Thursday, December 27, 2012

Some Reflections from the Life of Pi

I just walked out of the theatre having watched “The Life of Pi” an hour ago and thought I’d write some initial reflections. I’m sure I’ll have more to add to the list as I give the movie some more thought.

For starters, the movie was incredibly deep. It wasn’t just about the fact that it was a visual treat (it was). It wasn’t the fact that it was a captivating story (it was that, too). And, neither was it the fact that there were few dialogues that seemed to convey so much. In my eyes, the life of Pi brought out some of the most profound truths about what it means to be human.

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I apologize for any spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie. I had a few stand out points..

- The relationship between Pi and the Richard Parker was based on need and circumstance. All our relationships are based on need and circumstance and this was no different. They hated each other, at first, and then gradually began tolerating each other. Adversity tends to bind people to one another and it did that to the pair.

- Routines, busy-ness and hope matter a lot. As the life boats drifted in the middle of the ocean, Pi speaks of the need for simple routines, to keep yourself busy without over-exerting yourself and most of all, to never lose hope. I wonder if our lives are any different.

- Fear keeps you alert. Insecurities matter. I have long pondered about the importance of insecurities. My theory is that that we all have our insecurities and it’s these insecurities that give rise to the drive we have within. Now, “having insecurities” is different from “being insecure”. We can choose to operate with confidence as our basis and rise above these, or choose to be insecure and let these insecurities define us. A lot of the world’s greatest achievers tend to be very insecure (A certain Mr.Jobs comes to mind..). It is my belief, however, that there is little happiness to be found in being incredibly insecure.

Insecurity theory aside, Pi beautifully illustrates the importance of fear in our lives. He attributes his survival to his fear of Richard Parker as it “kept him alert.” We all need a bit of fear so we keep alert. If we come from backgrounds where we cannot afford basic, the fear of survival is a natural driver. And if not, we need to make it a point to spend time with people who scare us a bit (e.g. coaches, teachers..). That fear will keep us alert and ticking.

- Hunger changes everything. Have you faced the sort of primal hunger that brings out the animal within? I know I haven’t. It’s a reminder that I’ve been fortunate to lead a good life. I am thankful for that.

- Keep moving out of your comfort zone. The carnivorous island that Pi and Richard Parker get to is a beautiful representation of the comfort zone in my eyes.

They find this beautiful island in the midst of their quest and it threatens to make them forget about their quest. Luckily, Pi realizes that there were others who were consumed by the island and decides to move on.

- Some relationships mean a heck of a lot more to us than they do to the other person. There’s a beautiful moment in the movie when Pi watches Richard Parker leave without saying goodbye. Their relationship is over from Parker’s point of view. Pi is left heart broken.

It’s a feeling I have experienced a couple of times and the truth is telling. It also reminds me that there are likely very few relationships in our life where both sides hold the relationships equally important or dear. Treasure them.

- Closure matters. “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”

This one struck a chord deep within. Having lost two important people early in life, you realize that letting go is a vital part of being human. But, you also realize that closure matters. A lot.

“It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.” (from the book)

- Truth is vastly stranger than fiction. This one took a while for me to understand and digest. I read a few reflections from others in a couple of forums before forming my own theory.

The background here is the exchange Pi has with the writer.

Adult Pi Patel: So which story do you prefer?
Writer: The one with the tiger. That's the better story.
Adult Pi Patel: Thank you. And so it goes with God.

Here, Pi shares two explanations with the writer. The first is one that involves people, hatred and cannibalism and the second is one that involves sharing a boat with the tiger filled with wondrous stories and escapes.

He leaves the writer with a choice - believe a story that seems believable or take a leap of faith and believe the story about the adventure. The latter is the truth, of course and I was reminded of a story from an English textbook in high school that said “truth is vastly stranger than fiction.”

“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” (from the book)


One of the best movies I have had the fortune to see.

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