Part Two of a three-part series
Sitting here in the balcony, playing with the “Real 3D” glasses I received when I entered the movie theater to see “Avatar,” I am reminded again that each of us looks at Life through different lenses. Some lenses help us see things more brilliantly; others completely block the light.
My first reminder came earlier this week, when I discussed the movie with two friends. What did they think about it? I wondered.
One purred that “Avatar” was a beautiful love story: a man was willing to live the rest of his life on a distant moon, light years away from Earth, wearing a tail and no clothes, so that he could be with the woman he loved. The other friend ranted that the movie glorified the Messiah complex: a brave white man heroically swooped in and saved the black people underneath those blue striped costumes. OMG, was he agitated!
Of course, everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion. The Loud Mouth is no exception: From where I sat, “Avatar” was all about me. OK, ok! It was about you, too—a story about how we treat each other, our planet, and every living thing on it. To me, “Avatar” was about our relationship with the Allness that is God, or as the Na’vi, the blue striped black folk on the distant moon Pandora called it: Eywa.
The Na’vi people were taught that they could tap directly into Eywa and into all life forms because there was only One Source of all life, and everything and everyone was connected—from the most beautiful flower to the most ferocious beast. Of course, the Na’vi had a distinct advantage over us: Eywa was unmistakably present. They could literally see the Divine Source of all Life.
But what if Eywa, their Divine Source, was not visible to the naked eye? What if It vibrated at such a high frequency that It appeared to be invisible, like the individual blades on a fan rotating at high speed? Would they be as reverent and as certain that Eywa existed and that It was a benevolent power that served all, equally?
If the Na’vi couldn’t see Eywa’s full glory, feel Its peace and love, smell Its fragrance, hear Its song, or taste Its nectar, they might easily be convinced that Eywa was, well, anything someone told them It was.
Spinning tall tales has always been a favorite pastime of intelligent beings. Millennia before the advent of the entertainment industry, folks amused themselves by creating and spreading tales. Among the most popular: fantastic stories about gods that no one could see. Typically, these gods lived on top of mountains or beyond the clouds.
These tales fanned wild speculation about what each god looked like and what each of them did. Some reputedly worked for good, others for evil. Feeding on the imaginations of the illiterate naïve masses, these stories took on a life of their own. To this day, many believe them to be true.
Think about it: What if, for generations, the Omaticaya clan of Na’vis had been told that Eywa was a gigantic man who lived on a distant planet called Earth, and knew their every thought and deed? According the legend, Eywa spent all of His time recording the good and bad deeds of each Na’vi humanoid, rewarding good behavior with stuff such as sports victories and wealth, and punishing bad behavior with stuff such natural disasters, poor health and poverty.
What if the Na’vi believed that a wrath-filled Eywa would come to Pandora one day, guns blazing, accompanied by an army of fire-spitting angels? In an instant, He’d annihilate everyone who wasn’t perfect, totally obedient, or hadn’t professed aloud that Eywa was a barbaric bad-ass that should be feared.
You can imagine what would have happened when the gigantic metallic aircraft, bulging with guerilla warriors, noisily descended on the Omaticaya clan of Na’vis that fateful day. Most would have believed that it was Eywa, arriving in fulfillment of the legend. Petrified by His promise of destruction, mesmerized by the sheer size of the space ship, the robot-like “AMP” suits, and armed mercenaries, the Omaticayas would have fled their sacred land and the demonic missionaries from the American military-industrial complex would have carted off all Pandora’s rare and priceless unobtanium minerals.
What saved Pandora from that preemptive attack? Was it really the white guy, Jake Sully, as my friend insists? I don’t think so. Maybe it was Eywa, you say?
Actually, an insightful scene disputes that possibility. More important, it exposed humans’ naïveté about what the Divine is—and what it does. To me, that scene delivered one of the most life altering messages I’ve ever heard. It totally reframed the Divine—and definitively explained why prayers don’t seem to be answered 100% of the time for 100% of the people.
Remember the scene? Jake physically plugged directly into Eywa—into the Divine Itself—and asked for two things: 1) Save the life of Dr. Grace Augustine, who treasured the Omaticaya clan and had been seriously injured by gunfire, and 2) help in defeating the money-grubbing emissaries from the American military-industrial complex were intent upon forcing the Omaticaya clan off of Pandora’s sacred land.
Surely this intercessory prayer would be answered. Jake was asking Eywa to help the good people. The Na’vi had lived harmoniously with each other and with nature for centuries, and Grace Augustine had fought tenaciously to keep the Americans from disturbing that harmony, destroying the balance of nature on Pandora. Besides, Eywa had a vested interest in the preservation of this most sacred land, right? This should have been a slam dunk prayer.
Only humans who believe in God could relate to this scene—humans who, like Jake, believe that the Divine is a being (complete with gender) who can be convinced to do what we want. We act as if God is a wish-granting genie: If we ask “Him” a certain way, perform certain rituals, pay a certain amount of money, and believe with all our hearts that our prayers will be answered affirmatively, we will be blessed. God will grant our wishes.
It doesn’t work that way—on Earth or on Pandora. In this case, Grace the good, died. On Earth, despite our prayers, our loved ones die. We die. Millions of good people die. With every disappointment, we discover that God is not a genie and prayer is not a magic bullet; but we continue to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. And we encourage others to do the same.
Is there something we should know about God and about prayer that will help us understand them better? Perhaps, in that same scene, Jake’s beloved Neytiri revealed it, as she tried to manage his expectations of the outcome of his request: “Eywa does not take sides,” she explained. “Eywa only balances.”
On this side of the Universe, balance is called reaping and sowing. One rabbi phrased it, “Judge not, lest ye be judged, condemn not, lest ye be condemned…” In Loud Mouth vernacular: “Whatever you do will be done to you”—no more, no less. Balance.
Part one of Jake’s prayer request was not granted. What about the other half? The Na’vi did win the battle. Does that mean that Eywa blessed him or them? No, but it might look that way to those who think that God is a wish granting genie.
I think the Na’vi’s salvation was their awareness and belief that they were connected to every living thing. I think it was their respect for the role that every living thing plays in their eco-system and their ability to literally “hook up” with all the other life forms.
Understanding that they were one, everything—plants, trees, animals, Na’vi humanoids, flying beasts, you name it—worked collectively to ward off the enemy and restore peace, harmony and balance to their corner of the Universe. After their victory, did you notice that the Na’vi didn’t establish prison camps? They didn’t torture the invaders or turn them into prisoners of war.
The Na’vi understood harmony. They understood balance. They understood that the only way to avoid punishment and condemnation is not to punish and condemn. Most important, they understood Eywa—what It is and what It does.
That’s something we all should understand if we are to maintain peace and balance in our own lives. When we ask, in prayer, for everything to be resolved and balanced for the Highest Good of All concerned, we will get precisely what we asked for–EVERY time.