Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Avatar thoughts

Hollywood, Gaia, and the Shadow?

I saw the movie Avatar last night, and of course, walked out amazed by the state of the art technology and beautiful artistry displayed within this movie. The creation of the imaginary planet Pandora, with it's amazing attention to detail, including a whole botany of phosphorescent, glowing night plants, was fantastic. The colors and patterns of the life forms of "Pandora" were in harsh contrast to the grey machine world of the human invaders. From a mythic perspective, one hopes the "Pandora's box" unleashed within this film are actually the angels of a paradigm shift.

Having spent so much of my life learning about indigenous (and contemporary) Earth-based spirituality, shamanism, and myth, I loved the tribal forest people and their World Tree, their Axis Mundi. I also loved the inclusion of the idea that these people could "speak with the ancestors", and with Tewa, the collective being of their world. Gaia theory is invoked in this fantasy creation of an "indigenous people" who live in recognition and attunement to the universal organism of their planet. "All energy is borrowed" the hero learns, "and eventually you have to give it back".

They even had enough anthropological understanding to include the hunter who prays over the body of the fallen prey, offering thanks for the gift of its meat - this is, indeed, what native peoples universally did in both myth and in practice, recognizing and honoring that the animal has sacrificed its life to sustain the life of the tribe. Most Americans do not equate the hamburger they buy with an animal that has lost its life, let alone do they comprehend a spiritual system that respects the exchange of life force and energy that has taken place. What a wonderful concept to introduce to the young people who watched the movie.

Avatar also includes a Rambo, one-dimensional military commander, who is bound to destroy everything, being unable to "see" the value of the world around him other than a product to be exploited. We also learn that Earth has been devastated, "there's no green at home", and it's suggested that the invaders represent a culture that has long ago forgotten how to "see the green world". What the Navi "see" is a "green vision" of inter-connectedness, the "synapse between the trees" that Sigourney Weaver's character seeks to study.

As someone who once wrote a novel (with my former husband, Duncan Eagleson: The Song of Medusa ** about an ancient sibyl of Old Europe who could "talk with the Earth Goddess" by going into sacred underground caves, I especially loved the part where the blue people connected to "Tewa", the world soul or "the Mother", at their "tree of souls".

Great mythos here, re-invented and re-told by hugely ambitious storytellers.

Hollywood has been talking about the conflict between the technological/corporate/patriarchal/ paradigm and an emerging paradigm of a Gaian, wholistic consciousness for a long time. I've complained about the violence, vulgarity, and propaganda machine of Hollywood, but now offer applause as well. The not-so-independent film industry has been making the Shadow of our world visible for a while.

In the computer animated science fiction film of 2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within the world was besieged by the ghosts of a planet destroyed by war; the protagonists desperately strive to heal the "Gaia - World Soul" of that world while trying to protect the "Gaia" of their own from another military commander. I think of the "heart of the elder elves", the tree city of Lothlorian in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There the wise guardians of Middle Earth live in gigantic trees and confront a Dark Lord whose minions lay the world to waste. In the 80's Emerald Forest, an Amazon tribe steals away an American child to save him from the "Termite People" who are clear cutting the rain forests.

I actually had a Big Box Theatre revelation while recovering from this film extravaganza, and I'm somewhat at a loss to write about it. I'll try.

Viggo Mortensen is a brilliant actor, so I next visited The Road, currently showing. Here was another "road warrior" imagined future where society has broken down, and Mortensen's character travels with his son through a horrific world of rape and cannibalism. I reflected, leaving this truly grim film, on how this motif of a world survived only by the violent (and almost exclusively, violent men).........has occurred over and over and over, and offers a desperately nihilistic view of the human capacity for compassion and for cooperation.

"How I hate the scribblers, who only write of war,
and leave the true glory of the past all unsung."

......Robin Williamson
The patriarchal paradigm is based upon competition and hierarchy, and founded upon preoccupation with military might. This is our overwhelmingly predominant cultural mythos, reinforced again and again and again by endless variations on the same theme.

History is taught from the vantage point of wars fought and lost. Events like the development of art, philosophy, agriculture, religion, architecture, and medicine are almost noted as a sideline, secondary peripheral events that managed to occur between wars of conquest and defense, in spite of the rise and fall of empires. This view of history reflects an inability to see that the developments of creation and nurture, of peacemaking and trade, of sharing and cooperation, are more truly the true wealth and foundation of a civilization than the forces that destroy. Notions of violence are so universal that it is utterly underwritten in our cultural mythos. War is regarded as inevitable and even desirable: how else can one be a "warrior" without a war?

Even in the realm of new age spirituality I find myself struck with the popular idea of the "spiritual warrior". How about "spiritual peacemaker"? A teenage friend recently told me it was kind of a wimpy* sounding word. But why do we need to bring the concept of war even into the concept of creating peace?

Guns and swords are virtual talismens in our culture. We have a vast military complex in the United States, an atomic arsenal that is as terrible as any science fiction writer could have dreamed up. Even in the midst of economic meltdown and urgent news about climate change, our goverment continues to pour huge resources into a futile war. And although I grew up with the specter of nuclear annihilation, there is still no "Department of Peace" . Young people flood to careers in the military, careers that encourage enlistment with the ultimate idealism, pomp, and mythos of the noble warrior - yet, to the best of my knowledge, there are no specific career tracks for "peacemakers", "consensus makers", and "conflict resolvers".

Last March I stumbled serendipitously (and literally) into the dark vision of a movie (soon to be released) called "The Book of Eli". It was a synchronicity for me, because I went to Corrizozo, New Mexico, to visit a friend who was working on a forthcoming group show. As it turned out, the entire main street of little Corrizozo, N.M. had been rented, and made into a dark, post-apocalyptic movie set. Complete with ruined buildings and overturned buses, chain gangs of "slave" extras listlessly strode by, black smoke spewed from armored cars, and the sounds of snipers came from set windows. It was fun to watch the filming, and the detail was astounding.


The irony was that, after the movie was shot, the desolate veneer of the set was gradually peeled away by the crew, to reveal again the old street with its art galleries and studios. And when all was renewed in the spring light of April, my friends had their show, about the return of the Goddess, appropriately titled "The Return of the Mother". I like to think it was a good omen, that the dark future of war lords and slave masters, killing each other over (ultimate irony - the "book of Eli is the Bible)...........should be vanish like a film set or a dissolving water color, to reveal beneath the surface the bright hope of The Return of the Mother.

Now that is a living metaphor; what author Paulo Coelho calls "a sign"; I like to think it is a hope for the future.

* "Wimp" is an old English word that originally meant "young woman". "Wimpy" means cowardly, weak - there's a whole his-story of disrespect for the feminine right there, if you stop to think about it.


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