Once they arrived at the hidden firebending temple, Aang and Zuko found a series of statues depicting a martial arts form called, “The Dancing Dragon”. When they later stood before the firebending masters they performed the set, and the massive dragons danced with them. It was the execution of that fighting form which proved to the masters that the lowly humans had at least some potential to understand the nature of fire, and that is when they helped them fill in the gaps by surrounding the boys in a dazzling swirl of multi-colored flames. From that moment on Zuko had no problem firebending, and Aang, how had been scared of the element up until that point, casted flames for the first time with a look on his face of pure, unbridled joy.
In talking about the first time I attained the Freedom to Live in blog 17, I quoted the famous philosopher Alan Watts who said, “The existence, the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at. But that it is best understood by the analogy with music. Because music, as an art form is essentially playful. We say, ‘You play the piano’ You don’t ‘work the piano’. Why? Music differs from say, travel. When you travel you are trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. … Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.”
By the time I got to my first Apotheosis I was living my life in line with principles of humility, gratitude, and joy. At that point I was grateful to be back in the health and fitness fields, and I was grateful to the gods for the guidance they gave me along the way to find the help I needed to create Hero’s Breath in the first place. Gratitude became the underpinning energy of my life and it not only enabled me to do incredible things, it let me do them with so little effort. I seemed to just stumble on the connections and resources that I needed to make my new venture work. Somewhere along the way I forgot all of that, and Iroh helped me remember.
Shortly after going into hiding, Zuko began to despair, but Iroh told him, “In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.” When I first heard this I thought it was just a meaningless platitude the writers stuffed in to fill the space, but now I see the real depth in that statement.
After having lived for a while on the road, Iroh and Zuko eventually made it to Ba Sing Se, the capital of the Earth Kingdom. There, Iroh’s passion for tea landed him and Zuko a job at a tea shop, something that the still angry young prince hated doing, but something that gave Iroh a great sense of joy and fulfillment. Eventually, Iroh’s reputation as a tea master earned the attention of a local businessman who fronted the money for Iroh to open his own tea shop, but Zuko was still determined to find the Avatar and restore his honor.
“Have you ever thought that I want more from life than a nice apartment and a life serving tea?” Zuko fumed.
“There is nothing wrong with a life of peace and prosperity. I suggest you think about what it is that you want from your life, and why.” Iroh returned.
“I want my destiny.” Zuko sulked.
“What that means, is up to you.”
Before Zuko released his anger he was still pounding away at his problems; trying to FORCE what he wanted into existence, because that is all he knew fire to be. Iroh, on the other hand, was content to live his life as a refugee because he was able to embrace the very act of living no matter where he was, for he was fully aware of what fire actually represented, and because of that understanding, he himself was full of life. As he told his nephew, “Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.” Iroh had discovered a perfect balance between acting according one’s CHOSEN purpose, and understanding that there is much about life that is beyond a person’s control, and he was able to maintain this balance by learning to live his life with gratitude, which is precisely the key that I had forgotten.
The Firebending Masters Clip:
YouTube intro: https://youtu.be/4mBCCi1SNLQ