Taoism in a Contemporary World

taoism in movies

A concept of Taoism is widely-deployed in the today’s world. The given religious doctrine has a great number of adherence. Thus, it remains topical even though it was formed and developed a long time ago. The doctrine of Taoism is collected in the literature work, – the Tao Te Ching, and is considered to be written by Lao-tzu approximately in the sixth-fifth century BC. Basically, Taoism educates people to identify themselves as the parts of interrelated beings, created by the Tao. To be more specific, the Tao is the way of being’s existence. On the one hand, it is difficult to define the particular characteristics of this religious study. On the other hand, “it is better understood as ‘everythingness,’ as it contains within itself all potential characteristics” (ReligionFacts n. p.). What is more, “the Tao is the mysterious natural order of the universe.” It combines the opposite and interdependent energies, generally known as Yin and Yang substances. Apart from being complementary, these matters “contain with themselves the seed of the other” (ReligionFacts n. p.). Whereas Yin embodies femininity, water and the dark side of all beings, Yang epitomizes masculinity, air and the light side of the universe. Despite of being opposite, “Yin and Yang are always in perfect balance with the Tao” (ReligionFacts n. p.). Thus, the purpose of the Tao is to maintain the given balance. Consequently, it presumes a respectful attitude towards the surrounding world and, thus, encourages humans to develop the advanced awareness of life matters in every particular situation. In addition, Taoism depicts the wisdom to avoid violence and endeavoring to live in peace. What is more, it displays the benefits of mental and spiritual connection between all living beings and their creator. That is why it is hard to overestimate the role of the given religious study in the contemporary world. Besides, in order to detect the presence of the Tao in a daily life, one should observe and evaluate the claims, made by the modern society. One of the ways to do that is to explore certain films on the subject of Taoism religious study. Moreover, in order to learn if the Tao experiences the changes in the way it is defined and presented in the community. It is relevant to survey and compare the movies that were released at different times. Therefore, the purpose of the given paper is to estimate how the ideas of Taoism have been employed in the Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back movie and compare them to relevant notions of Avatar. Whereas the Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back film belongs to 1980, and Avatar is produced in 2009. Consequently, the observations on the chosen movies should display whether and to what extend the Tao’s beliefs are changed.

Consider the case when Irvin Kershner the director of the Star Wars’ fifth episode, among others reveals the idea about the necessity to evolve and sharpen human’s senses in order to differentiate good from evil. In other words, the development of extra feelings is required for the humans’ capacity to distinguish the important matters from irrelevant ones. For instance, a young man, who is a future warrior-peacemaker or so-called the Jedi, while being taught the relevant mastership is educated that “a true warrior knows where the good side or where the bad side is.” In addition, his mentor ensures the boy claiming that “you will know when you are called” (Star Wars). The given idea, deployed by Irvin Kershner, resonates Taoism’s concepts that “all in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is” (Legge 2). The Tao states that there are both dark and light energies in the universe. Besides, it implies that Yin and Yang are always mixed and even ambiguous since they encompass a part of one another. However, it does not argue that humans should be capable to sense and differentiate each of those. Moreover, this capability is critical for everyone, who intends to fight the dark side. That is why advancing individuals’ sense of awareness of each particular moment is crucial for either for becoming a decent warrior or just for self-preservation. Consequently, the deity plays an important role in the life of the mankind educating people to percept the universe adequately.

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Furthermore, another idea that clarifies the concept of Taoism is that a true warrior masters his skills not to kill. However, it is rather to implement the knowledge in order to protect him standing on the side of goodness. For example, the mentor of the young warrior cautions that “you learn for defense and never for attack” (Star Wars). The given statement presumes that people should not be ruled by the hatred, greed and desire to murder. Moreover, indeed, they are supposed to desire the death of their rivals neither before nor within the fight. It goes without saying that the chosen principle contains greatest wisdom, revealed in the right life stance and an adequate attitude towards all living beings. Besides, people, who distinguish the right from the wrong, adhere to their beliefs and defend them, have the universal righteousness on their side. The given principle, implemented in The Empire Strikes Back, clarifies the Tao Te Ching’s statement: “he who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms” (Legge 30). Beyond doubts, Lao-tzu finds it is impossible to win the battle and/or retain any material goods by using physical force because this approach has nothing to do with the cosmic wisdom. In addition, the implementation of “the force of arms” presumes neither a connection with the Tao, nor with world that this deity generates and maintains. Therefore, the person, who is not associated with the universe and, as a result, does not have its support cannot be strong. On the contrary, the application of a wrong approach makes people weaker and more vulnerable.

