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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

If you found pleasure in the movie “Avatar,” you’re likely to become part of a movement. Not only are you Green, but you are a nature worshiper who longs for the lost Eden mankind has been methodically warring against since the advent of agriculture.

If you saw “Avatar” and fantasized about the potential transformation from damaged human being to ultimate evolutionary humanity, then you long for a better world and a physical condition that invites euphoria. Ecology and fitness were never so idealized.

If “Avatar” reaches only one-tenth of the American film audience with its message of sympathy for nature and skepticism toward the advances of technology, then there’s still hope for the living world before humans kill it off entirely.

If you have not seen “Avatar,” go for two reasons: One is the obvious environmental appeal of pristine nature that is beautiful and powerful in a world where people are literally connected to other life forms through a union of nerve cords. Another is the pure physicality of having a lithe, strong, beautiful body charged with animal vigor and preternatural health.

On the environmental side, it’s great to root for the home team, for the indigenous Navi people and the wild creatures that populate the mythic planet Pandora. How could anyone fail to take a protective stance for wild nature given the stereotypical villain role of those who would kill it for a profit? But there’s more to the movie than steadfast eco-warriors defeating military and industrial technology. The subplot explores what it means to be physically strong.

My favorite scene is when Jake, the paraplegic Marine who is supposed to infiltrate the Navi culture, first inhabits his avatar body. The first thing he does is wriggle his toes, toes that in his human body are lifeless due to a spinal cord injury. Here is the dream for any paraplegic: the gift of basic physical movement.

Next, Jake wriggles his fingers, testing his dexterity, finding a thrill in what most people take for granted. But the real transformation occurs when he stands on wobbly legs, finds his balance, and feels his natural strength. Unable to resist the deep impulse to move, he allows his new body to run – at full speed – on a path leading into the primeval jungle.

“Yeah!” he exults while digging his toes into the soil – the symbolic taking root in the living world. That one scene conveys an appreciation for physicality, the joys of athleticism, and connectivity with the natural world. It is a poignant body/mind/spirit moment.

The plot is a cliche, but a refreshing one. Jake infiltrates the natives and falls in love with Neytiri, a native babe. More important, he falls in love with the native culture and finds himself enmeshed in pantheistic bliss where all nature speaks to his evolving soul. This expression of biophilia, the transcendent love of the natural world, is the heart of the film.

If you’re dreaming of “Avatar,” fantasizing about how cool life on Pandora could be, you need only step outdoors in a wild place and feel it for yourself. There is no need for a virtual world when we have remnants of a wild, beautiful world here on Planet Earth.

If you’re equally fascinated by the physical feats of the Navi people as they cavort about with athletic grace, you may have that, too. Just get your physical self in order and you can feel the same joy. You don’t need a virtual world to be a superman when your own body has the potential to elevate you to a heightened physical condition.

Sadly, the virtual worlds many people, especially youth, live in today are robbing them of connections to higher nature and deeper health. Our living world is rich with natural awe and physical challenge. All it takes is effort and a little risk to make life exciting, adventuresome, even heroic and romantic.

Nature needs help on Pandora, but it needs a whole lot more help here on Earth, where machines are gorging on nature 24/7 and where indolence and obesity are eroding the natural human spirit. See “Avatar,” then get out and live it. You may be nature’s only hope.


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