Posted by: Andrew G | January 18, 2010

Avatars

I got my mom to read this over before I posted it. It started a whole avalanche of conversations between us. I think I will just post it as I wrote it originally. And then let it be.

I’d love some feedback. Am I going to far? Am I not going far enough?

Saw the movie Avatar last week. Bright colours. Big booms. Characters painted in broad strokes.

I enjoyed it immensely.

Some pretty deep research done for it, I think, and some creative minds working at the peaks of curiosities.

The Navi people believe you are born twice. First, entering the world as a baby. Second, becoming accepted as a member of the people, given the right to speak and be heard as an equal while taking on the responsibilities of the people.

Hmm. Got me thinking of Joseph Campbell.

Campbell’s book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, did a major mind-freak on me. I bought it as one of the texts for a course when in school. Interestingly enough, I ended up dropping the course because of a conflict in my schedule with another course I thought I really wanted to take. Ended up the course (I thought) I really wanted to take became something of a dud. My friend Nick stuck it out in the original course and would taunt me from time to time because of it.

I kept all the texts for the dropped course. I tried to keep all my textbooks regardless of whether I liked them or not, whether they were a complete rip-off or not (“$78 for a 600-page snooze-fest and we use it four times!?! Anger RISING!!”) Call me a sucker, a book-crazy fool. I kept Campbell’s book and got to it the following summer.

My brother borrowed the book some time later from me. He laughed at me when he first saw my copy.

“Andrew, you use a bookmark to mark a page so you can find it easily again. What’s the point of putting a bookmark after every other page?”

It was the book that transformed me into one of those people that writes notes inside a book. Before then I would try to be polite and only make light pencil underlines or soft exclamation marks in the margins. But it wouldn’t work with Campbell’s book. The crisp, clean paper was too pregnant with ideas to be just merely handled politely. I was enraptured, engaged. I had to have a full conversation with it—notes, comments, extensions, rewordings, big question marks.

It got me thinking about my Christian upbringing too. Yea, I came back to it, didn’t I?

My folks weren’t big on the born-again thing. Yep, there are Christians out there like this. So when I was first exposed to the deeply rooted conviction of some people that insisted everyone must be born again through Jesus Christ, I was struck dangerously dumb. Seriously. I had a kind of inkling about what was going on, but at best my understanding was metaphorical (and focused on other things). So the emotional seriousness of such people caught me like “a deer in the headlights”, if you’ve heard the expression before…

It probably didn’t help that a friend of mine around that time gave me a tape of Dennis Miller’s stand-up routine. Yes, tapes. Date-stamp that remark. Dennis has a way of cutting through to the core of things. As Dennis put it, “pardon me for getting it right the first time.” (Thanks, Rob. Sarcasm did get us through a lot, didn’t it?)

It took me some time to process, but finally I came to this conclusion: saying that I needed to be born again through this historical male character (albeit, quite likely a genius) in order to begin my life of righteousness is an insult to the efforts and the biology and the role of my mother. It is also an act of control by human institutions and an attempt to map one religion upon cultural elements that can be found throughout the world.

However, becoming accepted as a responsible member of the community (whether it be the community of Christ, or the community as described by the address where you get your mail) is a second birth. I think it should be given such importance as to tie it to the word ‘birth’. For Christmas I had asked for a book by Jordan Peterson, “Maps of Meaning”. It’s a touch expensive. I did get Hitchens however, “God is not Great” from my parents, and I am working my way through my booklist right now eager to get to it. But I also know my birthday is coming so I am going to make another front for Peterson.

Christ’s genius, in biblical terms, has been described to me by my mom through his tying together of some of the most important teachings of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. And I’ve seen these tenets countless times in comments under blogs:

First, love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Second, Love your neighbor as yourself.

The first one requires belief. The second one requires action. The first one is interior. The second one is exterior. The first one can create a division between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The second one creates an ‘us’, despite how important or unimportant the division is between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The first one is only possible for those with a particular belief. The second is possible for all of us.

If you need the first and it leads you to the second, then the world is a better place. And I am thankful. But I can only stand witness, struck with awe, to the genius of the second one.

(Ok, yea I did some editing after all. All blessings, gang.)

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Responses

  1. […] I did a little piece on my thoughts on Avatar.  That movie struck some deep and tender strings in the hearts of audiences, even if it was […]

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  3. […] first impressions, my mind went immediately to ideas of hero mythology and Joseph Campbell during the explanations on how our conscious nervous system seeks out new understandings […]

  4. […] just seems weird to me. I mean, I’m a preacher’s kid. Music lessons were a must-have according to my mom. And, I do think about or practice music in […]


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