Surrounded by Benders!

June 20, 2010

Mú Zhǎnglǎo:

This is Mú Chánchú (the “moo-ing toad”).  I decided to use a code name for this very sensitive letter.  Just in case one of your companions gets a hold of it, they will not discover that your father is writing it.

Having carefully re-read your letters and e-mails, I have deduced that you have had close, personal experiences in your life with at least two Benders, those rare individuals still alive on earth capable of controlling and manipulating one (or more) of the four elements to their will.

I cannot believe that we didn’t recognize your previous college roommate, Chris Bender, for who he really is.  He grew up just around the corner from us and then spent a semester at school living right by your side.  The entire time he went totally undetected.  How his family dares be so bold with a surname that describes their familial gifts is precocious to say the least.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Chris was called to Thailand?  I think not.  He was called to the land of his element-controlling forefathers.  Do you recall Christopher’s extraordinary hand-eye coordination (e.g., video games) and his natural swimming ability?  I suspect that he is a Waterbender.

Whereas most people will go a lifetime without coming across a Bender, you experienced a second within less than 60 days.  Yes, it’s now obvious. Zhōng Zhǎnglǎo is also a Bender.  Like Christopher, your companion is tasked with maintaining peace between the Four Nations of the world.  Allow me to explain.

In your 5th letter, dated June 24, 2010, you mentioned that he seems obsessed with Avatar, the Nickelodeon TV show.  Duh!  Think about it.  He’s Asian and speaks the language of his ancestors; ancestors who were skilled in the ancient art of bending.

Although his ethnicity should be enough, there is much more.  Why does he spin when he turns a corner or walks through a door?  Because it’s the way of one who has control over an element.  Bending one or more of the elements is second nature to him and is like breathing or walking to you and me.  Even in public situations, he cannot control his urge to sharpen his skills.  And, speaking of breathing, years of solitary meditation, chi gong (i.e., inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth) should explain what you have described as “quirky” but what others would describe as skill that takes several lifetimes to learn.

You have described him several times as a gifted teacher.  Well, of course.  His reincarnated spirit is a multi-century student.  And a good student is a good teacher.  A great student is a great teacher.  You have much to learn from your sage companion.

Perhaps his greatest attribute is patience, something you have recognized since you first became companions.  I am certain that he sees in you a lack of that gift and is trying to show you by example how you too can experience this treasured trait.

He eats the meals of two or three men because of the incredible inner energy he constantly creates.  He craves mayonnaise because of the high protein value in eggs.  Qi requires fuel and, without the requisite natural foods found in the misty forests of the Orient, he is forced to get what can from what you described as the lard-based meat substitutes.

Why does he appear to sleep so much?  Really, he probably sleeps much less than you.  During the quiet and dark hours of the night, I suspect you will find Zhōng Zhǎnglǎo practicing Hsing I Ch’uan to build up inner chi energy by imitating the nuances of animal movements in the elemental study forms.  These exercises are best performed at night, when the Moon spirit is most strong.  His intense focus, however, leaves him exhausted and he will sleep at every opportunity.

It makes perfect sense that he commented about his wish for something larger than his pockets to carry “things”.  Exactly what “things” does he want to carry with him and why would he want them in a bag, outside the view of public eyes?  Call it a purse, a man bag or whatever else you want to call it; the truth is that he would prefer to have with him at all times those items that bolster his elemental powers.

Orthodontist appointment?  Musical audition?  Right!  My mind cannot comprehend what he must be doing.  If only you could follow him and see him performing his ancient art forms.  Perhaps he is searching the secret closets and shelves of the MTC for the bending scrolls that many have presumed were there.

Chung’s falsetto voice is also second nature to him.  He is an expert in bird sounds and fowl generally.  While this leads me to believe he is an air bender, there is really only one sure way to find out which elements he can control.

I’d like you to place three items in front of him: a lighted candle, a small glass of water, and a stone.  Sit him in front of the items and watch the items, not him.  If he can bend fire, the flame will dance towards him as if a breeze were blowing in his direction.

Pour a small amount of water on the desk in front of him.  If the water pools instead of running and dripping, you can be sure that he bends water.

If he is an Earthbender it will be immediately apparent.  The stone will stand on end, without any effort on his part.

Finally, if he has control over none of the above-three elements, he is an Airbender, one of the last.  If he has control over all of the above-three elements, he will also likely be able to control the air, in which case he is the Avatar.

Be grateful for the experience to be in the presence of such great men.  Learn from them.  Perhaps the time will come when you will discover your own bending ability.  Yes, my son, you are also a Bender.  It is time you knew the truth.  Please write to me when you discover your gift.

Mú Chánchú


About 6moodys

Sam Moody serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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