by Nancy Russell Catan

The other day I watched the science fiction movie Avatar for the 9th time. I am always intrigued by that movie about a person being able to become a different being in form while still retaining one’s self. And no, I am not promoting this film. I would just like to share some of my reflections with you.

For me the most thought-provoking aspect of the film is watching the characters, especially the main character (I don’t even remember his name) develop from being a depressed handicapped soldier agreeing to be a test subject in a time travel experiment to a strong, caring male avatar in another culture and world. And of the effect his change has on himself and the people around him.

This is a tale of differences, of perceptions, of greed, of love, and of being able to adapt to new situations, coming out a better person, a better being in the end.

Everybody wants to be a real person with concrete goals in life. We all want to be able to make a difference, to be liked and respected by the people around us. But so often in order to achieve our goals we change our ways of thinking, our ways of doing things, even our way of being. This is how we live from childhood to adulthood, it is a constant development of self.

The problem occurs when we try to be what we are not. When we desire to be someone we are not, forgetting to be what and who God wants us to be. When we begin to construct our personal mask so that we will fit into the niche that others believe and/or want us to be in.

Author and columnist Francis Kong calls this “creating a persona”. Good actors and actresses take on the character of their roles. Some become so involved that they cannot remove themselves from their screen roles and thus experience an identity crisis. The person then begins to wear a full-time mask and live a duplicitous life. His persona then becomes more important than his true self, his God-created self.

We see this process of becoming avatars all around us today. Facebook enables us to create our personal avatar, our fictional persona. Many adults molt into avatars, hiding their true personalities behind their titles and positions, with everything they do designed to enhance their image. Many talk and teach, but fail to ‘walk their talk.’

In the movie Avatar the lead character in the end decides that he does not want to be the avatar that his superiors designed him to be. He wants to be true to his self and uphold the right to be himself. He also decides to actively uphold the rights of others, the avatar people, against the greed of his former superiors.

He realizes that truth, honesty and credibility do make one vulnerable, but at the same time strengthen the person to become better and more real to the benefit of both self and others. The truth is important. Without truth, without credibility, life becomes unbearable and stressful.

Yes, change is necessary. We just need to be sure that the change inside us makes a better, truer child of God.

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