Avatar – from the Spiritual Point of View

In college one of my favorite course was “On Death And Dying”. Yes I went to a Catholic University. Professor John Parente was the instructor, a former monk and one of the most spiritual people I have ever met, he has an amazing talent for teaching through current events and culture. He was such a fantastic influence on my life that I asked him (and he did) officiate my wedding. Every year he sends a note to an undisclosed list of what I will guess to be friends, former students, other professors and maybe a few monks wishing everyone the best for the holiday season. And each year he gives me pause and reminds me to revel in the mysteries of life a bit more. With his permission I have included his whole note here in this post. Fan or not of Avatar I suspect this will give you a new found view of this film.

Dear Ones,

I have just returned from seeing the film “Avatar.” Though on my long list of films I wanted to see but probably would not get to, that changed when my friend Linda called early this morning and invited me to go along for her second viewing of “Avatar,” and I decided to take a break from my self prescribed work day. I’m glad I did! (Linda is a dear friend, who worked with me in UCS’ doctorate program in spirituality– she was on the administrative staff and I served as co-Director of the program/prof there. I also had the joy of teaching her, sharing a class within the “Indigenous Mind” Masters Program at Naropa University,California branch, “Creation Spirituality & Prayer.”) Well, whether one likes the film “Avatar” — I did!– or not, it is an exceptional work that will seed many of conversations for some time. Beyond the sheer visual beauty of the film and the fantasy world it creates, there is much in it of indigenous spirituality, colonization (as seen through a post-modern perspective), goddess and patriarchy mythology, even to charting the hero’s journey, Wisdom Traditions, being a spiritual warrior, sacredness of earth and the relationship between myth and ritual. Though dualities exist in it,, as is the orientation of The West, there are hints of mysticism, with scenes that capture the Interconnectedness of Life and Oneness of mystical consciousness. I plan to use it in full when next I teach World Mythology and in excerpts in a course I created, Spiritual Traditions/Contemporary Voices. I have long said that I believe spirituality is the main issue of the 21st century. Spirituality, not doctrine, dogma or organized religion. As other value systems and myths like the American Dream and Capitalism collapse, people are left searching for ways to find Meaning, become whole and fully alive; the same is true of the world’s abiding problems, many of which work out of an “us/them” duality, power over sensibility, which can best be addressed from a spiritual perspective, mystical consciousness’ Interconnectedness of All. I think in recent years, films like “The Fountain” and “Avatar” speak to this century’s deep yearning for spiritual wholeness, personal-global healing, in their expressions of mysticism, even amidst the cultural dualistic categories that find their way into these movies. Anyway, just sharing as we begin this new year…I wish you A JOYOUS, MEANINGFUL, GROWTH-FILLED & FULFILLING 2010 & NEW DECADE! Lesser known, Happy Feast of Blessed John Parenti (In the Franciscan Order’s book of saints, he was a martyr who died in England in the 1100s; chances are my family name was probably spelled ending in an “i” in Italy.) Why not take every opportunity to celebrate! Here, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chinese New Year isn’t far off and we do it up big, with a parade that is the largest outside Peking!

Peace!– fullness of Life!!!
John

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