(Photo credit (above): Toby Oxborrow | Flickr
Learning from Uncle Iroh
In this article, we will be dissecting fiction, both new and old, to reveal what golden nuggets of wisdom lie beneath.
Today, we will look at a beloved character from a cartoon series that will always hold a special place in my heart, Avatar: The Legend of Aang (A:TLA).
For those who have never heard of Avatar, it is not to be mistaken with the dramatised movie with Dev Patel, nor the movie about blue people with hair that can connect to plants.
(If you’re a fan of it, you would probably have this memorised by heart!)
This animated series, created by Michael Dante and Bryan Konietzko, focuses on an ancient time in which the world was divided into four different parts: the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads.
The people who inhabit this world fall into two main categories: the benders and the non-benders. The benders have the ability to control one of the four elements: water, earth, fire, or air, whilst non-benders don’t.
Among them also exists an Avatar, who is the human incarnation of the Spirit World, and the only one who can master all four elements.
In this thoughtfully written and produced series, there are many lessons to be learnt. However, today’s article will draw wisdom from a quirky, tea-loving uncle – Uncle Iroh.
Aang: So, Toph thinks you give pretty good advice. And great tea.
Iroh: The key to both is proper ageing.
Here are a few life lessons we can learn from Iroh. From here onwards, there will be spoilers!
Patience is a virtue
Having to deal with his nephew, Prince Zuko, who can be very hot-tempered (pun intended), Iroh nevertheless remains calm and patient with him.
Throughout the series, Iroh teaches Zuko how to improve himself as a fire bender and as a person, which eventually influences much of his actions in the future. This ultimately helps Aang in his mission to achieve peace among the four nations.
Likewise, many of us may still have difficulties with being a patient person – especially me! Despite that, as I go through situations that come to test my patience, I’m discovering new capabilities in me to step back and look at the bigger picture, as well as the circumstance of the other party.
[Zuko tries to contain his anger, ultimately releasing a gout of flame from his mouth that touches the ceiling. Scene cuts to a smiling Iroh, who is soon clouded with smoke]
Iroh: I’m lucky to have such an understanding nephew.
Humility is essential
In the last season, Zuko finds the Avatar and offers to help him defeat Firelord Ozai.
After some conflict, both parties eventually find the humility to admit that they need each other in order to prevent further destruction of their world’s peace.
This humility found in Zuko, who was originally stubborn and intent on defeating Aang, was developed through years of support from his uncle.
This is because Iroh knew the importance of depending on help from others when you need it, and not letting your pride get in the way of that.
Similarly, in a workplace situation, the humility to admit that you are unable to do certain tasks and ask for help is important for success.
“While it is always best to believe in one’s self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.” – Iroh
Grief can grow you for the better
After losing his son in a siege that he led, Iroh dropped his position as the Fire Nation General and went on a journey around the world.
Iroh’s decision to take a break after facing much trauma and sadness led him to experiences which matured his thinking and perspective.
To turn our bad experiences into something good is definitely easier to say than do. The healing process needed is different for everyone.
However, just like Iroh, we should learn to open up ourselves to the possibility of healing, and then move forward once we reach a place in our lives where we can look back at our grief from different angles.
“You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.” – Iroh
Time and time again, art has imitated life. It reflects the feelings, and sometimes even experiences, of the artist and can represent many valuable lessons. Iroh is an example of such an imitation, as with many other characters from A:TLA.
Whilst we might not bend fire nor have a moody nephew, we are still able to relate to these characters. They show real human feelings and overcome problems that we may have to go through as well – be it going through the loss of a loved one, having to let go of past bitterness, or finding a family among your friends.