The General Temple


When my mom, a teacher, took me there, I was 5.

This time, I  went there by myself.

Happy Teacher’s Day!

The Temple has always opened to seekers .

On New Year‘s Eve, it’s the equivalent of Times Square .

The crowd, the smell of incense burning and the long line at fortune teller’s dispensary.

It could last till morning.

But then, it’s not surprising to see less traffic here on New Year’s day.

People hesitate to be the first visitor (uninvited) for fear of initiating a chain of  bad luck.

I noticed how spacious the court-yard was, as compared to New Year’s day in my memory.

It’s a 20/80 use of space: 20 percent of the Temple were occupied by 80 percent of worshippers.

According to history, the General went down, like a Captain of the ship, after having set the castle on fire instead of letting it fall into the hands of  advancing French army.

Where once a ruin now an attraction at a busy intersection.

Art students whose school was nearby, sat in groups, in front of their canvasses, and sketched.

Upon entering its gate, I felt small again as memories of boyhood rushing back.

“Hang close to Mom, you don’t want to get lost”.

If I had a wish here at the General Temple, it would be to do my mom proud.

It is undisputed here in Vietnam that education is a lever to a better future.

Unfortunately for many, time in the classroom is perceived as time away from earnings.

Worse off, educational loan has reached 1 Trillion dollars in the US.

With no end in sight.

No one wants to Occupy the school.

Although their parent’s couch is still available, no one wants to occupy it either.

Although the lack of education limits one’s career choices , too much educational debt leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Not until their golden years will students come to appreciate the value of education (life enrichment, art appreciation, in-depth sense of history and personal fulfillment).

For now, what society wants is productivity at the least cost.

In short, harnessed knowledge and repetitive actions (to the point of auto-piloting) are preferred over a contemplative mind.

Charlie Chaplin all over (Un temp modern).

Think not of tomorrow.

Spin the wheel today.

Worry not about the past.

What is the value of a heroic figure who went down for his nation and neighborhood?

What is the value of human intervention and interaction?

What is the value of an educator, a trainer, a mother?

What can’t be monetized, quantified and duplicated , is set aside. Park it.

In Seven Habits of Effective People, we learn that our society values quadrant number 1 (Urgent and unimportant) over quadrant number 2 (Urgent and Important) e.g. environment, worker’s training, infrastructure investment and community development. In short, no commons. Just Ego over Eco.

No wonder on Teacher’s Day, I found the Temple absolutely quiet except for those Art Students.

Outside, the city was bustling with commerce. Perhaps quadrant 1 will continue to occupy everyone’s mind , until New Year’s Eve.

That’s when the wheel pauses, the workers (cogs) can then get off. The soul gets tended to. Incense burned next to fruit offerings on the altar. Just in those few days, the General spirit will be extolled, his legacy affirmed. I can’t even image being there on New Year’s Day. I hope his spirit doesn’t discriminate any one or any day, like today, Teacher’s Day. Seek not the crowd, for they know not what they are doing. At a fork in the wood, I chose the road less travel. Quiet and safe, though not popular or prosperous. Sometimes you have to let the soul have its quiet whispers. Mine got a small dose of stimuli at Lang Ong (the General Temple) and a flashback to those moments with Mom, a dedicated teacher and educator of Vietnam‘s previous generation. Happy Teacher’s Day.

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