From The Serpent's Pass:

Aang: I don't know. The monks used to say that hope was just a distraction, so maybe we do need to abandon it.

Katara: What are you talking about?

Aang: Hope is not going to get us into Ba Sing Se and it's not going to help find Appa. We need to focus on what we're doing right now and that's getting across this path.

I've never understood this. Why exactly were the Air Nomads against the concept of hope? How would hope distract them? Wouldn't hope for a specific goal help them achieve that goal?

Additionally, Aang seems pretty hopeful for most of the series. The Air Nomads also seemed to have hope for lots of things. For example, they hoped that Aang would help deal with the Fire Nation's aggression.

Later Aang abandons this ideal and it's never brought up again.

Aang: [Sheds some tears.] I've been going through a really hard time lately. But you've made me ... hopeful again.

Are there any in-universe or out-of-universe explanations for this aspect of Air Nomad culture?

  • 2
    There's a lot of discussion amongst Buddhists about whether hope is a positive or negative idea. Seems like they're just following the idea of the negative connotation. – phantom42 Apr 28 '16 at 3:44
  • Just my interpretation, but I think it's similar to Jedi in the original trilogy: the Air Nomads view focusing on the past or future to be a distraction from focusing on the moment, which is the only time over which you have true control. Simply "hoping" for something won't make it come to be. – Liesmith Apr 28 '16 at 7:45

Hope is just another form of Wishing. It's optimism for the foolish who don't take it upon themselves to prepare. People can have ambitious goals, but what's your plan? A goal without a plan is nothing more than a Wish. Hope is a distraction; it shields you from reality and cripples your incentive of preparedness and diligence. The Air Nomads were the most technologically primitive and authority devoid of the four nations; as such they had little in the way of any particular social safety nets; economy with which to engage; and with no military devoid of conventional means of defense to call upon. Thus self sufficiency and survival were intrinsic aspects to Air Nomad society (admitted or otherwise)

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