Like so many others, I am fairly fresh from seeing Avatar and aside from wanting to see it again and preferably on a bigger screen and in 3-D, it made me think. Particularlythe part about Jake, the paralyzed protagonist who is given the chance to use his body again in a 10-foot tall blue-skinned avatar and gets sent into the forest to befriend the people of Pandora.
Sidetrack: 20 years ago, I wrote a short story with a somewhat similar premise about a disabled girl who through various interesting happenings gets to try out an able-bodied life among another race and for several years now, I've been slowly expanding it into something more like a book. Except, I think my window has just closed, because anything I write will be seen as a derivative of Avatar and I am more than slightly pissed. Damn you, James Cameron!
Where was I? Oh yes, blue skin, paralyzed and using your body again.
I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone living with a physical limitation who didn't get a little wistful at this part of the movie. That first scene of Jake trying out walking again, standing on the floor, figuring out how to use his legs again after so long of not - and subsequently crashing into quite a few things - going outside and digging his toes into the soil and then running, running as fast as he possibly can and... wistful doesn't begin to describe it. I don't think there's any particular word that can be used to sum up the mix of longing, sorrow and laughing in an almost-there recognition of the giddy joy of your body doing what you want, exactly what you want, with fluidity and grace. And it makes you want it with a burning need so hot it obliterates thought.
And then you start thinking. What would you do if you could do this, if this opportunity of popping into another body, a healthy, strong and flexible body was offered to you? Would you take it? And your first (and second, third and right through 27th) reaction is Are.You. Kidding. Me??? In a heartbeat.
But then, eventually, you start to be able to see through the haze of desire and that's when I started thinking maybe not. Because real life is not like the movies, in real life, you have to come back to your own body, the one that isn't so healthy and strong and flexible. And if you have come to a state of acceptance of that real life, of being grateful for everything that is within it, of loving the people in your life, a life that is connected in a myriad of ways, thousands of unseen tendrils linking you to people and communities - because in real life, no man is an island - and it is your life and in your heart you have for it a fierce, uncomplicated love, what happens if you have tried The Other? Would you not be shot back with the speed of light to that place of grief and resentment that was your before, before you figured out that the answer to enjoying this life you are given is to largely accept your limitations and move on, focusing on living instead of wishing things were different? And when that happened, would the love for your life not cease to be uncomplicated? Once the memory of what it was like to have no limitations is with you like a second skin, would it not taint everything else and everyone else in that life you used to love, smearing them with a grey, gritty film of what could have been?
Sometimes in this life, you have to recognize that brick wall before you beat your head upon it until you are a bloody mess and sometimes, you have to let go of desire and what ifs and move on, with acceptance and joy just - to borrow a line from Bridget Jones - the way you are.
Only forward is the answer, never back.
p.s. I'm percolating a possible project that needs a bit of a team approach (bragging rights only - alas, no money involved). To that end, I'm looking for someone with graphic design experience to make a small web-based design. If you're interested, please email me at landers5ATgmailDOTcom.