Friday, February 5, 2010

The cure for Avatar blues

Avatar depression, they're calling it in the British press. You've been transported to this vivid world of beauty and terror, of floating mountains and dragon-riders and faerie-like blue people who are intimately connected to everything in nature - and now you're back in your own grey world fighting your way through the morning traffic to spend the day in a cubie, and you'd like to check out and live with the Na'vi.

The cure for the Avatar blues begins with the story of the film-maker and takes hold when we wake up to the fact that our own blue world is accessible any night, without 3-D glasses and big screens. Visionary director James Cameron is a dreamer, and his great movie breakthroughs begin with dreams. Back in the early 1980s, working in Rome on the editing of a forgettable flick (Piranha II: The Spawning) he dreamed of a robotic skeleton rising from a massive explosion. From the dream vision he wrote a treatment. When it was turned down by studio after studio that did not want to hire an unknown director, he turned the treatment into a full-fledged screenplay, and persisted in knocking on doors until he found a film company that was willing to hire him as director. That robotic skeleton became The Terminator, a great film produced for little money that continues to make plenty.

In the early 1990s, James Cameron dreamed of the world he named Pandora. He wrote a treatment for Avatar in 1995. But the technology for bringing his vision to the screen did not then exist. Fourteen years later, the technology existed to bring a world he had "seen" to screens through which viewers could enter it. Cameron and his team say that Avatar is not just a movie, it's a universe, and having traveled into that world (with my 3-D glasses) I'm willing to say that they are correct.

It's a great universe, and once you have seen the Tree of Souls and the beautiful ritual performed under it, you may well long to be there, with a community connected to each other and the universal Mother as the Na'vi seem to be. However, the world of Avatar - described by some of Cameron's crew as Planet Jim - is not a unique world, not at all. Each of us has direct access to a world of wonder, any night of the year, and we don't need theatre tickets, let alone a multi-million dollar production budget.

How does Jake Scully, the human hero of Avatar enter the world of the Na'vi? He enters an incubation chamber called the Link. It looks somewhat like a padded casket and very much like a bed. When he falls asleep in this sleeping space, he awakens in the long, elegantly muscled body of an "avatar", a term used here to describe a hybrid body that marries human and Na'vi DNA. He can do things in this blue body that humans cannot do; he can even become a "made man" among a different species. When he is awakened in his human body, his avatar body loses consciousness and falls down. For most of the movie, he is two beings. When one sleeps, the other wakes.

Doesn't this sound familiar? When we sleep, a second self awakens in dreams. This second self may occupy a quite different body than the one that is lying in the bed. It may have adventures in other worlds, or in other time periods. With practice, we can learn to maintain continuity of consciousness, so we are aware of both bodies and both realities - and perhaps also maintain a witness perspective, watching over both - through our comings and goings.

James Cameron found his jungle world of blue people in a dream. We discover our own worlds in our own dreams, and some of them are no less thrilling and beautiful. We can learn, as active dreamers, to make return journeys to these worlds, and carry on adventures over years, even a whole lifetime. Since we have purposes to serve in our regular lives, we don't want to become entirely lost (or found) in these alternate worlds, or to succumb to those post-Avatar blues by letting their magic float loose and disconnected from the ordinary world. Let's notice that James Cameron not only dreamed Planet Jim; he brought it through, which required practical vision and perseverance. Let's find our own creative ways to bring some magic from our dream worlds into our day lives.

Taking this on myself, I'm thinking now about how to honor all the dreams I've recorded, over many decades now, in which I am called on, sometimes as a matter of life-and-death, to rouse a sleeping king. While a tremendous battle rages around him, he is torpid. When my dream self merges with his dozing form, he bestirs himself and rallies his people to do what is required. I guess I've just given myself another writing assignment,


Nancy said...

For years now, guided/goaded mostly by you in the beginning, I've been seeing my dream life and waking life overlap. Now I am learning to see without eyeglasses that distort my periphery and make the rich 3D world flat. I am also starting a course in energy medicine, which is helping me to see even more fully the magic and connection in everything around me. People with Avatar Blues have not yet learned to dream wide awake. The world is sparkling and wondrous and rich, wherever you look.

Wanda Burch said...

It struck me how much creative dream time people with Avatar depression are wasting if they are not understanding that they too can access similar worlds in their dreams and imagination.

I admit that I was a bit envious that I had not dreamed or visioned a tree like the Tree of Souls - and the power of its environment - since I love so much to draw trees. 'Guess I'll have to visit the tree imaginally now and draw it from my own perspective.

