Few days ago, I watched a Ted talk (which I couldn’t find again to paste a reference link here) about “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The message is to put forward beliefs and motivation, in business and general life, before you advertise your products and call for actions. The presenter, who I can’t remember name either (Im very bad at remembering name, at least compared to ideas), emphasizes that when we can ascertain our beliefs and talk about it, we have the power to appeal to people who share the same view. And those who are willing to “be there” to support the vision, often are the best adapters leading to change in society.
As a result, lately I have been questioning myself about what I truly and strongly believe in. What are the principles that govern my life? What do I consider right and wrong? What do I use to make sense of my present, past and future?
Not easy questions. It’s hard to come up with an answer; it is even harder to decide which one is THE answer. A lot of what I believe in come from outside, from family, school, friends and societies I have lived in. There is hardly one that I come up with on my own, actually none. I am no way a great thinker who innovates ideas for the sake of originality. For example, I believe children should take care of their parents when they are weak and old. And this is of course the main principle of Confucian discourse which influences the whole area of South East Asia. Another example, I believe women should be able to enjoy rights granted to men such as the right to make important decision (not trivial ones like what grocery to buy for a day), as well as share their assumingly “women’s work” with men. This attitude, no wonder, is what I get from my education in Canada. Less important and more personal beliefs include: people who care about me should remember my birthday, if I try very hard for a job, and better than everyone who applies, I should get it, and if a guy is interested in a girl, he is supposed to take the daunting responsibility of making a move first, rather than the other way around. These are all influenced by the media, like books, movies and newspapers, as well as what people around me consider right.
So, there is nothing genuinely mine. Sure, but is there something I more strongly believe in than others? Something I can share in case someone casually asks: “What do you so dearly believe that no one can cast a doubt on?”
Last night, I watched Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (The fabulous destiny of Amelie Poulain). It is a French movie produced in 2001. It is beautiful. My heart was racing towards the end of the movie, not because the couple finally found each other and kissed, but because suddenly I felt like life is so beautiful. Not a heavy moral message like: “do a little good to everyone will make a big change”, as in common stories about a introverted, shy and sometimes socially awkward girl all of sudden decided to go out help people and in the end received her own reward. Not a love story about two outcasts who have been in love with each other in dream, and reunited in a kiss that each of them find himself/herself in the other. Not the heart-breaking scenes of France, a country famous for its romantic features. Not the unusual harmonic rhythm of Yann Tiersen's music. Well, actually, all of those elements contribute to the beauty of the movie. But I was moved deeply by the ordinary of it. And I realized, as I have realized before, only by loving something that you can make it beautiful. Or to put it differently, love beautifies even the smallest and most trivial.
There, a principle I strongly believe in I can eventually formed in words: “Beauty lies in the ordinary”.
And that is what I have struggled to explain my strong attachment to some literature works. An idea runs across the TED talk is about appealing to people sharing the same view. All books and novels I love for a lifetime have the same principle. Harry Potter, Doraemon, and almost all Nguyen Ngoc Tu’s works, they are about the beauty discovered in ordinary people. That’s the surface, deep down under is the author’s great love for life.
If Im not mistaken, I have thought about it since I was in grade 5. I have once told myself: “The job of a writer is to make normal things beautiful”. Then, I was surprised to discover, in my first year university, that Simmel said that same thing about art (Art is to separate something from the background and bring it forward). And finally, yesterday, I was able to make it a principle, one that I have been struck by and have followed all the time. I just didn’t realize that I have. Such a long way to come to term with oneself. More than 10 years, since I first felt the glimpse, till the day I fully understood and confirmed a belief.
So if I write, I will strive to bring forward, to put it on the table, to focus attention, to make others see the beauty in the ordinary.
p/s: That movie also made me realize that I'd rather watch a movie alone, especially if I really like it. Activities like reading and watching movies, sometimes listening to music if not in complete solitude, are to shared with a special someone, who understand and share my taste, not just random people.