Sứ mệnh Thánh Gióng của giới trẻ Việt Nam

Tuần qua mình nhận được báo Dân Chúa số tháng 3 từ Úc Châu. Trong đó có một bài do mình viết bằng tiếng Anh cho đối tượng độc giả giới trẻ. Mình lấy hình ảnh Thánh Gióng trong câu chuyện cổ tích Phù Đổng Thiên Vương làm ẩn dụ cho mục đích và cách sống đẹp mà giới trẻ Việt Nam ở hải ngoại có thể noi theo. Đây là nội dung của bài viết này:

Looking for a purpose in life

Some of you reading this article may be teenagers, perhaps some studying in universities, and perhaps others have already graduated and working as professionals in your respective fields. I myself have been through primary school, secondary school, university, and graduate studies. I have learned many things throughout the years of studying, but one thing I have discovered is that some of the most important and profound things we learn in life isn’t necessarily in philosophy or theology or medical school, but when we start out as little first graders.

Among the many things I learned in year one as a student in a small town in Việt Nam is a legend called Phù Đổng Thiên Vương, also known as Thánh Gióng. The story is as follows:

In around 250 BC, Việt Nam was being attacked by foreign invaders. So the king sent messengers high and low to find someone who could drive the enemies out. In the village of Phù Đổng lived a couple, who had been married for a long time but had no children. One morning, on the way to the rice paddy, the woman saw an unusually large footprint in the soil. Surprised, she put her foot on it. Soon after this she got pregnant and later gave birth to a boy, whom they named Gióng. Three years had passed, but he could neither sit up, nor could he say a word.

One day, the king's messenger came to Phù Đổng. Hearing the messenger, Gióng suddenly sat up and told his parents to invite the messenger in. Giống asked the messenger to tell the king that he needed an iron horse, armor and an iron rod to fight the invaders.

So the king gathered all the blacksmiths in the country together. The villagers brought everything that was iron. And they all worked day and night to make a huge iron horse, a large armor and a long iron rod.

In the meantime Gióng said he was hungry and wanted to eat. So his parents brought him all the rice they had. But it didn’t last. The boy ate and ate and ate. As he ate, he began to grow more and more. The villagers had to bring their rice to him, and cooked day and night to feed the boy.

When the iron horse, the armor and the rod were finished, Gióng stretched his arms, stood up, and transformed into a giant. He put on the armor, seized the rod, and quickly mounted the iron horse. The horse roared like thunder and breathed fire from its nostrils.

When he saw the enemies, Gióng sped forward straight into to the invaders. The fire from the nostrils of the iron horse burned many of them to death. Gióng killed the enemies, striking them with his iron rod. When the rod broke, Gióng pulled scores of bamboo trees from a nearby forest to fight the enemies.

After defeating the invaders, Gióng rode his horse up Sóc Sơn Mountain, where he removed his armor and disappeared into the heaven. People called him since Thánh Giống, “Thánh” meaning Holy. A temple in his memory can still be found not far from the place where he ascended, and every year there is a festival to honor Giong.

Most of us, especially those who are young, are on a journey where success whether economically, intellectually, or socially is a primary objective of our endeavor. Some may become entrepreneurs, others doctors, others engineers and scientists. In the overseas Vietnamese community, no longer is the example of a successful and highly-accomplished young person difficult to find. I am quite proud to point out that among my Vietnamese American university classmates, there are many lawyers and doctors, scientists and university professors.

The one thing we must never forget as we aim towards success is that throughout this long journey, there are countless people who have garnered the effort to prepare our horse, armor, and rod. It takes the dedication of family and community to give us our horse and armor. It takes the strength of teachers and friends to give us our iron rod. In our journey, we are fed and clothed with knowledge, thoughts, traditions, experiences, and emotions of an entire village of grandmothers, farmers, scholars, refugees, and martyrs.

All this is done for us with the hope that in the end, we may become little giants facing life with the greatest strength possible. As much as we try to do things on our own, it is never possible to achieve without all that others do for us. As I remember the story from my childhood, I am reminded of Isaac Newton’s declaration: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I’d like to think that the giants envisioned by Newton are not only those whose legacies have been hailed in history books, but also those whose lives and achievements can only be witnessed by the earth and sky between which they move. Yet their impact upon others was no less profound. It is the mother who prays on her knees at night when the whole family is asleep. It is the father who toils two jobs to provide for his children. It is the refugee who braved the high seas in search of a better life. It is the martyr who shed her blood for the right to worship the God that she believed in. And there are countless un-named more just like them.

Our life then can never be a life simply about us. But it is always about the entire community that nurture and care for us. Like Gióng, we survive and grow big on the rice of an entire community—past and present. Like Giống, we must live and fight not just for our own interest, but also for the interest of those who invest their time, sweat, dreams, and hope in us. We must be conscious of the desires and need and yearning of those who depend on us to represent them in our world. If we are aware of these aspirations, there is no way we can be lost and live our life as if we cannot find our purpose. How can we when there are poor farmers, old grandmothers, oppressed neighbors, and abandoned orphans counting on us?

The people who count on us are those who are weak and cannot fight on their own. But they feed us and clothe us to fight for them. Still, we are not the first to fight, and also not the last. Before us, there were fighters, and after us there will be more. But we have to keep the battle for peace and justice in our world going. Without us, the line of fighters will be broken.

What happens when all is done? Returning to the story, we see that our hero Giống galloped up Sóc Sơn Mountain, where he took off his armor and disappeared. He did not come back to Phù Đổng Village to obtain his reward, to lead a life of luxury, or to be honored with titles. The last image that anyone saw of this remarkable individual who was fed and armed by the villagers of Phù Đổng was his back as he disappeared into the heights of the mountain, leaving behind on the soil only the imprints of the feet of his giant horse.
Dear friends, let us gratefully receive food, clothing, knowledge, and faith from our ancestors, from our family, and from our community. With these things as our horse and armor, let us face the obstacles and battles in life and help contribute to bringing about peace and justice in our world, especially for those who are the most weak. And when all is done, like Giống, let us not ask the community to hail us as heroes. Our greatest reward will be the joy in knowing that we are doing what we have been prepared for and have been sent to do.

Bangkok, ngày 28.3.2007

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