Avatar and the “New Normal”
Revs. Kristen and Brian Grandon are dear friends of mine who until recently were Co-Ministers of Unity in the Hills in Austin, Texas. I asked them to lead one of our Zoom classes on USING UNITY PRINCIPLES IN A PANDEMIC.
They spoke about finding spiritual balance in times of crisis. I asked them to look at the so-called “new normal.” I believe that even after we come out of the pandemic, many of us are going to experience a so-called “new normal.” It won’t be the “same old same old.” Let me give some examples. One of our country’s leading experts on immunology and public health, Dr. Shan Soe-Lin of Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, believes that waves of the pandemic will follow more the academic school calendar than the changes in the seasons. It might not be the social distancing we have known for the last several months, but she expects changes in some of our central cultural norms due to the pandemic.
Another example of the “new normal” can be seen at Facebook which expects to shift permanently toward more remote work after the covid-19 crisis passes. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said he expects that as much as 50% of the tech giant’s staff will be working from home ten years from now. Also, Nobel prize winning economist, Dr. Paul Krugman, was recently asked when recent graduates would make up for the economic losses they have experienced? He had a one word response to the question: “Never.”
In the face of these new normals, Rev. Kristen Grandon asked the class if they remembered the movie AVATAR? Most of the people in the class responded, “Yes.” This epic science fiction film came out in 2009. It is set in the mid-22nd century. The Earth is in environmental ruins, and many of the planet’s key resources have been depleted. In response, humans are now colonizing Pandora, which is an abundant habitable planet orbiting around a star in the Alpha Centauir system. Humans believe they need to mine Pandora for a mineral called unobtanium. A key feature of this mineral is that it can be used as a room-temperature superconductor.
There is only one “small” problem. The mineral is on the land of the Na’vi (who are a humanoid species that live on Pandora). Rev. Kristen reminded us that there are two very large trees on the Na’vi’s land. The first one is the Home Tree, and the second is the Tree of Souls. For the Na’vi, their God or spiritual force is known as Awah, and this force is intimately connected with the Tree of Souls.
“Remember what happens?” Rev. Kristen asked. “The humans come in and knock down the Home Tree.” But when this happens the Na’vi are forced into a “new normal.” Instead of giving up hope and feeling lost, the Na’vi “had to go back to the Tree of Souls and deepen their connection with Awah. This proves to be the Na’vi’s key to success in meeting the new conditions,” she added.
Rev. Kristen pointed out that there are two essential trees in Genesis (The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life). She pointed out how these trees come back in the last book of the Bible (Revelation) in the creation of something new. As we face many so-called new normals, it will be important for us to go back to the trees and spiritual roots that are our Source. Rev. Brian suggested that we often reconnect and realize that we are one with the One. “We can affirm this by saying, ‘I am a Divine being,’” he noted.
What I loved about the Na’vi in the movie was their ability, and knowledge, of how to fly. When we are grounded in Source, we too can soar and fly—even in a so-called new normal.