Maybe I've been just too long a Calvinist, but I do believe that we human beings, the whole lot of us, are a sad, sad bunch. That's why I'm not really surprised that loads of fans who've seen James Cameron's Avatar have been feeling extraordinarily blue as of late, sometimes despondent, and even suicidal about simply being here, in this world, that is--and not being there, there being the gorgeous alien paradise of Pandora, Cameron's exotic natural wonderland.
Pandora is our wishful heaven, the Amazon rain forest without rain, snakes, or other vermin. Pandora is the Elysian fields of Greek mythology, the streets of gold in Christian mythology, the Never Never land of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. At one time or another, we all want a piece of that real estate.
Herman Melville, Calvinist though he was, made a great splash by telling a story about a shipwrecked sailor on a Polynesian island he called Typee. That novel, his first, sold vastly more copies than any of his others during his lifetime because, in part, it offered readers a South Seas, Garden of Eden paradise.
As lots of reviewers have said, Avatar is a fancily embroidered remake of Dances With Wolves. Sadly, however, the expansive Great Plains beauty featured in that show never prompted a population shift. Mostly, out here, we're still hemorrhaging people. But both movies made alien worlds--the world of the Na'vi and the world of the 19th century Lakota--delightfully prelapsarian.
There was something noble about the noble savages of the plains all right, but most Native people I know want only to be regarded as human--certainly not less, but not more either. Since the Na'vi exist only on Pandora--and only in Avatar--they're far easier to fantasize. Hence the deep, soulful sadness. Right now, Pandora's lush forests offer the greenest grass in the cosmos. Heavenly dreamin', Hollywood style.
CNN says that a forum site for Avatar viewers started a thread titled, "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," and "received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope." Amazing.
Me?--I think it's sad and sweet and dumb and perfectly understandable. Someone in the neighborhood drives around with a licence plate that says "THNKHVN."
Well, who doesn't want to "thnkhvn"? When the excrement flies, who on earth doesn't want to get the heck out of the way? And it does. Often. With considerable heft. A virtual blizzard. In this vale of tears, shit happens.
We got underwear bombers and balloon boys and home run frauds. We've got health care horrors and massive unemployment and congressional circuses and a discordant chorus of screaming political pundits. This morning Haiti is in ruins, already the poorest nation in the entire western hemisphere--and now they've face even greater horrors. If God loves the poor, why on earth did he pick on Haiti?
Get me outta' here, we say. When does the next ship leave to Pandora? I'll live on the streets.
Perfectly understandable. We're a sad bunch. We're human.
As Schieffer says (see below), if we could only learn from our dogs.