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Life of Pi


Some notes on religion

The boy Pi apparently believed in about as many religions as he found. His father tells him that makes no sense. Then again, he also says that about belief in God. It is irrational, unlike science, which finally gives man knowledge. He cannot tell his son that believing in anything is unserious, because he cannot argue that religion is necessary for man. He cannot teach the boy that the search for God is pointless without an awareness of what is most important, much less that religion teaches this.

In a storm, the ship sinks. Pi might learn that Ocean is not peaceful. The animals on the ship remind us of Noah’s story in Genesis, & of God’s awesome power. God promised Noah that he would never again upturn the foundation of creation to kill man, apparently thinking him spontaneously evil. We should be grateful for God’s peace; even so, the natural order is not altogether friendly to man.

Pi has to learn about nature, it seems. He first learns that fear & aggression go together. This is the lesson his father could not teach about tigers. He learns it now, as animals fight & kill each other. His father was not a very successful zookeeper, or beastmaster, but Pi is supremely inept. Later, he learns that necessity causes fear & anger. So he fishes for the tiger to avoid being eaten.

Killing causes him to cry for God. He cannot bring himself to kill the tiger, though it is unnatural for tigers to sail on boats. The boy shows a kind of romantic love of life. He sees the tiger fears the storm, but he does not learn to fear God. His prayers remind us of the feeling of the sublime, which requires fear of death.

Pi learns to appreciate the arts by which alone man survives. Characteristically, his love of music we see means drumming. The farthest he takes the arts is taming the tiger. He assumes man’s position in creation by necessity. We cannot know that he recalled his father’s bitter wisdom. He certainly does not see why people think the tiger is evil. The boy encounters a carnivorous island. This does not teach him about evil either.

This is the story Pi tells a man who comes to ask him what is his wonderful story; it has been advertised to him. Afterward, Pi says the people who wanted to settle the insurance claims did not believe his story about the shipwreck & his survival. He told them another story, in which several people survived the shipwreck & killed each other savagely. He told them he himself had killed the last survivor, a murderer, because he was evil.

The most celebrated adventure story of the year. Watch it.