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  • Avatar: Some Personal Comments

    The film Avatar has finally been released this month after being in development since 1994. I have not seen it yet, but I have read about it and discussed it with several people who have. This prose-poem tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster, its initial reception and some of its meaning.

    James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the film, stated in an interview that an avatar is: “an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form." In this film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body. "It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth, Joseph Campbell(1), should have been at the premier in London on 10 December 2009. I wonder what he would have said.

    Composer James Horner scored the film, his third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and Titanic. A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment just five weeks ago. The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing, the film has already generated positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics, wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough."-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 30 December 2009.

    Like viewing Star Wars back in ’77
    some said/an obvious script with an
    earnestness & corniness/part of what
    makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
    you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
    Alive with action and a soundtrack that
    pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...

    A mild critique of American militarism
    and industrialism.....yes the military are
    pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
    are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
    Braveheart smurf warriors. Received....
    nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
    of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
    on and on go the recommendations for the..
    best this and that and everything else. What
    do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
    You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
    in our pentapolar, multicultural-dimensional
    world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
    informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
    our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
    the social commotion tearing our world apart
    and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)

    (1)Google Joseph Campbell for some contemporary insights into the individualized myth we all have to work out in our postmodern world.
    (2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s. With only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960 to more than 2 million by the year 2010. Baha’u’llah has been associated with the kalkin avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness. There are many examples of what one might call a quasi-cross-cultural messianistic approach to Bahá'í teaching in India.

    This approach has included: (a) emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible; for example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e) using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.

    Ron Price
    30 December 2009
    married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55 (in 2014)
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