A New World

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(c) Twentieth Century Fox

Fans of the highest-grossing movie of all time will have to wait just a little bit longer for a sequel. 

The 2009 blockbuster Avatar has grossed almost $2.9 billion worldwide.  Director James Cameron originally planned to release the second installment of his science fiction masterpiece in 2015. 

Then came production delays, along with extended waits for moviemaking technology to catch up with the director’s ambitious vision.  The pandemic set things back yet again.  Along the way Cameron decided not to make just one sequel, but four.  Chapters two through five are now set for December releases in 2022, 2024, 2026, and 2028. 

The new films can’t come soon enough for loyal Avatar fans – some of whom actually plunged into suicidal sadness when the first movie came to an end. 

For them, life in this world couldn’t hold a candle to the ravishing beauty of the fictional moon called Pandora.

A few years back, CNN reported on a fan site called “Avatar Forums.”  One of the topic threads was called, “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible.”  The forum included posts from about 1,000 people who were experiencing depression, along with others trying to help.

Forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian acknowledged: “I can understand why [the movie] made people depressed.  The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don’t have here on earth.  I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed.”

A fan named Mike admitted he considered taking his own life after seeing the movie: 

“Ever since I went to see Avatar, I have been depressed.  Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them.  I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it.  I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora.”

A Swedish fan named Ivar Hill left this post: “When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed…gray.  It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning.  It just seems so…meaningless.  I still don’t really see any reason to keep doing things at all.  I live in a dying world.”

A number of other fans, as you might expect, have been urging such devotees to wake up and smell the overpriced popcorn in the lobby. 

After all, it’s just a movie.

But maybe the people who were profoundly affected by the vision of a brighter, more vibrant, more colorful world are expressing something that’s planted deeply within all of us.

After all, we do live in a world that wearies our souls.  Daily life is scarred by conflict, deception, poverty, corruption, and rage.  Turn on the news today and you’ll hear non-stop recitations of the Point / Counterpoint narratives associated with last year’s January 6 Capitol insurrection. 

From the beginning of history, people have cherished the hope that surely there’s more to life than what we experience on this broken planet.

The longing for heaven is more than just a desire for our physical lives to continue.  It’s a homing beacon that makes us yearn for the healing of all creation, and to become part of a world where everything, at last, will be whole. 

As C.S. Lewis once put it, everyday diversions can never satisfy (and were never meant to satisfy) our hunger for heaven: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.  We are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus assured his disciples, “I came so that [you] can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever imagined” (John 10:10). 

Every time we decide anew to follow him, we can experience that little stab of joy that our deepest yearnings are one day going to come true.

That’s because the dream of God’s New Creation is not just a movie.