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Life of Pi – Movie review

December 17, 2012

This movie was not about animals.  It was about people.  It was not about animals lacking feeling.  It was about a boy who had so much feeling and empathy bursting inside of him that he had to relate his experience through animals and their instincts and feelings in order to live with himself and accept what he had done as part of nature, as part of survival.  He saw animals for what they were, living, breathing, sentient creatures just as he himself was.  He saw what he had had in common with animals and used this to psychologically deal with what had happened.

The second story Pi told was the true story of what really happened aboard the lifeboat.  There are situations that may happen to us in this world where we must do something that we would never do under normal circumstances.  An example I have given in past writings is the drinking of one’s own urine.  Under normal conditions we would never do such a thing.  The book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” tells the story of a young man whose arm became wedged between two rocks.  He was stuck there for days.  Unable to move, he drank his own urine to quench his thirst.  He also broke his own arm off in order to free himself.  After he was finally rescued and no longer in survival mode he did not continue drinking his own urine.  Once Pi was rescued he did not continue to ‘survive’ when it was no longer necessary to.  He returned to who he was by returning his tiger, his choice to survive, back from where it came.  The part of the mind that we must take out only when it is a matter of life and death.  The part we must keep as tame as possible when we do take it out.


There are times when we must step outside of who we are in order to survive.  This is what happened to Pi.  In order to live with the terrible memories, he created a way to deal with them so that he could live with himself after such a horrible event.  The tiger was Pi, the part of Pi that was the survival instinct.  The things the tiger did to survive were not things Pi would normally do.  This does not make a tiger bad.  It is how the tiger must live to survive.  By relating to the tiger, Pi could live with himself.  Pi could accept that this was survival and why he had to eat fish and why he had to protect himself from the cook and therefore why he had to take the life of other living beings even though he was vegetarian.  It was to survive, just as a tiger does.

When the tiger left without saying goodbye it was that part of Pi leaving.  No longer necessary for him to survive.  Just like the drinking of one’s own urine once you are free to drink clean water the drinking of urine is abandoned.  The tiger did not say goodbye because the tiger and Pi were one and the same.  The tiger in Pi left because he was no longer needed in order for Pi to survive.

When it comes to survival we all have the tiger within us.  We can choose to keep him caged up, but then we will succumb and die.  We can let him out and fight for our survival.  We can let him out untamed and he will cause more harm than is necessary.  We can let him out but tame him so that we cause only the minimal harm, such as eating a fish, to survive.  And when we are back on dry land and our plight is over, we have a final choice:  let him go back to where he came from and return to who we really are or, if we choose for him to stay, we become him and lose who we were.

The carnivorous island was a place where Pi would be stuck if he could not find a way to move forward from his experience.  For Pi, should he have allowed the whole experience to change him in a negative way it would have eaten up who he really was.  This is why he left the island.  Even the tiger, the survival in him, would have also been eaten up.  Nothing would be left save a small piece. Allowing a bad experience to turn you into something you are not is losing yourself, even losing your tiger.  In other words, you survive the experience but if you survive having lost who you were before, have you really survived at all?  Or have you allowed the experience to eat you up and spit you out so that nothing of your former self is left?

And so it is with God . . . as an agnostic/atheist for me this meant that the story in which we can live with and find peace and happiness is the one to believe in regardless of whether it is true or not.  That thing which brings the most positive to the human experience.  For many people, the belief in God helps them to stay positive and helps them to be a better person.  It brings them peace and happiness.  Why latch onto ugliness?  When we have the option to latch onto what is beautiful so long as it makes you a better person and also leaves the world a better place than when you found it.

What we do to survive does not take away from who we are.  When I say survive I don’t mean day to day living where you have choices.  I mean circumstances where you have only two choices – eat the fish or die.  What a person does under those circumstances, where there are only two choices given does not define that person’s whole life.  It only defines them in that one moment.  How you live the rest of your life is what counts.  And how you deal with everything that you are inside, including your tiger.  We have more in common with the animals than we have not.  We all want to survive, but we want to survive as who we are even if, at times, we must become something we are not.  As long as we find our way home, doing the least damage along the way while keeping empathy in our hearts, this is what matters most and what defines us.

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