“Life of Pi” the movie just came out and the reviews are very positive. I saw the movie recently and think the story is very applicable to the transition journey. In fact, the main character Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi for short experiences a profound transition in the story and the main gift to the audience is this same transition of discovering God.
Spoiler alert – From this point on the plot and “message” will be discussed so if you have not seen the movie, go see it first and then read this blog.
“Pi is raised a Hindu, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God.” He tries to understand God through the lens of each religion and comes to recognize benefits in each one.
Eventually, his family decides to sell their animals and move to Canada due to political concerns in India. In the second part of the novel, Pi’s family embarks on a small Japanese boat to Canada carrying some of the animals from their zoo, but a few days out of port, the ship meets a storm and capsizes, resulting in his parents’ death. After the storm, Pi regains consciousness in a small lifeboat with a spotted hyena, an injured zebra, and an orangutan.
As Pi strives to survive among the animals, the hyena kills the zebra, then the orangutan, much to Pi’s distress. At this point, it is discovered that a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker had been hiding under the boat’s tarp; it kills and eats the hyena. Frightened, Pi constructs a small raft out of flotation devices, tethers it to the boat, and retreats to it. He delivers some of the fish and water he harvests to Richard Parker to keep him satisfied, conditioning Richard Parker not to threaten him by rocking the boat and causing seasickness while blowing a whistle. Eventually, Richard Parker learns to tolerate Pi’s presence and they both live in the boat.
Pi recounts various events while adrift, including discovering an island of carnivorous algae inhabited by meerkats. After 227 days, the lifeboat washes up onto the coast of Mexico and Richard Parker immediately escapes into the nearby jungle. The significance of 227 days is from the common approximation of π using the fraction 22/7.
In the third part of the novel, two officials from the Japanese Ministry of Transport speak to Pi to ascertain why the ship sank. When they do not believe his story, he tells an alternate story of human brutality, in which Pi was adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s cook, who killed the sailor and Pi’s mother and cut them up to use as bait and food. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Richard Parker is Pi himself.
After giving all the relevant information, Pi asks which of the two stories they prefer. Since the officials cannot prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck, they choose the story with the animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God”.” (Wikipedia.org, Nov. 26, 2012)
The two significant messages offered the viewer are as follows, in the movie it is the reporter who makes the observation of the parallels in the two stories, the animals to the humans, so this is a slight plot change. The officials assume the first story about the animals is true because it just sounds better and they have no way to prove one or the other, “and so it goes with God”. We each have the choice of choosing our story and then living it! Your life is a story and how you live your life is your choice. It is your gift to God and vice versa. Since life is a gift why not make it your own!
The second profound message in this movie is the transition Pi makes on this long journey as he discovers God. Following the animal analogy he is the Tiger and the Tiger represents his ego. The other animals are simply characters representing different aspects of the ego world. The hyena represents the cruelty in the world, the zebra is the victim or common man, and the orangutan represents mother earth or the maternal spirit. The hyena is strong and only thinking of itself. It takes what it needs and attacks the weak common man/zebra killing it. It then turns on mother nature and like man it attacks. Even though mother nature/orangutan fights back it too dies, symbolizing what we are doing to mother earth. At this point the Tiger comes to the rescue and kills the hyena. Thus the ego is the hero! …At least so far.
This is where Pi’s journey of Spirit commences and at first he is afraid of his ego/tiger and then he reaches the point of survival and confronts the ego/tiger again loosing. He needs to feed the ego/tiger and God provides by supplying fish in a fantastic show of flying fish and tuna that “accidently” end up in the boat.
Reading the survival manual found in the boat he devises a way to train the ego/tiger using the waves and a whistle. So eventually he and the ego/tiger are able to live in peace and he actually develops a love for the ego/tiger.
When they reach the beach of Mexico though the ego/tiger demonstrates he has no love for Pi and walks into the forest without looking back, even though he does pause. The message here is profound in my view. Pi is left with the only thing he ever really has, God. God is his very nature and cannot be taken or lost. Pi goes on a new man and lives a very rewarding life always remembering who he is as he discovered in these most fantastic 227 days.