Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Jeet Heer has an excellent and insightful essay up at his Sans Everything blog about Avatar, James Cameron's special effects spectacular, that's a must read if you've seen the movie.

Without re-wording Jeet's main arguments, I agree wholeheartedly with everything he writes. In fact, I think he doesn't go far enough.

The idea that humans have lost our connection with nature due to our fascination with technology is the ultimate irony of the movie, and is something that one of my favorite writers, Viktor Frankl, talked about in his writing after WWII.

I remember a particularly moving passage in Man's Search for Meaning where Frankl, recalling his imprisonment in Auschwitz, was momentarily transported by the beauty of a sunrise, even as he was standing exposed, nearly naked, in the frigid winter. That moment made him realize how isolated from nature he had become living in a modern city (Vienna). In his former life, he never saw a sunrise like that, partly because he was living in an urban area, primarily spending his time indoors, and partly because he simply didn't make time for such things in his busy life.

But it's not just nature, it's religion, too.

In The Will to Meaning, another of Frankl's books devoted to the study of logotherapy, he had a remarkable quote which I think sums up the transformation society has undergone since the industrial revolution, which Jeet is hinting at in his analysis of the movie.

"I deem it to be a remarkable fact that man, as long as he regarded himself as a creature, interpreted his existence in the image of God, his creator; but as soon as he started considering himself as a creator, began to interpret his existence merely in the image of his own creation, the machine."

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