As you say, we can all draw from our endless source of magnificent dream landscapes and we can use our imagination and our dreams to create and save world landscapes of unimaginable beauty that still bear renewable gifts for those of us willing to fight for them.

Irène said...

I was thrilled to see Avatar and when I left the movie theater I thought about how wonderfully intelligent Spirit is to place this film here and now when I feel that all around me so many people I know & meet in "everyday life" are in such need of dream healing.

I'm reassured knowing that there is enormous potential in the pool collective consciousness reflected out through film screens (and I'm now thinking about all the little bits of truth I recognize in Harry Potter, Narnia and other films).

I am however aware of the "blues" effect that this film can have for a therapist friend told me that she hadn't originally intended on going to see Avatar but in fact had to for so many of her patients were talking to her about it! ... and on a really positive side my friend realized after having seen the film that she had been neglecting the importance of dream work in her therapy and has now decided to change that.

Alice Finnamore said...

Robert! What an excellent discussion of Avatar and dreaming. I'll be linking to this on my own blog.

Nancy, I agree wholeheartedly that the world is sparkling and rich, with no need to feel the grey if we just open our eyes and dream wide awake. I love that.

Wanda - What a wonderful idea, to travel to the Tree of Souls in our own creative endeavours. Wow!

And Irene, I must say that so far not one client has shown up in my office to discuss Avatar blues. One of my colleagues has commented about how many people come to her all upset about the world ending in 2012. I haven't seen any of them either. But I do ask every single client who comes in my door about their dreams, and am unsurprised at how often the dream they report, when they first come in, is exactly the right dream for their need of the moment.

(I have a space on my intake information sheet for recording "the last dream you remember". Some, of course, don't remember any, but that's okay.)

Thank you again, Robert, for this online place of connectivity. So nice to be able to say hello to my dreaming friends here.
Love to all of you,

Unknown said...

So glad you had the 3-D Avatar experience, Robert! The movie itself is such a rich portal into dream dialogue - really a gift for those of us on a mission to wake folks up to power of dreaming.
Looking forward to seeing, hearing, learning more about rousing the sleeping king ;-)

Robert Moss said...

Alice, It would be a splendid thing if not only every therapist and psychologist but every doctor's and dentist's office and healthcare center had a space on one of those endless forms for people to note "the last dream you remember".

Robert Moss said...

Irene and Robin - Yes, I think "Avatar" is an excellent prompt for people to awaken to what dreaming can be.

Wanda - We can certainly be inspired to journey to a "Tree of Souls" like the one in the movie. And you and I know that if this proves to be truly OUR Tree of Souls, we will be discovering something in a real world beyond any movie.

Nancy - Bless you for your love of life and the sparkle and wonder you find in the world around you. I can also understand Avatar Blues on a deeper level, because the experience of this film can quicken a nostalgia for a world-behind-the-world that is in our soul memories. The trick is to awaken to the reality of both worlds, and bring them together. The movie hero, a paraplegic, can't do that; he transfers into the blue world of the Na'vi. It is a beautiful and for me absolutely right ending for the film, but it leaves viewers to seek their own way to walk in this world while conscious of another.

Karolyn said...

I admit it, I had a teensy bit of Avatar blues when I left the theatre! For a three hour movie I was riveted! Perhaps someday James will make a movie where you are completely immersed in a full-sensory experience of some of the contents of his dreams.He's probably working on that right now!

But you are right, you can have a full-on Avatar experience whenever your head hits the pillow, or if you are 4 years old and you pretend (like James said) "I'm King of the World!" The fact that this movie struck such a chord in people gives me hope for this planet. I imagine most of us would love to live in a place of such magical beauty, feeling (and respecting!) our connection to all.


Karolyn said...

By the way, I meant to include that pretending doesn't just stop at the tender age of 4. Its just that we are not as inclined to wear our superman capes out in public as grownups. Bless James Cameron for honoring the wonder child still within us!

Irène said...

Wanda, just wanted to let you know that I too loved the Tree of Souls and did in fact go into my own dream space to find it and just as you've already imagined it was not exactly the tree of the film, but my own perception of it. And it's been years since I've drawn trees. Hmmm, will think about that. Thanks.

Just another note about Avatar - after seeing the film, I took strands from my horse's tail and braided them into strands of my own hair making a long necklace like chain, decorated with colored silk threads that I now wear as a hair orniment when I ride.

