Yearning for Pandora?

The evocative movie by James Cameron has left its mark in audiences worldwide, stunning the senses and stirring deep emotions within

Like many others, I was deeply affected by the movie Avatar. The lush beauty of Pandora’s glow-in-the-dark forests and floating mountains, coupled with the interconnected relationships between the Navi and the planet along with its myriad of inhabitants, evokes in us a sense of longing to be a part of it all. How many of us, after watching the show, wouldn’t like to be one of the Navi?

According to an article on CNN’s website, a large number of viewers came out of the cinema feeling depressed after being yanked back into reality, with some even contemplating suicide. What is happening? Why do so many of us yearn for a world like Pandora, while feeling disillusioned about our own? Even without the movie, this feeling has been prevalent in our culture for some time.

There is a hunger abroad in our time, haunting lives and hearts. Like an empty stomach aching beneath the sleek coat of a seemingly well-fed creature, it reveals that something is missing from the diet of our rational, secular and affluent culture. Perhaps we feel an emptiness that leaves us restless for a larger meaning and purpose in life. Perhaps we sense that we are sailing through life in a rudderless ship. Something is missing. Something is out of balance. But it remains nameless. ~ Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life

For one thing, our urban lifestyles create a disconnection between us and the natural world. When was the last time we looked up at the heavens to marvel at its beauty, unspoilt by street lamps and bright city lights? When was the last time we stood in the middle of a forest, closed our eyes, listened to its sounds, and smelled its fragrances? Have we lost our connection with the rest of creation, of which theology tells us we are a part of; with the natural world, of which science tells us we were formed out of through billions of years of evolution and natural selection? Does this longing for the natural beauty of Pandora point us to something else – perhaps another world? Perhaps, we long for the world as it was meant to be; or as it will be someday in the new heaven and new earth?

The Internet, hailed as the tool that would connect the world together, has only led to further isolation. Not only are we disconnected from the natural world, but also from the rest of humankind. City life – millions of people being lonesome together ~ says Henry David Thoreau. Could it be that this longing to be connected, just as the Navi are intimately connected with the rest of Pandora’s creatures and even the planet itself, point us to the fact that we were created for relationship?

Is there a deep-seated yearning that lies in all of us, to be in a place like Pandora?

Most importantly, has post-Enlightenment rationalism also robbed us of a huge chunk of our lives? Have we lost all sense of spirituality and of the sacred? Why do we yearn for meaning, purpose and to be a part of something greater than ourselves? These are themes that permeate the culture of the Navi. Do these yearnings point us to a higher purpose, a broader view of reality that includes the spiritual and the sacred?

Rationalism makes reason the highest authority in determining what is true. Its expression in the modern scientific mind has little sympathy for anything that cannot be measured, quantified, and categorized. Invisible realities that do not yield to scientific inquiry are generally dismissed from the realm of possibility. Consequently, we have suffered from the loss of a sense of sacredness in life. This reduction of life to narrow and mechanistic categories of reality is no longer adequate for many people. ~ Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life

Are such yearnings encoded in our genes? Possibly. Does natural selection favour such traits in Homo sapiens? Or could it be a fortuitious by-product of enlarged brains? Maybe. Are they pointers to a transcendental reality? Perhaps.

C. S. Lewis once argued that just as hunger and thirst point to the existence of food and drink, spiritual hunger could point to the existence of the Divine.

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. ~ Blaise Pascal, Pensees

You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You.
~ Saint Augustine of Hippo


2 thoughts on “Yearning for Pandora?

  1. Great post to which I fully agree!

    With its deadening rationalism and scientism, contemporary society has reduced reality to a flat shell, devoid of any real content. Society is pervaded with plain, horizontal facts derived from an utter fixation upon outer material reality, with countless empty surfaces stretching beyond the horizon. This is a highly unnatural development, because it puts the rational ego on a throne while burying and destroying its very foundations, the waters of the soul. The natural growth of the soul now becomes the very arch-enemy of the ego-venerating society, because the soul wishes nothing less than the unfolding of its own inner potential through the Life of every individual human being, a longing which is diametrically opposed to modern society, which is a society of the masses, of collectivism in which Man is reduced to a functional unit rather than the unique individual he genuinely is.

