We went to see the movie Avatar last night. Some tout is as the new Matrix of movies: breakthrough CGI, lush fantastical landscapes, and the epic story of two worlds clashing. I did enjoy the experience and appreciated the visual gymnastics and creativity, but something was missing: it wasn't about being human.
Avatar takes you to a fantasy world; the human earth pales in comparison. The blue people are at one with nature and each other, mystically and spiritually mature. There is nothing that they want from the humans; they find most of them ignorant and blind. Perhaps it was because they were virtual or virtually perfect, but I was not particularly attracted to the giant blue aliens. I did not want to live in their world or be one of them. Despite watching the movie in 3-D, I found the Na'vi two-dimensional and unreal and therefore, unbelievable and somewhat boring. Their eyes were not full of life. You can't draw that into a character's eyes. It is only present in real live human beings.
The Matrix, on the contrary, is about the gritty and ugly truth about our existence. Humans are ripped out of their comfortable state and get a brutal wake up call to the battle for their lives. Everything around them wants to replace the truth with a pretty lie. Visual tricks and fantasy are easier on the soul than the raw truth, it becomes apparent, but those outside the matrix fight to hold onto reality. The humans are more fragile and more real than ever, primitive and imperfect, making mistake after mistake, yet learning and growing and fighting and loving. It is not a beautiful world. It is crude and dirty, their clothes are frayed and their beds are hard. And yet, this is the world that I find myself drawn to and identifying with.
Sometimes I think that it would be nice to live the fantasy: no worries about finances, jobs, interpersonal conflicts, failures, sickness, the future, or hard decisions. But there is something incredibly beautiful and satisfying about the struggle to be truly human. About having a soul that longs for unity with others and carries an inherent spirituality that cries to be awakened. About walking this earth, tasting and feeling every moment that passes, whether it be sweet pleasure, mundane tasks, or waves of pain. I want unclouded truth more than pleasant fantasy. I want real life rather than false comfort. I want my eyes to be alive.
These ideas do not originate with me. I see them in Jesus. He deemed it an honour to come and live with us as frail and earthy human beings: to masticate and defecate just like any one of us do. He left the perfect world to enter the imperfect one, drawn by his attraction and love for the ignorant and blind. He was the prime example of unity. Unity does not come from a simple twining together of body parts; it grows through extended periods of costly yielding and surrendering, often interspersed with loud clashes. Unity requires that I be fully present and honest. Unity requires all of me and then mysteriously gives it back, richer somehow.
Avatar offers superficial rightness. The Matrix rips away the pretty packaging and shows us just how desperately we need help. I choose the red pill instead of the blue people.
This is part of a painting done by people in my home group a few years ago, the only blue and red thing I could find in my line of sight.