28f - Apotheosis - "Understanding others ... will help you become whole."
In part four of the last miniseries I said that the elixir I brought back with me, that of personal responsibility, meritocratic hard work and rugged individualism, was unwanted by the demographic to which I brought it, namely, geeks and nerds. In writing this series I came to realize that it wasn’t the message that was wrong, it was my delivery, or rather, the intent behind it.
The more I tried to do something that I believed was meaningful, the more I failed at doing anything at all, and despair began to slowly creep in on me. As a consequence, I became even more results-focused, which only made me worse at seeing the results that I wanted in anything until eventually my business ventures all but stopped. Nothing was happening with WFG, and every training I attended just made me more and more frustrated. Happy, enthusiastic, caring leaders poured so much wisdom and experience into the team over dozens of Zoom calls every week, and instead of latching on for support, I pulled away more and more. It wasn’t that there wasn’t any value for me to take away from the meetings and classes, it’s that because I wasn’t producing any results, I didn’t think I had any value to add to the group, so I put in less and less effort into my engagement with the other partners on my team. Likewise, I made fewer videos and fewer posts on Hero’s Breath, until I just stopped posting altogether. I had forgotten why I started this endeavor, and why I partnered with WFG in the first place.
As an alcoholic I had come so close to losing everything, but by humbly submitting to the process of learning from Divinity, I was able to turn my life around. I was grateful to the gods for teaching me so many powerful lessons and it was that gratitude that moved me to want to share what I learned with others. I used to love connecting to others through social media, regardless of the size of the audience, but as the issues in the world mounted, I started to feel an increasing drive to do MORE and to do it FASTER, so that I could make things better, just because I was so awesome. Eventually, though, as I started to feel like I couldn’t do anything impactful, I started to lose my drive to do anything at all. I thought that all I needed to have a bigger impact was to devise a better STRATEGY, so I retreated and worked on…THINKING. Without realizing it I slowly started to cocoon into myself, which for an extrovert means death. To make matters worse, I focused so much on what was wrong with the world that the term “I don’t like…” came out of my mouth with greater frequency, and I’m grateful to Andrea for calling me on it. I wouldn’t say that I was depressed, but I was starting to get overwhelmed and, like Zuko, I needed to reassess a lot of things.
By examining the lessons Iroh taught Zuko, and pondering his journey of development, I came to see that my own problem with pride stemmed from an unexamined need to prove myself to the world as being better than those I saw as weak and over-emotional because I carried unresolved shame for having allowed myself to be influenced into thinking like them in my youth. As a result I, like Zuko, believed that the only way to have any hope of finding personal value was in my actions, which were, of course, dependent on my success. However, unlike Zuko [and my slanderer], I wasn’t hunting down the supposed enemies of my [ideological] nation. Instead, I thought that I had to help a certain number of people improve their lives in tangibly measurable ways in order to have a meaningful impact on the world, and that without such impact, I would have no value. I had embraced the ways of Ozai without even realizing it.
Ironically, my unhealed emotional scars caused me to identify more and more with the ideological “thinkers” camp, which stands firmly against the “feelers” group, in a dysfunctional dynamic where one exists simply as a reaction to the other. In truth, both “sides” need each other, and I use quotation marks because the divisive camps are completely artificial. Human beings think AND they feel, yet we now live in a world where sociopolitical factions claim monopoly over aspects of the human psyche, not unlike the nations within the world of ATLA.
When preparing to teach Zuko the skill of lightning redirection, Iroh began with a simple explanation of the four elements:
Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will; and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor. Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribe are capable of adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything. … It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others – the other elements, and the other nations – will help you become whole. … It is the combination of the four elements in one person that makes the Avatar so powerful…but it can make you more powerful too.
Human beings are themselves a composite of a multitude of qualities, but lately we as a society seem to only focus on one: “Are you an empathetic person who takes the time to try to understand others? Well then you’re a Liberal.” Or, “Are you a hard-working, facts-oriented individualist? Well then you’re a Conservative.” Give me a fucking break.
Iroh Teaches Zuko The Four Nations:
YouTube intro: https://youtu.be/4mBCCi1SNLQ