One year ago, I watched all three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender in about four days, swiftly followed by The Legend of Korra not long after. I’m not usually one for TV shows, but needless to say, this one had me completely engrossed. I fell in love with the characters, the humour, and the world that it created, but most of all, I was shocked by how much I learned about spirituality and life from a kid’s show. There were themes of balance, environmental conservation, feminism, positivity, and so many more great messages. Among all the richness embedded in every part of the show itself, here are some especially powerful parts that stood out to me in both Avatar and The Legend of Korra.
- “Pride is not the opposite of shame, but it’s source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.” (Iroh)
When Iroh and Zuko are forced to live on the streets of Ba Sing Se as beggars, Iroh embraces his new circumstances with admirable positivity. This was a man who was raised in a palace and grew up as Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, poised to become the next Fire Lord. He was a war hero of prodigious skill, nicknamed the Dragon of the West, who conquered a city and was revered by a kingdom. Yet, in Ba Sing Se, where he is anonymous and homeless, Iroh continues to make the most of his circumstances with no complaint of what he has lost. Even at the end of the story, he does not choose to go back to a life of royalty, but instead follows his humble passions of serving tea and playing Pai Sho.
- The Opening of the Seven Chakras in The Guru
In one of the most moving episodes of the series, Aang is taught to open his seven chakras — centres of spiritual power in the human body — in order to allow his energy to flow smoothly. This then allows him to master the Avatar state — in other words, to connect with the best version of himself. In order to gain love, Aang must let go of his grief. To attain willpower, he must confront his shame. For survival, he must face his fears, and so on. In a beautifully heart-wrenching way, the episode deals with all the struggles that we must overcome in life, and what there is to be gained by moving forward.
- “It’s easy to do nothing, but it’s hard to forgive.” (Aang)
In The Southern Raiders, Katara embarks on a mission to kill the man who killed her mother. Aang tries to stop her, begging her to choose forgiveness. What I loved about this episode was that Katara does not forgive the man by the end. It recognizes that some things cannot be forgiven, and that it is not so easy to let go. However, there are also better ways to move on than taking revenge.
Commonly lauded as the best episode in the entire Avatar universe, Beginnings is the story of how the first Avatar came to be. Told in stunning Japanese-style animation, the universe and history it sets is astounding. Throughout this episode is the overarching theme of balance — between spirits and humans, light and dark, good and evil. It recognizes that in all of these cases, one cannot exist without the other. But, as Dumbledore said, it is important “to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.”
- “You have light and peace inside of you. If you let it out, you can change the world around you” (Iroh)
When Korra enters the Spirit World, her emotions are reflected in the landscape around her. Therefore, when she becomes upset, the sky darkens and the creatures around her similarly become dark, angry, and threatening. When she smiles, the sun comes out. This is very much the case in the real world as well, for if we are happy and positive, our surroundings will echo those emotions back to us. As Iroh explains, “even in the material world, you will find that if you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see.”