Of course, when it comes to describing my impression of 2016, there is no doubt that it is Taiwan that helps shape most of my experiences in 2016. There are still lots of stories I want to share about what I have seen and felt in Taiwan, therefore, you may expect that there are still a couple of entries popping up under my Project “Fragriver in Taiwan”. My three months in Taiwan is more than a journey abroad but a trip to back to basics, to have some explanations for some of my own concerns, to be humiliated by my own ignorance and to learn to embrace intellectual humility.
Why intellectual humility? It sounds pompous, doesn’t it? Or kind of buzzwords that ones use to make themselves look intelligent? When it comes to intellectual humility, it would have been difficult for me to understand what it means exactly if I had not spent my time in Taiwan last year. During my time in Taiwan, I sometimes felt uncomfortable. I was not comfortable when realizing that I used to criticize some ideas shared by my father and then I was myself persuaded after reading more and experiencing more in Taiwan. I was not comfortable when realizing how I turned my back on things I used to care about and now wondered about what I really did when I was at university. I was not comfortable when realizing that I could be wrong at even things that I used to think that I was familiar with.
However, I have to get used to it. I have to admit that I can be wrong. I have to get used to the fact that the world is big and there are lots of things remaining unknown to me. I have to learn to be prepared for being humiliated more in the future for my ignorance. And I have to learn that being intellectually humiliated is the rude yet effective way to remind me that never being satisfied in my quest for wisdom.
So it was about 2016, it was uneasy yet it is worth an experience. How about 2017?
Lots of people asked me how I felt about coming back to Vietnam after spending three months abroad. I found it not too difficult for me to reintegrate to the messy traffic, to drive motorbike, to be tolerant with people pitting or littering on the street, to breathe this polluted air, to see the old Hanoi day by day destroyed by the rude giant corporation with their big yet ugly buildings and apartments. Admittedly, I did feel extremely disappointed. However, I used to feel disappointed about it even before departing for Taiwan and was highly aware that at least Hanoi got worse day by day during the last 10 years. What makes me feel much more difficult is to get acquainted with conversations. Maybe I am wrong again. Perhaps it is not wrong at all for people worshipping the giant corporations that make their money without paying much attention to environment. Perhaps it is not wrong if people do not care much about how Hanoi’s environment quality has been deteriorated. Perhaps it is not wrong if people think that these concerns are just more far-fetching than concerns about how to make their ends meet or how to have an impressive photo in a high-end restaurant. It is not wrong that each person has his own preference. It is just wrong that I belong to the minority. I do not mean that the minority is of better group than the mass. I do not want to condemn the mass for anything. I just want the minority’s voice to be heard as well.
It sounds pessimistic to start a new year like this, doesn’t it? Given that it is an ordinary human emotion, I have to learn how to embrace it as well. At least, I am now more aware about the good, the bad and the ugliness around me and learn that lots of young people are taking actions towards these ugly things surrounding me. And at least I have more ideas about how a good life to me should be. To run a gamut of emotions from enthrallment to disappointment, from optimism to pessimism, from doubt to hope is not really good for my emotional health but if it may lead me to have a better knowledge or kind of realization about life, it should be worth a try. (Perhaps I am wrong again but it should be okay when I learn to embrace it).
So 2017, be brave!