Titanic Avatars: movies, myth and the collective SELF

If the self is like a bowl (see http://tiny.cc/Htik4), it is also like a ship.  Thus it seems fitting that in a culture gripped by collective narcissism (i.e. lack of cohesive selves) Titanic, a movie about a grandiose ship that gets a gapping hole and sinks back into the ocean of the unconscious would be a perfect metaphor for the close of the last century.

Likewise, Avatar, a movie about the awakening of consciousness, is a hopeful harbinger of a century that is just getting its footing and forming its nascent millennial identity.  The fact that these impossibly giant and expensive movies were made by the same man behind the curtain offers a curious window into both the collective consciousness and also child development—writ XX Large. 

“Kids” who are developmentally forming an identity inflate around ages three and four into super heroes and fantastic princesses; if all goes well and they are fully seen, they calm back down and end up with a cohesive bowl of a self.  In a culture where this process has gone off the rails, we have had legions of collectively mal-mommied so-called grown-ups behaving like entitled enfants terribles.

While people sometimes speak disparagingly about artists “selling out,” I’ll be the first to admit that I tried to sell out and no one would buy.  Hollywood is an enigma, and when someone succeeds they are as much beneficiaries of luck as they are of talent and hard work.  When luck happens (because many movies that fail, even if they are bad, still took a lot of work and often represent the misfiring of authentic talent) this kismet may offer a glimpse about what the zeitgeist truly has to say at any given moment be it Hitler’s Germany, W’s America or James Cameron’s “King of the world” bravado; king of which world?

Whether or not someone like James Cameron is an auteur, a jerk, both or neither, after economically hitting it out of the park with Titanic, he turned his obsessive soul toward Avatar and a deeper spiritual and artistic vision.  The themes and images offered up by Avatar and in turn being witnessed by millions of movie-goers suggests that the success of Titanic may have been enough to partially heal the gaping wound in both the director’s, (and perhaps the zeitgeist’s) inflated ego, allow him (and us) to turn to serving the next wave of the zeitgeist—the need to transcend the alienating notion we currently carry about ourselves as objects separate from the world and return to an ancient understanding of humans as inter-beings with all nature and the cosmos.

Avatar does not represent a perfect understanding, but it is a very good start; the arc of a “Jarhead” hero going through initiation into true personhood is very likely a reflection of James Cameron’s own journey.  However, when we go deep enough into the personal, we reach the universal, and hence huge crowds of people are watching their own collective myth unfold, much as they once would have heard it told around the fire in millennia past. 

Avatar imagines a planet of beings connected with nature, but this is not much different from taking the Garden of Eden and setting it in space.  Eden’s paradise was a Biblical way of representing humans before the consciousness of ego got them kicked out of their oneness with nature.  In Avatar the Biblical trees of Knowledge and of Life are mingled with the Shaman’s World Tree and infused with bioluminescence (see http://tiny.cc/lnQWk for more on that) and voila, symbols of soul.

Hair is a classic symbol of the thoughts that grow out of our heads (not always consciously), and in Avatar, the initiated are able to meld their ponytail consciousness with their spirit animals and take Shamanic flight.  Jung would say that such symbols and archetypes are genetically encoded and destined to spontaneously show up (or emerge into consciousness), in myriad variations, across all human cultures, even without contact with each other.  As we slide toward whatever 2012 will or won’t bring in terms of shifting consciousness, we find ourselves living on a planet unified not by politics but by collective myth—namely blockbuster movies.  The “blocks” they bust may be the somnolent consciousness of our past age.

For those keen on movie history, it is noteworthy that many of the seminal images created by movies were very dreamlike, as in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; movies like Modern Times and Metropolis strongly foreshadow Avatar, which is really not new so much as incredibly old—perhaps timeless.  We’ve been forever trying to possess individuality and at the same time touch the transcendent while incarnate (this is another way of speaking of living forever—birthing myths such the fountain of youth; what is an “avatar” but a more natural meat-suit into which we then lend our consciousness?).  Project eternal being beyond this tangible life and you have a Heaven paradigm, transcend it in this life and you have an Eckhart Tolle paradigm as well as a Buddha paradigm.