    Why have we lost purpose to this Life? Why have we lost the art of reverence, humility and gratitude towards the subtle gifts of Life? Why can’t we find genuine peace and happiness in this world?

    Because we are afraid.

    We are too afraid to acknowledge our deep connection with the Unknown. We are too afraid to acknowledge and delve into the darkness of our individual imperfections, a journey of inner suffering which would ultimately lead towards a healing redemption.

    Although we are all flowers on the tree of humanity, each flower is unique in its essence; a uniqueness which can only be expressed by transforming the collective energies lying at the heart of the flower. Naturally, the tree can only live when its roots go deep into the unknown Earth, when it receives the gift of water from the Heavens and the warm light of the Sun. Consequently, a natural tree is a tree with a shadow, which is naturally integrated in its wholeness. Modern man however tends to believe he not only owns the tree, but also that he doesn’t have a shadow. Instead of confronting and integrating his own shadow and imperfections and thus to grow towards wholeness, modern man rejects his own shadow and tries to reach perfection. His flower is cut off from the life-giving tree, wafting now on cold, dark winds, born out of the abyss within his own soul. His flower dried and dies, so it seeks purpose within the millions of other withering leaves, drifting now on ever more impulsive winds.

    We become afraid because we feel haunted by seemingly outer shadows, shadows of emptiness, meaninglessness and utter despair. If only we’d realize it’s mostly our own shadows haunting us. Because we’ve ignored and rejected the irrationalities and intuitive darkness of our inner souls, the darkness grew only deeper and more twisted. Rejection of our own shadow leads to projection of that shadow, onto our neighbors until, on a large scale, onto the world at large.

    We seek peace, harmony and happiness outwardly in all kind of superficial distractions, not realizing that the only way we can ever achieve genuine peace in this world goes through the portals of our own inner journey. That’s the huge responsibility of each individual human being: only when we ourselves find happiness, harmony and peace within, can we illuminate the world from within, so it can genuinely be changed (one individual is enough to change its environment).

    So how can we find happiness, harmony and peace within? By confronting, accepting and integrating those parts of us which our egos have rejected all these years. Happiness, harmony and peace are not about escapism (like Avatar) and dreams about some Utopia where all shadows are conquered and bright lights of heaven are everywhere.. No, the way of peace lies beyond the doors of our shadows. Only by integrating our shadows and leaving room for the irrationalities of Life can we step down from our imaginary thrones and roam again amidst the deeper valleys where the waters are still sparkling and alive.

    Political decisions can never achieve a greater revolution than the individual human being which has changed himself genuinely and is therefore irreversibly changing the world. This is not some egocentric inflation. The ego has become aware by now of its own shadow, so he has returned back to a simple yet unique little flower. This is about the cultivation of the soul in which the world is not excluded and looked upon from above (like egocentric individuality); it’s about INcluding and embracing the world so one can be grateful to even the lowest of creatures. The journey of the soul is the journey to cultivate genuine virtues out of the acceptation of one’s inner contradictions. Humility thus can be the result of acknowledging and integrating arrogance (not transforming its essence! It’s about growing through it so it can be accepted and given its proper place within the soul). Likewise, empathy can grow out of the acceptation and integration of egocentricity and self-complacency. And so on..

    It’s become a long reply (lol), but I hope I did make some sense 🙂

  2. Hey anamchara4,

    thanks for dropping by! 🙂 Indeed, it’s a long comment – but a very thoughtful and poetic one!

    I particularly like this sentence you wrote, which is so important at a time like this: ‘Political decisions can never achieve a greater revolution than the individual human being which has changed himself genuinely and is therefore irreversibly changing the world.’

    There’s just so much in your reply, that I’ll have to read it through at least a few more times to let them sink in…

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