Reveals What We Are Missing
by Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D.
Hollywood has given us a top box office
attraction that reveals exactly what we are missing. In the
midst of a global
crisis, the timing couldn’t be better. AVATAR strongly
promotes the virtues of a sacred life close to nature.
|The drama reminds us of the bloody
history of European colonization of North America. The Navi
people of Pandora are fashioned much like Native American
hunting cultures with their deep respect for nature, the
creatures, their planet and their Creator.
The film’s hero is Jake Sulley, a marine
whose mind remotely directs a Navi body genetically
engineered to befriend the Navi, learn their ways and
encourage them to move away from the mineral-rich ground.
His first entry into Navi territory finds him under attack
by a pack of viper wolves, but he is rescued by a female
Navi named Neytiri who skillfully kills many of them.
As Neytiri dispatches the wounded predators, she apologizes
to them. When Jake thanks her for saving his life, she
insists that thanks are wrong, that it is sad that the
wolves died. She blames their death on Jake whom she
compares to a baby whose ignorance attracted the wolves in
the first place.
Reluctantly, Neytiri takes Jake with her to the tribe after
nature spirits, resembling airborn jellyfish, collect all
body, a sign to her that Jake is worthy.
As in all hunting-gathering cultures, a male earns the
status of manhood and marriage by proving himself worthy on
the hunting field. Eventually, Neytiri mentors Jake in his
rite of passage and he kills a larger herbivore which he
ritually blesses and thanks.
The film honors tribal life, nature
connection and spirituality, not only of the foraging
peoples on earth, but of the ancestors of all civilized
people. The rich life of the Navi is a spectacular and
beautiful appeal to our soul, a poignant reminder of what
our culture is desperately missing.
The greatest disease in civilization is loneliness. Millions
of people crammed into cities are living without authentic
society. A recent U.N. study indicated that altogether
civilized people feel powerless about politics, that their
culture is rootless, economics is ruthless and the
environment is futureless. In short, civilized humanity is
without meaning and hope.
|James Cameron’s epic film points us back to nature, and in
doing so it gives new relevance to the foraging lifestyle
and its direct participation in the food chain. It also
reminds us of the absolute necessity of getting kids
I spent much of my life recruiting volunteers to the
wilderness of British Columbia to study orca whales. We
fished regularly and I took many people fishing for the
first time in their lives. Following Native American
traditions, we always blessed and gave thanks to each salmon
and to the Spirit of the Salmon
Nation when we killed one, while we prepared it and when we
Around the campfire at night it was not uncommon for a
volunteer to say, “I’ll bet you’re not a hunter.” I would
respond, “Why do you say that?” “Well, because you’re into
whales,” implying that if I care about whales I must be
anti-hunting. I would comment that fishing is hunting with a
hook, that if it is OK for orcas to catch and eat salmon,
then why not me?
Over the years it became clear that for many volunteers the
most transformative influence of spending time in the
wilderness was direct participation in the food chain.
My in-depth studies of the psycho-spiritual dimensions of
recreational hunting indicate that a lifetime in the
teaches universal virtues including inner peace and
humility. Inner peace is the goal of spiritual and religious
across time and space, and humility is knowing we are part
of something greater than ourself, powerful medicine in a
world obsessed with egoism.
Through questionnaires I discovered over 80% of the
recreational hunters surveyed pray to the Creator or to the
animal when they take its life, just like Native American
hunters and the Navi. My survey also revealed that hunters
feel sadness when taking the lives of animals, like the Navi.
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Nearly all recreational hunters describe their feelings
toward animals they hunt as respect, admiration and
Hunting teaches us respect for life, connects us profoundly
to nature and morally obliges us to be responsible
conservationists. The Hunter’s Hall of Fame includes
luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson, Audubon, Thoreau,
Roosevelt, Steinbeck, Aldo Leopold and Jimmy Carter.
Hunters are the original conservationists and they still
lead in that field. The National Wildlife Federation, for
example, is the world’s largest conservation organization
and it was started and is still backed by hunters.
While speaking on a national radio show about orca whales
the host asked me what we could do to protect cetaceans from
whaling and pollution of the seas. I emphasized the value of
hunting and fishing to the development of young people and
the conservation ethic. A woman phoned in and blurted out,
“You’re just teaching kids violence.” I replied, “What do
you think Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela would say about
that? They both won the Nobel peace prize and both are avid
While hunting is the ideal way to teach young people
universal virtues including patience, generosity, courage
and fortitude, our boys especially still need rites of
passage to become men of heart. As the original rite of
passage, hunting is an ideal way to open the male heart. So
are wilderness survival and vision
I once asked Felix Ike, a Western Shoshone elder, what kind
of country this would be if the majority of men in it had
been properly initiated to hunting. He replied, “It would be
a totally different world.”
The military force on Pandora epitomizes the pridefulness of
contemporary civilized humanity, its separation from nature
and its unsustainable lifestyle. If we are to survive our
insane lifestyle of materialism in which the meaning of life
is measured by what we own, then it is critical that we
examine what we are missing that would make a difference in
how we view life and relate to other people, the earth, the
creatures and the divine.
How destructive to human development is industrialized
birthing? Is it true that infants who do not nurse from
their mothers are deprived of the most important bonding
process in life? Does lack of bonding between infant and
mother result in inability to bond with spouse and children,
i.e., broken homes? Can unbonded children grow up to bond
care for the earth? Does lack of early bonding generate
insecurity, separation, selfishness and egoism, even crime
|How important is bonding with nature?
Playing outdoors? Can children who develop without nature
connection become caretakers of the earth and all things
wild? Who is there to mentor that connection? There are more
olders than ever, but what has become of elders who mentor
The word “community” is heard a lot these days, but how many
of us grow up with an extended family, much less an
authentic society? How can we recover the fundamental fabric
of tribal life with its interdependence?
Does a driver’s license or letter in football constitute a
legitimate rite of passage, one that produces men of heart?
The survey I did also asked hunters, men and woman alike
with the average of 55, what life event most opened their
hearts and engendered compassion in them? Choices included
becoming a parent, the death of a loved one, death of a
beloved pet, teaching young people and taking the life of an
animal. Nearly all the woman chose “becoming a parent.” Most
of the men chose “taking the life of an animal.” Which
implies that a woman’s greatest initiation to life is
birthing a child and a man’s is hunting. Women are adapted on
every level to bring life into the world, but men are
adapted to take life to serve life, something every foraging
|The interdependence of life is not
merely an intellectual concept. It is intelligence of
the heart which comes from
connection with nature including direct participation in the
We owe it to ourselves and our world to rephrase the meaning
of life as sacred. If we want our children to live
their hearts and take care of the world on which they depend
then it is critically important that they participate
directly in the most fundamental processes of life for which
there are no substitutes. If they do not hunt they should
fish. If they do not fish they should gather. If they do not
gather they should grow.
AVATAR is a model for the recovery of proper relationship
with the earth, the creatures, other people and the divine.
Back to Nature means coming home to the Heart.
recovering those elements of life exemplified by our
ancestors and foraging cultures including the indigenous
hunting cultures of the sea, the dolphins and orcas, which,
like pygmies and Kalahari Bushman, are
playful, peaceful, present and compassionate, living harmoniously with their world and us,
their worst nightmare.
Click here to see the Avatar Trailer
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