The zeitgeist is a bit like the giant mythic dinosaur-like bird that Avatar’s hero ultimately rides, suggesting that he is some demigod come to unite earth consciousness with Ewa consciousness.  This would be Cameron’s shadow—the hubristic potential to believe that he embodies the prophet/hero, rather than remaining clear that, like all of us, he merely contains this archetype along with all the others.  (Note:  Avatar’s word for Nature God, “Ewa”—clearly relates to Yahweh, which derives from the Hebrew Eheyeh, which is but a signifier for a God that cannot be named or conceptualized).  James Cameron, in his best Self, must ultimately intuit that he is not really (or at least not only) some inflated movie director any more than he is a starman visionary, any more than we movie-goers are but plebes in the dark programmed to eat popcorn while being dumbly fed our dreams.

In that old-as-the-hills blockbuster, the Bible, humans are sent out of the Garden of Eden, just as humans are sent away from paradise, back to pathetic earth in Avatar; however, our former jarhead hero ultimately manages not just to save paradise, but to stay there by transcending his old body and taking up true residence in his image body, in his higher consciousness—the one beyond the ego—aka the best or higher Self.  In the Bible the way to paradise is said to be blocked by a “spinning fiery sword,” and thus the body cannot go through it, although maybe the shamanistic imaginal soul just could.

Perhaps if we realize what our movies, our collective dreams we all watch together in the dark, are telling us about ourselves, then our true Selves, we will also realize that we already wear the red shoes that Dorothy can use to get back home (Oz is also a Biblical reference to a place where evil and sins are sent off to; home is a state of mind more than any place).  We humans have devolved into jarhead materialists—toxifiers of nature, but we are ready for initiation into true adulthood, and we are also the angels who want to wear Elvis Costello’s red shoes (in other words, spirit wants to live in matter, not just in virtual space, even if it’s 3D, since the scientists tell us there are many more dimensions than the few we readily perceive).  Our movies are collective dreams, and things are looking up.  There truly is no place like home, and we are already home, right NOW. 

So, let’s dedicate today to realizing that Avatar is more than “just a movie,” and that James Cameron deserves some props for growing up and giving a damn about our collective soul-consciousness.  Based on the movie, I would imagine that he is a very different man now than he was when he started out on his Odyssey/hero’s journey to make the film, perhaps himself going from narcissistic jarhead to proto-mensch.  The zeitgeist brings war and peace as it sees fit; my vote is to align with Ewa, Yahweh, Christ consciousness and Buddha Consciousness (and any other words that all mean the same Cosmic Nature thing).  The myth of Avatar is that only if you align with Ewa/Nature, you will prevail. 

The home edition of such waking up to “nature” and aligning with it is to try to listen to the soul trees that are our own families, particularly our children—realizing that the roots of each family do commune with those of all other families and form a harmony of family, or collective, consciousness.  The notion that all children are our collective children, and that living in accordance with this just might help each of us achieve good feelings that truly last, is what the Privilege of Parenting seeks to awaken—living our lives in deliberate and willing harmony with what just isAvatar ends powerfully with a moment of awakening—the very same moment where parenting as our best Selves begins.

Namaste, Bruce

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3 Responses to “Titanic Avatars: movies, myth and the collective SELF”

  1. Inception on the couch — interpreting collective dreams « Privilegeofparenting’s Blog Says:

    […] invited us to unplug ourselves from being batteries powering some faceless Big Brother dystopia, Avatar invited us to rethink our relationship between mind and body, with body as meat-puppet doing […]

  2. Divine Prince Ty Emmecca Says:

    What does this African religious item have to do with this post??

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Divine Prince Ty Emmecca,

      The post is about the use of symbols and how they reflect deep aspects of our collective unconscious. Given that western myths, such as paradise, the garden of Eden, and by extension the mythical realms of “Avatar,” all come from a common well-spring: the human mind, I thought a nod to Africa, where we humans all began, was an appropriate starting image.

      Further, the power of this particular Yoruba Nkisi, housed in the Fowler Museum at UCLS, personally moved me. My hope is that we can come together as humans, by ways of myth, of love, of taking care of each other… but to know where we are going we must first know where we have been; and if we do not acknowledge Africa as our common source, we will be forever lost in space, in big Hollywood movies, in absurd materialism and fear-driven alienation.

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