Preceding the concept of cosmic interrelation and interdependence, it is relevant to detect the Tao’s concept about the complete awareness of the entire world in terms of its complementary and ongoing energy exchange. Consider the case when a spiritual teacher of the Jedi teaches him to collect the energy right from the space, focus on it, collect and direct it purposefully. In other words, a young warrior-peacemaker is learnt the basics of energy exchange. The mentor claims that “it is energy that surrounds us and binds us.” Nonetheless, the more essential advice that the teacher gives to a young boy, is that “you must feel the world around you” (Star Wars). The logical connection between these two statements seems to be obvious. If everything is connected by energy, it means that all matters of the entire world are interrelated. Thus, it can be sensed and influenced. Simultaneously, the doctrine of the deity claims educates that “he puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former” (Legge 12). That is why it means that the order of the things in the present moment is the main manifestation on the Tao because every substance obtains a part of the Tao’s divine energy. It goes without saying that the implementation of the given principle helps to save, allocate, and dispose the energy of the surrounding world in a proper way. Consequently, this insight is beneficial for those, who are capable to utilize it in a real life. That is why it is relevant to state that Taoism has its manifestation in the modern world. Moreover, nowadays, the given religious teaching operates the same principles that used to be topical many centuries ago.

That is why it does not seem to be surprising that that similar idea of the universal interdependence and interrelation is depicted by James Cameron in the Avatar movie. To be more specific, the given concept of Taoism is revealed by displaying the existence of strong bonds between Na’vi people and their environment. For instance, the creatures from Pandora live in a strong connection with animals and plants. Thus, the representatives of this native tribe are capable to feel the forest, which they inhabit. What is more, it is clearly visible that the presented link is mutual and in the response of the avatars’ advanced awareness, and the other forest dwellers are capable to feel them too (Avatar). Presenting this connection, James Cameron reflects an idea of cosmic interdependence between deity’s energies that are present in every live creature. Besides, the film’s director points to the benefits that the given link provides. First and foremost, there is no violence in Pandora since all creatures are able to feel one another and, thanks to this divine connection, they live in peace and harmony. Secondly, the energy exchange helps to cure members of the community if such necessity occurs. Thirdly, the performance of Na’vis, animals, birds, trees, and other live beings is aimed at making everyone’s existence easier, happier, and more comfortable. Considering these advantages, the chosen model of a wise co-existence is a strong argument that proves the presence of Taoism in the contemporary life. Moreover, it suggests that the fundamentals of the given doctrine were not significantly changed over time.

Taking into account the order of the universe in the Taoism’s perspective, the concept of prudent attitude towards other beings created by Tao seems to be obvious. Consider the case when in his literature work, Lao-tzu claims that “the skillful traveler leaves no traces of his wheels or footsteps” (Legge 27). Considering the expanding number of environmental issues in today’s world, beyond doubts, the implementation of this wise approach is drastically important not only for harmonious co-existence, but also for the survival of Earth’s dwellers. Therefore, in Avatar James Cameron arouses similar problem, aiming to warn his audience about possible danger of unwise existence. It is relevant to state that the main idea of Avatar is to live in peace with nature and the given idea is particularly visible in the first scene between Na’vi’s leader Neytiry and Pandora’s stranger, Jake. To be more specific, Neytiri accuses Jake in inappropriate behavior that leads to unnecessary death of several forest inhabitants. For instance, she finds a man to be too noisy and clumsy, and besides, he makes fire disturbing the beings, which are in the vicinity (Avatar). Unfortunately, such unthoughtful behavior of Jake by attracting unnecessary attention of forest dwellers doomed them to be killed. In the presented way Cameron reflects the idea of wise attitude towards all surrounding creatures that resonates with Taoism claim about “the skillful traveler.”

What is more, the Avatar movie depicts another important idea that echoes the principle of Taoism and proves its topicality in the contemporary world. It is the complementary relationship of Yin and Yang energies. Whereas, one symbolizes the darkness, the other embodies the opposite; however, both of them include the dash of one another. At first site, such co-existence is incomprehensible, but James Cameron successfully proves the contrary. Consider the case; each representative of Na’vi’s tribe rides a sort of pterodactyl. Once, Jake is proposed to choose one for him, but the man is warned that a bird must choose him in return by demonstrating the intention to kill (Avatar). On the one hand, a significant feature of Pandora’s people is that they do not tend to control the animals, but rather be their mates creating a strong mental bond. On the other hand, it is seemingly normal to be exposed to the powerful creature, which the one chooses as a lifelong friend. Taking into account the foregoing, it is possible to conclude that the Avatar presents a vivid example of the world, filled with mixed and interdependent energies. Besides, it means that Yin-Yang concept remains relevant in the modern world.

The presented exploration of two films displays that the concept of Taoism remains popular in today’s world. Furthermore, the fundamentals of this religious teaching are widely implemented in the contemporary life. Thus, the manifestation of the Tao’s impact is particularly visible in movies scenes. It is not surprising because Taoism educates the humanity to be good and, as a result, contributes to the development of peace all over the world. In addition, it learns to maintain thoughtful and wise existence, which helps people to comprehend that their being should be meaningful and purposeful. Similarly, equally important is the insight that the subsistence of the mankind should not leave any traces on the environment; and this acknowledgement embodies the principle of Taoism. What is more, one should compare the Avatar movie with the Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back film, it is relevant to state that no significant changes in Taoism’s development are detected. Consequently, one can deduce that the given religious doctrine, in essence, remains unchanged in the span of about 30 years as well as in terms of centuries of time interval.

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