Stay Tuned…

Ali at Meadowsweet & Myrrh has written a thoughtful and perceptive response/critique to my review of Avatar that unfolds out into her own nuanced review of the movie. I would commend this to anyone who reads my blog. I don’t have time this morning to write a response to her thoughts (my car is in the shop and I need to pick it up before I go to work), but I’ll do so either tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are three quotations that might give you a hint as to where my thoughts are going in regard to Avatar:

The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.

— William Blake

I have one major rule: everybody is right.

— Ken Wilber

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind can see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor receive good news.”

— Matthew 11:4-5

Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
Pentecost and Ecstasy
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Ali

    I like the sound of that second one. ;)

    After seeing the movie, I spent a good hour talking with my partner about things I wished the film-makers had done, ways in which the story could have been more nuanced or challenging to all the typical Hollywood stereotypes and familiar tropes. I was half-tempted to write a blog post retelling the story the way I would have told it. Jake’s restoration to spiritual wholeness through an abandonment of fractured duality (implied in remote-controlled avatars and his own crippled body) and a return to sacred embodiment in connection with the web of life would have played a big role in that retelling. In such a retelling, Jake would no longer be the typical White Male Outsider who steps in to save the Noble But Doomed Savages, but a kind of representative of the “Sick Soul” (a la William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience) who has moved through and overcome suffering in ways that the “First Born” have not. This is obviously a vastly different version of the story than the one Cameron actually tells, but the seeds of it are there (one might say the hope that lurks in the storyline after all the silliness and hypocrisies of Hollywood have been let loose ;).

    But, I think someone already made this observation on your other post, maybe this movie is so good because it’s so empty, we’re so familiar with it (and yet we keep retelling it, so obviously it must mean something to us)–in some ways, it’s becoming a kind of cultural myth that we can begin to fill in and interpret in many different ways, and each time it’s retold the themes shift and change slightly. Despite my disagreeing with aspects of your review, I’m still really pleased and impressed by it; it seems to be a creative exploration of the story’s potential similar to the one I would have liked to write, though different in focus. It even reminds me of something I would probably have written myself only a few years ago. I’m really looking forward to seeing what more ideas you have to share. The process of thinking deeply about and telling (and retelling) the stories of our culture is so utterly important, and there are always new insights to be gained, differences and similarities to be explored.

  • Carl McColman

    Thanks, Ali. I have a clear sense that what we’ve got going on here is creative, constructive dialogue, and not chest-thumping or one-up-man-ship, and I appreciate the tone you’re setting in this regard. I think there is so much possibility for creative cross-fertilization when Pagans and Christians of goodwill (and reasonable humility!) enter into dialogue with one another, so it’s in that spirit that I will respond to your posts.

    I saw the movie again last night, this time with my wife, and as we drove home she said, “Well, I don’t care what the critics are saying, the story worked for me.” And we mused on why this is so: because we both choose to enter into stories for their mythic resonance, and not so much for their novelty. So in that sense, we find a story as “empty” as this one even more satisfying than something that is arty and original, but lacks room to breathe.

    Anyway, I’m at work now, so must keep this brief. More to come later.