In Search of Better Stories

Life of Pi (Book Review)

 “Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith”  Let us have no more of these notions, that the “No God” people have science/reason and the “Yes God” people have faith. Every human is a person of faith. “We all go as far as the legs of reason will carry us and then we jump!”


Since all humans chart the courses of their lives on presuppositional faith, the one category of person that the author has the smallest amount of appreciation for is the agnostic. Yann Martel concedes that doubt is useful for a while, “but to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”
The book is the grandest of survival stories. Pi is a teenager full of faith. Much to the befuddlement of his religious mentors and his parents, Pi finds himself a believer not just in Hinduism, but also in Islam & Christianity all at the same time! Selling the zoo and moving with his family from India to Winnipeg Canada is the setting for the adventure. Somewhere east of the Philippines the boat sinks, Pi is the lone human survivor, the journey lasts 227 days. He survives in a lifeboat with an adult male Bengali Tiger, fights off sharks, battles through starvation, and exposure, even a floating Meerkat-filled island made of edible but deadly plants is worked into this adventure. The journey comes to an end when Pi a virtual skeleton drifts into the coast of Mexico. The Tiger jumps out and disappears into the forest never to be seen again.
During the struggle Pi’s faith remains even when God appears silent, perhaps even cruel, Faith is:


An intellect confounded yet a trusting sense of presence and of ultimate purpose. Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love–but sometimes it was so hard to love especially when starving to death. However, the paradox for Pi was though hard it was also natural It was natural that, bereft and desperate as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God — The lower you are, the higher your mind will want to soar.” and so he continued to worship


When Pi relayed this incredible story of survival to the investigators they would not believe him. It was too preposterous, too unbelievable. They couldn’t believe in cohabiting with a tiger and deadly floating Islands. It was too much of a leap, so it must not be true. Finally, exasperated, Pi says “I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. you want dry, yeast-less factuality.” They agreed, and so he told an alternate story, one without animals and floating islands. In its place was a story of selfishness, cannibalism, murder, cruelty, deceit, and hatred. Pi was curious so he said


 “Tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way. Which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”


The investigators preferred the story with the animals.
And so it goes with God Yann Martel’s challenge to all people is simple “Don’t let a lack of imagination cause you to miss the better story.”  A salient point told so powerfully.

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