The Avatar State


For some of you, including my wife, the subject of this posting will either be very bizarre or very annoying (or both as the case may be). Normally I usually talk about something related to Boy At The Window, not the “Boy In The Iceberg,” the original episode of my now favorite animation series of all-time, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Despite all of the strangeness over the ending of the series between Nickelodeon and its creators, it’s final four-part episode, “Sozin’s Comet,” aired Saturday evening. I must admit, I found myself tearing up on several occasions. It wasn’t all it could’ve been, but it was mostly a fitting end to a great series.

I know, I know, based on my background, I guess I should’ve been more upset about the series end of HBO’s The Wire, but I wasn’t. I saw more of myself in the characters of Avatar than in any other series I’ve ever watched. From the goofiness of Sokka to the cosmic spiral concerns of Aang, from the Kim Possible-ness of Suki to the need for redemption of Zuko, and from the utter evilness of Fire Lord Ozai to the complex nature of Iroh, I saw myself and many of my key influences in the characters throughout the show’s three-year run. I saw a bit of my first crush in Suki, Toph and especially Katara. I saw more of my second crush in Azula and Ty Lee. My AP American History teacher was a combination of King Bumi and Iroh. I saw myself in Aang and Zuko and Hakoda, especially in the third season. Surviving the things I survived and succeeding even to the extent that I did made me appreciate the complexities imbued into all of the characters. I even felt sorry for Azula as the series wore on from season two to season three.

As those of you who have read my postings on the end of the Disney series Kim Possible last fall already know, I’m a sucker for epic stories of turning possible annihilation into ultimate victory. Stories that illuminate struggle, redemption and renewal, unrequited love, succeeding against long odds, reluctant leadership coming from unusual people, and a deep sense of commitment to a vision and understanding of one’s self in the process. Avatar has done all that for me and more. It’s enabled me to form a deeper bond with my son Noah, to understand more why I react to certain things (like the love story of Aang and Katara, for instance) the way I have, and to rediscover my interests in Eastern philosophies and views of the world.

Not that the show is completely engulfed in the Dalai Lama or Tai Qi. It also presents women who kick ass and assert themselves — a very attractive quality, I might add. It shows young people who assume adult responsibilities while struggling with every important issue that any human being can face, including their own identity. It also shows a world in turmoil, on the verge of tearing itself apart, all in the name of spreading an ideology, an identity, that others are either forced to accept or get run over by in the process.

For those of us who are Christians, Jesus ultimately plays the role of Avatar. But in the end, it is each of us who has a responsibility of restoring balance to the world, to our world. That hopefully will be the role that the next president will take on. In a sense, the way many folks around the world see presidential hopeful Barack Obama is the way that many characters in Avatar saw Aang — as providing hope for a future worth living at a time when so much is out of balance. While Obama certainly isn’t the “last airbender” or isn’t likely to “glow it up” in the Avatar state, he does need to be the bridge over a number of divides in our world in order to fulfill his promise in restoring balance in our world and in America’s place in it.

Perhaps the only things for me to resolve as a result of my love affair with Avatar is both my immediate future and my distant past. I must resolve to keep striving for Boy At The Window’s publication while not allowing everything I have written about my past to define my present and future. I also must acknowledge my regrets, one of which includes never having given myself the chance to reveal my love and affection to my first crush. I must also take joy out of those things that do work out, including my marriage and with my son. I hope that he finds his Katara one day in a way that I couldn’t until I met his mother. In any case, I can’t wait until he’s older and can appreciate the series even more than he does now.

One Response to The Avatar State

  1. Harry says:

    You’re an avatar fan too? That’s pretty cool, I’ve followed the series as well. Nick really messed up the last months of it, but it worked out.

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