I was prepared to be dazzled by the technological wizardry of the 3D wide-screen spectacle. In seeing Avatar I had no expectations of disappointment with the raw perceptions’ impact on my eyes and ears. I had low hopes for the script, acting or story line but was surprised to find more there than I had expected. What I had not expected was to be utterly awestruck for two hours, unable to blink, slack jawed, and often on the verge of tears of joy and wonder under the influence of Avatar’s natural world.
The stereoscopic three-dimensional view offered my brain a way to “real-ize” this experience (to see it as if it were really at hand) in the same way my neuro-works encounter everyday reality, softening the divide between fantasy and reality, lowering the threshold of believability so that I could sense I was IN that world in much the same way as if I were exploring a novel real-earth habitat. I was utterly enthralled with first impressions of light and color, shape and form—in much the same way I am sure I would be upon my first encounter of a redwood forest or floating among the corals in the Great Barrier Reef or atop Everest or aboard the Space Shuttle.
I was in Pandora’s forest as an adrenalin-charged biologist-explorer. I was there as a naturalist seeing just beyond my literal grasp creatures like but unlike the familiar—append “-oid” to: ungulate and mammal, reptile and insect, sea creature, bird, flower and tree. Aerial-luminescent dandelion-down sea feathers drifted within reach but then were gone before they could be fully comprehended, studied, photographed, known. Like Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dr. Augustine, I wanted samples! I flinched reflexively when blue lemurs suddenly lunged my way, my brain reacting protectively because I existed in the dark-luminescent Pandoran forest in that moment.
As a naturalist, I have spent a lifetime nurturing an attitude of wonder, awe, curiosity and reverence in the living world. Avatar succeed for me in amplifying that innate euphoria that comes from communion with the natural order of things—of all living things and their known and unknown interconnections. We all share one life in our dazzling diversity on this amazing planet of ours.
Perhaps with our eyes opened by this larger-and-stranger-than-life view of that shared life, we can look afresh at each other and the world in our care before it’s too late and say…
I see you.