I rode yesterday and while moving through the wooded paths, listening to my horse's breath, I noticed sparkles on the tip of my nose. (Sparkles that were nothing less than my sparkled "star powder" eye shadow that had moved its way down along my face.) I agree with you Nancy, that the world is sparkling, wondrous and rich, wherever you look. And I shall perhaps from time to time deliberately wear sparkles on the tip of my nose to remind me of this!

Robert Moss said...

Dear Irene - How wonderful to ride through life with sparkles on your nose, with your consciousness (as well as your hair) braided together with that of your horse.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Karolyn - Yes, the art of living in both worlds involves keeping the wonder-child in each of us fully present.

Carol Davis said...

Perhaps the Avatar blues will prompt some to reach out and connect with others...humans, animals, birds, fish, earth, star, sun, moon, and Ancient Mother. I hope those who are struggling are in the process of waking up to the amazing connections we have with life and spirit. Frankly, I think most of us have been caught, at one time or another, in the miasmic conditions of earth. And most of us have forgotten who we are for awhile. But life, light, dreams and imagination will always move toward us to protect, to challenge and to help us to awaken and re-member.

There is also the pain of longing for a better world, one where we live our best dreams and honor our soul's purposes. But that pain must serve to motivate us to see more clearly. For the world is sparkling and wondrous and rich, as Nancy noted in her post. And we must, as Wanda notes, use our dreams and imaginations to save landscapes of unimaginable beauty that still bear renewable gifts. If anything the story of the Na'vi is a call to strive for those things.

So I want to send out blessing to those suffering from the Avatar blues. I hope it is a healing crisis for them. The world of beauty and terror, of dragon riders and intimate connection with nature is unfolding right here in the now of earth and in the dream worlds.

Robert Moss said...

Dear Carol - Bless you for your great heart.

Annecy Baez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annecy Baez said...

Robert: This is such an insightful piece on the movie Avatar and dreams. I saw it in 3D, it was like having a waking dream, what is funny however is that last night I was thinking of you and avatars, because there is the other realm of avatars that my students have guided me too, this on line community where you can create your own world, and I thought you could have an active dream community there, and we can meet each other in this second life, in this avatar world.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Annecy - Good to hear your voice! Actually we have created a very lively online dreaming community through my courses and forums at, but we are doing it with few frills and no avatar icons or action figures, except those generated on the inner planes by the wonderful creative imaginations that are fired by our narratives and discussions of our adventures in the multiverse.

Skipper Kim said...

I see you!

Loved this post. I recently did a float in a sensory deprivation chamber and was struck in the middle of the experience by how much it looked like the pods in Avatar. As soon as I had that realization, it was like I granted my imagination free reign to take me even deeper into that delicious, imaginary realm that Cameron did such a great job of recreating...and that we all can tap into every night when we close our eyes.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Skipper - It's lovely to hear your voice! And grand to picture you skipping across the multiverse while your body is floating in the tank.

Anonymous said...

I am pleased to read that many of the comments here do not condemn those, such as me, who experienced the 'Avatar blues'.

I, myself, experienced a heavy-hearted feeling (Avatar blues) after watching Avatar for the first time. It's a shame that those who didn't experience what I and many others did, choose to condemn us for our feelings. People shouldn't be condemned for their feelings, rather the deeds, because that is what we can control. Through discussions with other individuals who experienced the same emotions as I did after watching Avatar, I have come to my own conclusion that Dreamer types are mostly the one to be strongly affected by Avatar. The reason is because Dreamers are free-spirited, imaginative, adventurous, heart-guided, and care for the environment. Avatar possessed all these qualities, which is why it connected to our souls in so many ways. Avatar, for me, was more than a pop-corn flick, it had a real depth to it. The messages/symbolisms in the movie help me draw parallels with my own life and the world. For example, the contrast between Jake's world compared to Neytiri's. Jake's world is dull, grey and ruled by technology, whereas Neytiri's is exciting, colourful, a land where freedom is allowed to reign. This contrast draws parallel with our own world, which is the comparison between living in an industrial society to living with nature. This was one of the many symbolisms in the film that I took to the heart, and helped ignite my desire to experience the natural beauty our world has to offer in some parts of the world.

Robert Moss said...

Michael - Thanks for stating the features and sources of "Avatar blues" with the truth of your feelings. As a boy, living in a somewhat sterile environment, I was one of those dreamers who have a hard time staying in the physical world, which partly explains why I am fiercely wedded to the purpose of helping dreamers to bring the worlds together. And - yes - we want to find and celebrate and preserve natural beauty wherever we can.