Humans are paralyzed by choice. The Na’vi think you’re nuts.
In this ongoing series, we examine the values and codes that drive Na’vi clan life, offering them as inspiration for your own.
We all know the feeling. You walk into your closet, or turn on your streaming service, or open a menu, and suddenly it’s like you stepped in quicksand. Too many options, too much choice.
We don’t ever want to admit that we might have too much stuff — being raised in a work-consumer culture, as we are, it would go against muscle memory. And besides, getting stuff is fun, right?
While you think about that, let’s look at how the Na’vi might answer the question.
In Na’vi belief, the mightiest warrior is part of the same web of life that includes the tiniest Pandoran glow worm. Which means that nothing, materially, is taken for granted, and nothing is wasted. The Na’vi use only what they need.
Let’s say a Na’vi craftsman wants to make a new streamer, for decorating his direhorse. A streamer is a highly decorative way of self-identifying and expressing both clan and individual pride, and so making a good one is serious business. Our craftsman kills a hexapede, explaining his intentions to the dying animal, and skins it: he will take only the leather he needs for his streamer, and distribute the rest among his family, along with the meat. He will not kill five hexapedes and cherry-pick the best one to skin. He will not harvest enough leather for a streamer collection that will sit, unused, on his personal belonging rack. He uses his streamer, and when it needs replacing, he makes another.
Unsurprisingly, there is no single report of a Na’vi expressing anxiety or malaise due to an abundance of choice. No Na’vi is trapped by his or her own stuff.
This is a human quality.
But it can also be unlearned, as many humans who have lived closely with the Na’vi, adopting their customs, have found. So we enlisted the help of top PRF Na’vi behaviorists, and put together a set of questions to get you in the Na’vi mindset when making an acquisition. Whether you’re looking at a pair of designer boots or just reaching for an extra helping of dessert:
- Will acquiring this object deepen the bonds between me and my fellow humans, increasing my sense of belonging?
- Will my need for this object still exist in a week, a month, a year?
- Will I do honor to the source of this object? Will I use and enjoy it in a way that made its death or recomposition worthwhile?
- Would I be proud to give the object as a gift to a friend or family member?
For the Na’vi, it’s all about balance — the balance that Eywa preserves, making sure everything is in its right place and proportion. You may not have belief in Eywa enough to think — as the Na’vi do — that to be a collector is to hold more sway over the created world than is your due. All you really need is to observe the Na’vi in routine life: tranquil, grounded, uncluttered, and grateful for what they have. In the end, it all comes down to gratitude, and it can be hard to maintain a healthy level when you have to spread it around so much stuff.