Unification News for November 2003

Life of Pi

by Janna Gullery

Independent thinkers often fall victim to crazy twists of fate, blending seemingly unrelated concepts of life. In Life of Pi, Yann Martel recounts the story of an unusual boy growing up in mid-20th century India. Pi Patel, an unassuming son of a zookeeper trying to simultaneously practice Islam, Christianity, and his native Hinduism completely by himself, finds himself removed from his home and on a Japanese cargo steamer across the Pacific to Canada with his family and the entire population of his familyís zoo. A storm leaves Pi as the sole survivor on a small lifeboat. The only problem is, he has the company of a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger. It is during this time that we explore deeper into the story of Pi.

Pi grew up in a non-religious household, feeling different but unfazed all his life, until he went on vacation and wandered into a Christian church. There he met a priest, and there he met Jesus. Later, Pi discovered a mosque and met Allah. His only request for his birthday was a prayer mat. Pi, a very unusual adolescent, was content spending his days in his courtyard, praying. One ominous day in the marketplace with his parents he finds himself trapped in a troublesome situation: concurrently approaching him were the priest, the imam, and the pandit. There we are introduced to simple yet deeply thoughtful religious dialogue. As the three religious leaders bicker, we see their immature truths, we examine ourselves and our own faith communities, and discover eventually in Pi what we sadly thought ourselves too advanced to possess: perfection in simplicity. Piís concerned indifference proves itself to be something so touching and desirable.

As Pi lingers in his lifeboat for 287 days, watching all but the tiger and himself die, he undergoes spiritual and physical realization and growth. Pi slips away from his satirical reality and finds God in his own way. He finds Krishna in the tigerís stripes, he finds Jesus in the raw fish he eats, he finds Allah in the sunset he watches every night. It seems so easy for him to relate religious thought to his own life. Alone for nearly a year, he finds a friend in the tiger, whom he names Richard Parker. Although he understands the seriousness of the wary battle between them, he comes to love and care for Richard Parker. And as the days pass, some bringing utterly mediocre bore and some bearing experiences so unlikely, Pi unconsciously and silently becomes in tune to the divinity around us and within us, and lives his life accordingly.

At first, Pi is all but terrified for his life. It seemed the sea, the animals, and fate were all against him. But eventually he learns to conquer the animals, to train them and feed them. It is amazing how Pi discovers so much beauty in the ownership over nature that God intended for humans to have. Our superiority over other life is not in arrogance, but rather in love and in balance. By scientifically perfect miracles, Pi is changed and saved time after time, ultimately by his God, his Allah. Once he wholely admitted his life to the truth that was so obviously smothered by a desperate, ignorant, and selfish society, Pi knew only life and plain, deep meaning.

Piís journey through India and the Pacific seemed fate, something we all can ponder the influence of. His destiny held complicated tangles of histories and decisions, of challenges and faith. He defeated obstacles brilliantly, relying on his beautiful characteristic of making over-dramatized things painfully clear. He came out in the end with all of his Gods, all his beliefs, and an understanding of religion and life that no one could take away. Life of Pi teaches us about religion, balance, human nature, and the inclusive life.

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