Tuesday 22 August 2006

Chasing Liberty: The Story of Mit Dac and Biet Tuot

I am true to say that the Vietnamese are not strong in creative thinking. But it’s certainly not our fault, because one of the conditions upon which creativity grows is freedom, or liberty as some philosopher put it. It sounds silly, but I believe you don’t need to do anything to become creative; just sit and think freely. Ah, of course you may also lay on bed, or stand, or walk around and think. No matter what you do, your mind must move freely to no bound at all. Don’t ever think ‘Am I going crazy?’, ‘That’s unachievable. No one has ever done it before,’ ‘Everyone has thought of it and has done that all, who I am to think I can do better than them?’, ‘OK, I shall think of new ideas later when I get all this done, now I have to pay priority to finishing it first,’ and so on. Do I sound like a “chicken soup” writer? Probably, but that’s what I think and say on my own, not what I borrow from a chicken soup paperback. In fact I have never read a paperback of that kind of book.

People can set barriers and therefore impose limitations for themselves in creative thinking. But more obstructive is the environment surrounding them. Even the bravest and coldest person dare not think differently if their community or society does not encourage them to do. Sadly, Vietnam can be an example.

I have met hardly any Vietnamese people who appreciate creativity. As I mentioned in a previous essay about “idols in Vietnam”, in most cases, people revere someone because they confuse between being “good” and being “talented”, or “creative” in my words; they revere someone because they think that one has good knowlegde ‘of everything’. More than once I’ve heard my friends say they admire someone because that one has “thorough knowledge of everything”. Oh my friends, don’t you think that the more knowledge one has, the more likely they will get enslaved by their own knowledge? Only creativity can make the world move on. Only creativity is king, knowledge is merely slave. After all, only creative people are worthy of praise. God is worshiped because He creates the world. (Ah, I don’t believe in God since I can’t think of such a creative creature. I said ‘creature’ because I can’t tell why we call God “Him”).

Creativity requires freedom in thinking, or to borrow the words of a philosopher, “freedom of thought”. And children are the strongest in thinking freely. But almost all adults identify creative thinking and imagination with day-dreaming. I remember watching a Soviet film about Mit Dac (Know-Nothing) and Biet Tuot (Know-Everything). The two kids are different in many ways, and the biggest difference is that Mit Dac is lazy, neglecting his studies and spending time fooling around, playing games, etc., while Biet Tuot “knows everything”. Biet Tuot is a hard-working and good-mannered student and loved by parents and teachers and friends, while Mit Dac is too stubborn to obey parents and teachers, and is isolated.

As you may guess, there was a hidden struggle between Mit Dac and Biet Tuot, with victory coming to Biet Tuot at last. Mit Dac cried repentantly in the arms of friends, and promised he would change for the better. Well… I don’t remember exactly if things really went on this way or not, but I remember clearly my father saying to me, ‘Mit Dac is not really bad. He is imaginative.’

Although I was in the third-grade, meaning only 9 when I watched that film, I understood what my father said. In fact, I did not feel satisfied with the ‘happy ending’ of the film. It was a classical ending, typical of any film of that kind for children, with lazy Mit Dac being the loser and hard working Biet Tuot the winner. I dislike that ending, because I hate to see lovely Mit Dac lose to stupid Biet Tuot who represents all obedient and studious friends of mine. (Actually they always won teachers’ heart, while I was considered an unintelligent and stubborn child; oh, how I envied with them).

Anyway, it takes me too long a time, 20 years or so, till I began to think that imagination is not something terribly bad as people (or growns-up to be exact) often say to children. Daydreaming is not utopian thinking, and even when it is, being utopian is not something to criticize.