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I and Thou (1923)

. . . and Avatar

In the movie Avatar there is within the Na’vi culture this notion of seeing the other. The Na‘vi do not experience their world in the I-It sense but rather in the I-You relationship. They see their world in the full essence of life unfolding. Their world embodies an entity of being. They do not experience their world they are in relationship with the world. In the movie it is stated that the skypeople, the humans, cannot see. When Jack Sully finally embraces the culture of the Na’vi he and his Na’vi mentor say to each other, “I see you.” They are finally in an I-You relationship. Buber suggests that in these moments the I-You relationship is also addressing the eternal You. I see you.

The skypeople, the humans, are not in relation with the world Pandora. To them the world is an It. They experience the world. They know what the world can offer them in resources and in potential experiences. But the world is an It and all the beings living on the world are an It, as well. Pandora to the skypeople is of no consequence to them. They therefore are blind and do not see Pandora.

--Rev. Fred L. Hammond, "Acceptance vs Tolerance," A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South (Feb. 13, 2011 / accessed Oct. 25, 2011)

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So when the Navi say “I see you,” their type of seeing resonates with me both biblically and in terms of the I-Thou philosophy of Buber. Through the Navi people, Cameron is warning us that when we do not truly see others as what they really are; namely, holy manifestations of the divine, we will indeed become destructive towards them.

--Rabbi Fred Guttman, "A Jewish Reflection on the Spiritual Message of 'Avatar'," Reb Fred says . . . (Jan. 8, 2010 / accessed Oct. 25, 2011) Reposted at Ethics Daily

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