Spiritual Insights Gleaned From Avatar…


I broke down and saw Avatar last week, 3D glasses and all. It was well worth the price of admission. I wish I could say the same for the concessions. But all in all, I had a great night at the cinema.

Avatar is a really great cinematic experience. The story did have a little bit of a mix between Dances With Wolves and The Lion King sort of feel, but still overall it was enjoyable, fun and engaging.

I was reading some reflections on John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them, which took me back to Avatar. Leithart notes the kind of self-knowledge Adam acquires, not merely knowledge of the other creatures, in the naming of them. This is because in naming the animals Adam discovers “his own dissimilarity before them,” so that “with this knowledge, which makes him go in some way outside of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the distinctiveness of his being.” Some will likely see Avatar as pantheistic in its spirituality, and that may be correct, but the interconnectedness of human beings and the natural world, and a resulting sense of living gratefully before God can all be had without blurring the Creator/creature distinction.

I also think that Avatar has a unique take on the body/soul relationship, one more nuanced than I’ve seen in any blockbuster that I can remember. There is a sense in which the main character is more himself in his genetically engineered Navi body. But that body is specifically engineered for him (well for his brother who is a twin and has the same DNA). While there is a possibility of life in a new body, one which is specifically fitted with a particular human being in mind, there isn’t a disembodied personal essence that is able to exist eternally on its own. In a technicized culture with all manner of virtual realities abounding everywhere you turn, or click, this identification of our body as our self is refreshing. Perhaps even more intriguing is a new body, yours and new all at the same time, in which you are more yourself than you could have known was possible. Perhaps this is what 1 John 3:2 is getting at…

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.