until I’d read N.K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it had never occurred to me that an avatar could have a personality. My sole understanding of the concept of an avatar was digital avatars, ie, something that represented a real person in an online space. A digital or electronic avatar does not have a will or thoughts independent of who it represents. In Cameron’s movie, this is certainly true.
But the primary (or first few according to Merriam Webster) definition of avatar is incarnation. And we –at least I– definitely see incarnations as having a soul and will and personality separate from whatever they represent. Otherwise, how could you have a trinity?
with N, my older son, being sick, I’ve been thinking about myself as an avatar. It’s a little awful: as women, we recognize how much we are simply representatives for men. José Ortega y Gasset brought this uncomfortably home for me: I was reading him, really enjoying his thought, the way his words (ok, the translation) flowed. And then I came across an essay, I’m not going to remember the exact title, but something like “Phenomenology on the Bus”, which is all about evaluating women by their beauty. Yea, fuck you too Ortega.
but ok, the point being that you realize as a woman that there’s this idea of the young woman (+ various characteristics, beautiful, insane, unloved, etc) and you, as a actual person, exist for men (and often other women) as simply the current embodiment of this idea that they ave existing in their head.
But until N was crying out for me the other night, sick and feverish, it didn’t occur to me that motherhood, too, is an embodiment. But not societal, but from this base level. He has the mom as I am, here, in the moment, in the house, doing or not doing what he wants. But he also has this other mom, Mom as the entity which is not separate from him, mom as the infant experiences me, total love, total food, warmth, ALL.