After giving it some serious thought, and re-watching the movie over the holidays) I think that Avatar attempted to move us back to a domain of authentic human (read: native peoples) values. More and more, the message that people are getting when they rewatch Avatar, they realise that it is not a journey into an alien consciousness, or into some simulacrum of our own chaotic civilisation. At heart it’s a journey into the presence of the Gaian mind via Eywa, reminding us of our gene deep knowledge that the Earth is a coherent whole: it is a thinking, feeling, intending, being – that in terms of our value structures, it would be foolish to image as anything other than female. And when cultural values created by male dominance and science and linearity and so forth and so on – when those values are dissolved, what is waiting there is this incredibly poignant experience of nothing more than our bodies and the Earth (Eywa), out of which our bodies came.
History, as we have lived it in the West, has been a turning of our back on that; and now history has failed. Western cultural institutions, having become global institutions, now show themselves to be inadequate to inspire, lead or carry anyone into a future worth living in. The current climate crisis I think reminds us that reconnecting to the Gaian mind is a kind of moral imperative.
I think we have to abandon Western cultural values and return to the deeper wisdom of the body in connection with plants. That’s the seamless web that leads us back into the heart of nature; and if we can do this, then this very narrow neck of cultural crisis can be navigated. Very little of the past can be saved. The architectonics, the machines, the systems of monetary exchange and propaganda, the silly religions, the asinine aesthetic canons, very little of that can be saved. What needs to be saved is the sense of love and caring, and mutuality, that we all put into and take from the human enterprise. You know, there’s a Grateful Dead song that says “You can’t go back and you can’t stand still. If the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will.” And we now hold, through the human imagination, a tool of sufficient power that if we use it, we can deconstruct the lethal vehicle that is carrying us toward the brink of apocalypse. We can deconstruct that vehicle and redesign it into a kind of spacecraft that would carry us and our children out into the broad starry galaxy we know to be awaiting us.
What we face now is a cultural test. Nature is pitiless. Intelligence is a grand experiment upon which a great deal has been bet. If we prove inadequate, nature will cover us over with the same kind of cool impunity that she covered over the dinosaurs and the trilobites and the crossopterygian fishes, and all those other things that came before. So what we must do, I think, is embrace Avatar, see our future in the imagination. Catalyse the imagination. Form symbiotic relationships with the Earth.
Affirm native values, spread the good news that what is out of control, what is in fact dying, is a world that had become too top-heavy with its own hubris, too bent by its own false value systems, and too dehumanised to care about what happens to its own children. So I say, good riddance to it! Bring on the Avatar sequels, and let us hope they can help us usher in a new age.