So It Is With God

Spoiler Alert:  This post centers on the film, The Life of Pi.  If you have not seen the film … or read the book … and intend to do so, you might want to skip So It Is With God, since it includes a crucial plot twist at the film’s end.

piAlthough Muri and I had a busy week … meaning we haven’t had as much time together as we like … when Friday night came, we were both too tired to go out, so we picked up dinner and a movie to bring home.   I wanted a film that would show off my new Blu-ray player, so I chose The Life of Pi, a film that, in spite of its positive critical reception, was not on our must-see list.  In the film, Pi Patel is an Indian boy living a privileged life as the son of a man who owns a zoo.  Pi is a spiritual young man trying to find God by following Hinduism, Christianity and Islam simultaneously.  He becomes fascinated with a tiger named Richard Parker in whose eyes he believes he can see a soul, a fascination which nearly costs him his arm.  When the economy takes a turn for the worse, Pi, his family and the animals board a Japanese freighter to move to Canada.  During a storm, the ship sinks leaving Pi and several companions in a life boat in the middle of the Pacific.  Pi tells his fantastic story to a young author, Yann Martel, looking for a subject for a book, a story in which his companions are a zebra with a broken leg, an orangutan, a hyena and Richard Parker.  The hyena kills both the orangutan and the zebra, and eventually the tiger kills the orangutan, devouring them to stay alive.  Pi ismeerkats then faced with avoiding being Richard Parker’s next meal while collecting enough rainwater and fish to keep them both alive.  After weeks at sea (occasionally including hallucinations brought on by hunger) and an encounter with a carnivorous but fertile island populated by thousands of meerkats (which provides food for both of them), the lifeboat eventually lands on the coast of Mexico, where Richard Parker wanders off into the jungle and Pi is rescued.

visualThe movie is visually spectacular, especially in Blu-ray, and surprisingly touching.  In a scene that affected me deeply, the tiger has jumped off the boat to catch a fish and Pi contemplates leaving him to drown.  Pi leans over the side to push him away with an oar and finds the tiger looking up at him with sad, soulful eyes that change his mind.   Pi’s belief in God is tested again and again.   In the crucial closing scene, Pi has finished telling his tale to the astonished young author who asks what happened next.   Pi reveals that since the Japanese investigators did not believe his tale, he told them a darker one of murder and cannibalism in which his companions are his mother, the ship’s cook and and a sailor.  Yann observes, Then the hyena is the cook, the orangutan is your mother, the zebra is the sailor.  And you are the tiger.   But which is true?  Pi asks, Which one do you prefer?   When the author chooses the one with the tiger because it is the better story, Pi replies, So It Is With God.

Unlike many films, The Life of Pi made me think.  And these days, when I think, I write.  And what I write frequently ends up here on Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog.   The message, of course, at the end of the film is that believing in God is choice, something I’ve said here many times.  What disturbed me about the message, though, is that faced with a story of the cruelest aspects of life, the message says choose an alternate reality involving God.  To my mind, that is what atheists accuse believers of doing.  When I look at the world, I see it as it is, warts and all but there are many things I can’t understand.  Although I have the mathematical and scientific training to read about modern  theories of physics, like string theory, I will never understand them.  My scientific training tells me that we are all made of atoms that are mostly empty space, so that we are mostly empty space.  But when I look into the eyes of my grandson, I don’t know how that can be.  I believe but I don’t understand**.  So It Is With God.

** This is hardly an original thought.  Chapter 4 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, titled We Agnostics, offers a very similar argument to those having trouble with spirituality.

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One Comment on “So It Is With God”

  1. Rick Gleason Says:

    I’ve always liked these words of Edison:

    I know this world is ruled by Infinite Intelligence.  It required Infinite Intelligence to create it and it requires Infinite Intelligence to keep it on its course. Everything that surrounds us –everything that exists — proves that there are Infinite Laws behind it.  There can be no denying this fact.  It is mathematical in its precision. ~~ Thomas Alva Edison

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