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What’s wrong with imagination, Vietnam?

Thursday, December 31, 2015, 18:55 GMT+7
What’s wrong with imagination, Vietnam?

The recent story on Tuoi Tre News about a man finding a mermaid had me laughing for about an hour. What’s wrong with having fun and using your imagination? The idea that anyone is taking this seriously means to me that they were not having a good Christmas!

It’s the holiday season in the Western world and soon it will be Vietnam’s turn too, with Tet happening in early February and a two-week break. Around this time, in both the Western and Asian media, big news stories are thankfully not that often. We all need a rest from bad news!

It’s an interesting time when the Western newspapers often run silly, ‘for fun’ stories about UFOs (I couldn’t find a translation into Vietnamese!), or mad inventions or what’s going to happen next year. Much of it is ‘tongue in cheek’ – a way to fill the newspaper with happy or funny stories over the holiday period.

I loved the idea of it – get a photo, make a story, and find out if people understand it’s a joke! It’s something we often do in the Western media and even more often on social media such as Facebook. My personal favorites are stories about fishermen catching giant monsters or people seeing Santa flying over their house!

So I say to the police, relax and forget it! It’s a joke – pure and simple. Harmless fun is a great stress-reliever and a good giggle story for those family homecomings.

It’s imagination rather than simple education that drives the world. The idea that we can imagine things that don’t exist yet but would improve our lives is a vital part of improving our world. That clearly applies to Vietnam, where change is slow, and it often seems as if there is no need for change yet Vietnam has no choice but to join the 21st century in a hurry.

If I had a Christmas and New Year wish – it would be to give every child in the country a big color book about animals, the world, people or something fun like drawing, making cartoons or writing stories. Sure, Vietnam needs safe bridges, houses for the poor, swimming lessons and a thousand other serious needs but what if you can’t dream? What if you can’t imagine a better way to live or do something?

Almost everyone on the planet has at some time sat or stood on a piece of land and wondered what’s beyond the horizon...  And if that never happened, we would still be monkeys swinging in the trees!

Education doesn’t always get you a job or make you successful in a country still struggling to modernize so many parts of its culture. However, inspiring the young to think of better ways to do things, to imagine answers to problems, to dream up solutions to the nation’s infrastructure – this is the way forward.

Some people might say it is not wise to make the poor dream of better things because it will only make them unhappy. Other people could comment that what is the point of dreaming when you are trying to survive? Or the idea that imagination is no good if you don’t study hard and get an education.

Imagine this: the world doesn’t change because we know things. Our lives don’t change simply because a million or a billion people have an education. Our world gets better because someone somewhere dreams or imagines something better...or thinks of a creative idea. Maybe they make an imaginative jump across two pieces of information to find a new way forward.

The Vietnamese man who wrote that story could be an artist, a writer, a thinker – the people we now need to see another way to solutions to the world’s problems in our increasingly complicated environment – climate change, economic participation, and building up the resources around us.

So as I wish that I could give all who read this story and those sitting somewhere imagining a better world a book – full of color and interesting things and maybe things that are not yet real but could be...

Maybe sometimes stories that are not true turn out to be truer than anything we dreamed of before. And perhaps that might be the best holiday present of all...

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