Do you think there's a sort of compare/contrast parallel between Iroh's speech about having hope vs the Air Nomad monks teaching that hope was a distraction? Not just with the lines but with how Aang and Zuko sort of are the opposite to their mentors' teachings?
Oh, thanks for bringing this up! This sounds like like a fun question, so yes, absolutely!
We have two very different sets of charters and two very different philosophies that contrast with those two characters, as you already mentioned. On the one hand, we have Aang, who’s usually the optimist, happy, energetic etc. H’s not totally cynical or anything, but after loosing Appa, we see him a lot more sullen, hopeless, and overall more angsty–not too unlike Zuko. On the other hand we get Zuko–who’s almost always angsty and sullen until Book 3…when hes only a little less angsty and sullen
This is where we get this really interesting parallel/contrast.
I already mentioned the theme of Iroh, Katara, and Mai helping Aang and Zuko in their respective journeys, and this example is no exception. What I find interesting, however, is that story tries to make Aang;s hopelessness as akin to Zuko’s as possible–making him brood, and unreceptive to Katara;s efforts to cheer him up.
That said, the contrast between the two lines is noteworthy too, with Iroh giving Zuko a message of hope, while Aang lingers on his despair. I find it kind of odd that the Air Nomads had such a dreary proverb since I’ve always felt like the Air Nomads were much more upbeat,
However, I was doing a little research, and it looks like this quote has some Buddhist inspirations:
In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering.
This could help explain Aangs hope quote a little more (not quite, but a somewhat).
That said, I feel like Aang may have misinterpreted quote–allowing his situation to dictate the quote’s meaning. I feel like he’s looking at the quote and using it as an excuse to brood, when really it should be about trying to achieve other goals, and not being overly focused on what is currently unattainable.