciate the incredible time, energy and innovative craft that went into the visual design of this production. Hollywood is so good at hiring the best visual effects artists, animators and designers! But, Hollywood often misses investing in better writing, characters and deeper storylines…

Successful Formula?
Yes, some filmic formulas are pretty effective and can be powerful templates but I was surprised by how predictable and superficial the storyline AND characters were in Avatar. For me, it was a 3D visual experience with 2D plot and 1D characters. I guess I expected a bit more depth and intelligence from the world’s most expensive film. Spectacle is not a replacement for content.

Many might have intuitively recognized some of the formulas and over the last month, some critiques have outlined these formulas. Here are 2 examples:  and

Successful Tribute to Gaia?
Yes, this box-office giant has touched upon the heartfelt values of environmentalists, activists and Gaia supporters.   It showed the reverence that the Indigenous culture of Pandora had for its land, animals and its literally “connected” way of life. The concept of “Eywa” force or mother energy of the planet Pandora is clearly aligned with “Gaia” and even reminiscent of “Aya” (ayahuasca = the great mother plant deity).

Also in the aesthetic design of Pandora, it feels like the graphic artists have been influenced by the aesthetics of “visionary art”. Anyone who is not familiar with this genre of art can google it to see some visual examples. For me, it is art that is inspired by an expanded consciousness that allows visionary sight or awareness of other dimensions. This state can often be reached by spiritual practice or by the intake of entheogens. It feels like at least one lead designer on the crew of Avatar had been exposed to visionary art, maybe via intentional dance culture or events like Burning Man. Perhaps James Cameron was also inspired by something of that ilk?

However, I cannot ignore that the film is still touting the formulaic use of Violence as a final heroic way to resolve conflict. And no, I am not against the presence of violence in film. When cinema uses it with conscious intent to reveal its devastating consequence, then violence is a powerful teaching and reflection. e.g. The Godfather is violent but very intelligently written and it does not suggest that violence is the means to an end. The violence is not glorified.

In most wars, the soldiers on each side believe that they are fighting a righteous battle. They feel that they are doing the right thing when they kill their enemy. The concept of Enemy or the Us versus Them paradigm is the consciousness that continues to propagate war and violent conflict. The Military-Industrial complex is made up of our sons, daughters, friends and peers. The corporations are also comprised of our own…they are brothers and sisters from another mother. Granted, this is a very complex issue and I don’t necessarily expect a Hollywood film to address the depth of it. But we can strive to be aware of this faulty paradigm and see how to address it in future works. Yes, Avatar was evolutionary in its 3D filmmaking, but for me, it was not revolutionary in its story or thinking.

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Successful Bridge?
Despite my critique, I am appreciating Avatar’s popularity as evidence that the mainstream world is increasingly tuning into Gaia consciousness. Avatar is a pop culture stepping stone to help bring the masses into the dialogue. I am always interested in how pop culture phenomena affect collective consciousness. This film is being celebrated by new fans of Gaia theory AND by long-time activists.

But the final evolution of a collective activist mentality will be to approach our planet’s issues with Love Consciousness instead of War Consciousness. The next revolution in filmmaking and conflict resolution is not going to be from high technology, it will be heart-technology. When we can see beyond the one dimensional concept of the villain, and see instead a multi-dimensional human being with a heart, soul and complex history, then we can use our brilliant artistry to find common ground. In that space, we can awaken each other’s humanity to co-create a new reality on this planet.

I’ve heard about many people longing to be on Pandora. The good news is, our own Earth is really THAT beautiful and THAT miraculous. True Evolution and Revolution is happening as we individually move towards mutual understanding, compassion, win-win strategy for the pursuit of Happiness, Peace and Environmentalism here on planet Earth.

Successful Dialogue?
I am glad that this film has evoked such dialogue and even this tiny article has caused some great online discussions of high concepts. Of course, “non-violence and compassion” are not merely intellectual or new-age lingo. These concepts are living and breathing commitments that we can work with daily. I’ve been studying and transforming the various forms of violence in my own consciousness since childhood and am continually evolving into further depths of Love. I have also worked with hundreds of peers to examine and transform the violence in their lives. I have experienced and witnessed many miracles along the way and can attest that Love is not a passive state. It is not a wimpy, simplistic, idealistic cop-out. That is a stereotype that exists because of our fear and misunderstanding. Love is a complex, real and powerful force that inspires brilliance and innovation. It requires tremendous courage yet heals fear, separation and violence.

In my private and public work, I aim for tangible application of these concepts. I really get my hands dirty when I practice and I must use all my creativity to overcome blocks. Non-violence and compassion must be lived, not just discussed. Only as we practice it, can we get a visceral understanding of how to engage it in real situations. Embodying compassion does not mean that we don’t duck or block an attack if it were to come. We can choose the best possible response but the key is to do so without hatred in our hearts. Yes we can disarm our brother but we do not hate him. He has simply been under the influence of Fear (hatred is fear in drag). Our continuing efforts to understand the fears of our brother clans will bring healing and true solutions. But if my clan destroys the other clan, the ashes of that victory will rise in another war one day. As a species, we HAVE used violent force ad nauseum. If it was truly effective, Peace would reign. But we have not fully exercised and examined non-violent creativity and strategy. Many of us have heard the definition of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

In the end, even the most eloquent dialogue can end up in the Ivory Towers of our intellect so we must keep it real by transforming the subtle violence in our everyday lives. It is the tiny seed of fear in each of us that contributes to the manifestation of war. Yes, maybe we will create great movements, artworks and foundations that will benefit thousands or millions. But we must always be faithful to our own inner work for that is the truth of our vibration and it is our final legacy after all is said and done.

Much love to all species…
xox little woo  (jan.30, 2010)

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P.S.  I’m enjoying the curious permutations of the word AVATAR:
1) Ascended master manifested in human form
2) 3D or 2D body, icon or image that represents you online
3) Genetically engineered alien body controlled remotely by a human navigator in Cameron’s film.

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