Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Now I Get All "We-Are-The-Worldy"

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.


Gloria Glo said...

Interesting. So what Avatar will come to save us from Wal-Mart?

BTW- found your post on New York Intern both funny and terrifying.

lunger said...

"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."

his was about the only point in your article i disagreed with. I think your husband (ME!) would say there are undeniable similarities in what world religions claim to offer their trusting faithful.

I tend to believe that it is because we are "hard wired" to love God. The major difference, in my mind is not their claims, Mathew 7:15-7:20 speaks of this with the greatest clarity and authority. Its simplicity and eloquence is undeniable.

also undeniably eloquent was your line "Everyone hungers for a guiding presence" Mathew 7:7-7:12 addresses this.

I find it so amazing that God walked up a hill and commented on your blog about 1980 or so years ago. With a readership lke that, this blog can really take off.

(okay so he was speaking to all of us)

Dad said...

It strikes me that this idea that one religion is the "One True Path" is grounded more in patriotism than in theology. One of the arguments made in the Old Testament is that the god of the Israelites is better than all the others because he is with them wherever they go, rather than having a regional domain.

Political conquest in the name of religion has been a tradition of humans since time immemorial.

It is but a variation on the same theme as is presented in the old boast, "By Pa can lick your pa."

girlspit said...

I don't think it's a matter of patriotism any more. Most religions are spread throughout the corners of the earth, especially if you consider religions like Christianity and Islam.

I think individuals are to be blamed for religious wars, rather than religions. Religion is usually an excuse for, rather than the cause of most holy wars.

lunger said...

Your post, validly, is so much more in conflict with fanatisicm than the possiblity of a 'one true path'. Either way, I think I should stick with the correct glory.

Dad said...

I do not blame religion for the violence, I blame the jingoistic patriots for using it as a vehicle to establish political power. It's easy to think that the religion of my country is the best just as my country is the best and if you disagree, there is not only something wrong with you, but also it's alright to deal with you as someone not worthy of respect.

That's my point.

girlspit said...

I understand where you're coming from on that, Dad. I don't understand why people devalue each other. This is the sentiment that disturbs me the most: "it's alright to deal with you as someone not worthy of respect." I don't think anyone has the right to deal with anyone else in this way, whether it's an individual or a group of people. Sure, we may think some groups of people or silly, or scary, or we may just disagree with them. However, that doesn't give us the right to treat them as non-humans. Some people treat animals better than they would certain humans with whom they don't agree. People may be ignorant, unintelligent, cruel, or monstrous, but they are still people. Even evil people are not subhuman. Just remember, with a simple turn of fate, chance encounter, or genetic blip: you could be that person.

DogMan said...

FANTASTIC! I started reading your blog and didn't stop until there was nothing left... You certainly have a way with words. Stop by my page sometime and say hi. I look forward to future posts!