I've been thinking about the word, "avatar" a lot recently. I've always sort of known what it meant in the way that most people know what "irony" is (except for maybe Alanis Morissette). So, I looked up "avatar" in the enormous, two-volume dictionary my husband gave to me for Christmas.
Basically, an avatar is the incarnation of an idea. Interestingly, Hindu mythology birthed the word avatar. It's associated with the god, Vishnu, who is the second part of a triad that forms the one supreme god, Brahma. More specifically, Vishnu personifies the "preservation" power attributed to Brahma (the other two are creation and destruction). In this mythology, "avatar" refers directly to an incarnation of Vishnu.
According to myth, there have been nine avatars. Vishnu appeared as an animal in his first seven incarnations. Krishna, this badass invincible warrior guy, was the first human avatar. Some consider Buddha to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu, while the tenth avatar, Kalki, has yet to appear.
Ok, fine, who gives a crap, you might say. But this is what's interesting about an avatar: he embodies preservation. That is, this avatar is always saving the world from the big bad. You know, punishing evildoers, protecting the righteous. What really got me was this: Kalki, the next avatar, is supposed to rid the world of vice and restore us all to purity. Sound familiar?
The more I learn about world religions, the more similar they seem. I know my husband will hate this, but I find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating. Not because I'm religion-shopping, even though I spent most of my adolescence doing just that, but because it amazes me how similar everyone really is.
We're all waiting for the same thing: salvation.
I don't care if you believe in a higher power or not. I think the urge to do so is innate. Everyone hungers for a guiding presence. We want someone or something to show us the way. Religion does this for a lot of people, regardless of what brand it is. Others tend to migrate toward more secular paths. We're all followers of some kind or other. Even whacko cult leaders answer to something outside themselves.
Humans are amazing, creative beings, but we're not totally original. We see echoes of ourselves in dogs, cats, chimpanzees, salamanders, and even plants. Most importantly, we see ourselves in other people. Some guy living in a hovel in India loves his kids the same way my mom loves me. The similarities, the connections are what's most important in this world, not the differences.
Which is what, I suppose, an avatar should make you think about.