SPidge Tales

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Life of Pi--Which Story Would You Rather Believe?

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. Book review by me

I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted to doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.

Piscine Patel, Pi for short, is a religious boy, but the piety he expresses is one that pleases neither his family nor his spiritual leaders. Pi finds beauty in all traditions that see the world as awe inspiring and filled with meaning. He meshes his native Hinduism with Christianity and Islam, considering himself a follower of all three faiths, much to the chagrin of the Imam and priest, each of whom thinks he has converted a Hindu, or his Hindu guide, viewing Pi’s syncretism as beyond even Hinduism’s collection of various gods. Pi’s parents and brother, culturally Hindu but practically non-religious, see his religiosity as a silly side hobby for a sixteen year old boy.

Is our world filled with beauty, wonder, and the transcendent, or is it one of cold, logical, calculation? If we go by the evidence, we remain static in doubt. Like Christ in Gethsemane, doubt is okay as a stage, but we must leap past the evidence and make a choice. Which story would you rather believe? The reader will explore this question with the sad turn of events in the Life of Pi.

Pi’s father runs a zoo. He decides to move the family from India to Canada. On the ride across the ocean, with the animals on board, the boat sinks. One lifeboat makes it, and surviving is Pi, with a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. It becomes a game of survival, as our animal friends are dispatched one by one, until only Pi and Richard Parker remain. Can our deepest fears be transformed into our greatest loves? Can we see our lives as part of a greater tale? We all go through doubt. How we come to decide which story to believe at the conclusion of Pi’s epic journey, I think, is a window into which direction we go on the question of the transcendent after we each pass through our own personal garden of Gethsemane.


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