My teenage nephew came back from seeing Avatar, the other day, all afire with enthusiasm.
So I did my best to apply the wet blankets: "ah, I cried: three hours of jejune, Disneyesque, pantheism plus the usual anti-American/anti-white-male/anti-business stereotyping - what's not to scoff at, here?"
So now he's really mad at me. Teenage boys do not like having their passing enthusiasms scoffed at.
* * * * *
But seriously: what is it about gooey circle-of-life nature-mysticism that exercises such a hold on the imagination of modern man (and especially modern youth)? I just don't get it. Is it because so few these days have any actual exposure to the natural "circle of life," which, in all its multivariate horror, might more aptly be called the "circle of suffering and death?"
We were not always so sentimental. Schopenhauer, I'm told, defended his doctrine of the essential evil of existence by inviting us to compare the pleasure of the animal that eats to the pain of the animal that is eaten. Or think of Thomas Hardy's memorable lines:
"A time there was - as one may guess
And as, indeed, earth's testimonies tell -
Before the birth of consciousness,
When all went well...
"But the disease of feeling germed,
And primal rightness took the tinct of wrong;
Ere nescience shall be reaffirmed
How long, how long?"
If there is no God but nature, then I think that Tennessee Williams got things just about right in this - easily one of my top ten choices for Greatest Scene in Movie History:
Alas, it's black & white. So the nephew won't be watching.