Avatar is wonderful — that is, wonder-filled. For me, three times on the San Francisco IMAX. That’s my minimum for an event that my psyche didn’t even realize how much it was longing for, even though I was jonesing for it a lot. I’m a James Cameron freak, so I knew he had this Avatar dream for decades. I also knew that, even given his drive, passion, creativity, technical savvy, and skills behind the camera and in the editing room, at heart he’s a rebel mystic and a cultural way-shower. Bad-ass action with an evolutionary sensitivity. That’s a dangerous brew. Hell, he’s an avatar himself.
Reminded me of when I was 27, and Star Wars just came out. And this was 7 years after my first death/rebirth, and getting blown out on the Road Home. I was so excited by the Force — that deep spiritual principle — available for billions. What a planetary up-grade. It’s one of the things I mean when I say film can be a spiritual technology. Now, if I was a great being, say, for example, One Who Is In Charge of Earth Evolution — and let’s say it was emergency time, and something drastic for the planet was called for — for example, like a wake-up call — humans needing to be seriously hit up-side the head, something like that. And perhaps I was considering, but maybe willing to stop just short of total planetary annihilation. What I’d do would be to use movies to kind of slip the Message in — get these humans side-ways, so they’d never see it coming.
And the next thing you know, all those bad-ass ticket-buyers between the ages of 16 and 26 — especially all those dudes like myself who like to blow shit up — all these guys could see Avatar and get some adrenalin-pumping 3D action, and walk out of the theater going, “Wait a minute, what’s that cooking deep inside? I’m feeling some kind of new call of the wild. Wait a minute, I think I hear my Momma calling”. Well, for all you tree-huggers, like James Cameron, and me, that’d be Mother Earth checking in. She’s maybe just seeing if anybody on this rock is paying attention. She’s no fool. She’ll use whatever it takes to slip a little DNA shifter into the planetary bloodstream — even a wild man Hollywood director like Cameron with a kick-ass ego and penchant for jump-starting a zeitgeist shift.
But that’s not really what I wanted to say. I want to share my Movie Yoga experience — not do some critique, or an analysis of planetary evolution. It’s about my experience, about what happened to me, how I’ve been changed by seeing the movie. Re-wind: Avatar, the first time. I’m in line an hour early — holding the spot for my family, Cary and Bryn — I look up, and something completely unexpected happens: I’m in line right next to an old and dear friend — another movie yogi, I might add, and someone with whom I’ve shared some of the greatest movie experiences of my life, and who, except for a series of interesting karmic circumstances, I’d definitely be seeing Avatar with now, as a sacred occasion. But we hadn’t seen each other in months, and had absolutely no communication or plans to see Avatar together. But here we are, on this day, at this showing, and at this exact moment in line together, an hour early. Tell me this isn’t a magic universe.
So, we settle in. And the 3D is like doing the deep breathing we do in Holotropic Breathwork(TM) to go into an enhanced state of awareness. Perfect for re-arranging consciousness. And then I’m gone — into that world — into Pandora — and I’m brushing aside foliage right there in my seat, warding off bad-ass critters — taking the ride — and getting the story — the metaphor for a shamanic world-view, the parallels with what’s happening all over the planet, the destruction of the ecosphere, and the Divine Feminine. It’s awesome.
But you want to know what else I’m doing? I’m judging. I’m in a little teenie bit of my cynical self, thinking, “I already know this — come on, James, show me some more, stretch me.” All this while I’m still being blown away and loving it. But, like a splinter in my mind, this niggling judgment, this dis-ease gnaws at me a little. And then I get a hint of disappointment, like I know I’m in the middle of something special and once-in-a-lifetime, but I’m missing it because of something in me, a trick of my mind. Oh, shit, it’s something I’m mortally familiar with — judgment, cynicism, an ego of “I already know this — I’m special, I’m unique, I’m in the know” — that sort of thing.
And I realize that this trait has been with me forever — that it has prevented me so many times from being in the full enjoyment of the moment, a richer appreciation of each second of my life. It has reinforced in me a sense of separation that has been one of the principle sources of my dissatisfaction with existence here in this world. It has been one of the drivers of my ego — some false sense of exclusivity — all under the guise of a phony sense of cynicism and superiority. And I see how life has been offering me every second some kind of awesome beauty and power, some priceless, on-going gift. Except that so much of the time I miss it, trying to maintain — what, a sense of me-ness, my cool, my in-the-know-ness.
And this is my Movie Yoga experience from the first showing. Complex, multi-leveled, beautiful yet uncomfortable, important, and absolutely, devastatingly right-on about a way that I create my continued unhappiness in the world. All in the middle of an experience of great wonder. Okay, but this is the first screening for me. That’s nothing. I’m just getting started. Avatar is up there on the second largest screen in the world — a work of art — like some painting in a gallery in the Louvre . And all I got to do is show up one more time, and another after that — see what I missed, be open, experience more, learn, grow, be humbled by the power of beauty, and by the creative spirit in every human on this planet, that continues at every moment to be revealed to me, if I’m just half awake to see it.
But there’s more, oh so much more. If you’re looking for a critique or a review, you’re in the wrong blog. Unless you’re open to a different kind of review — and that’s the one we can do for ourselves. How movies — and everything else in life for that matter — can be just these amazing opportunities to learn how to be in the world in a way that fulfills us, more and more each day. Thank you James Cameron, and the relentless creative spirit that drives you, and the power of the beauties and truths that pour through Avatar — the ones you’re aware of, and the ones that some greater Playful Spirit just may have thrown in, if for no other reason than to thicken the plot of our life here on this planet. Once again, my life is enriched by my sojourn in this modern-day hall of mystery called a movie theater. Who says church can’t blow your mind?