Life of Pi

November 26, 2012

Life of Pi

I should have read the book long before.

As soon as Pi boarded the lifeboat, for the first time ever in his life, he had to face everything alone. Some call it the journey to adulthood, others call it growth, but I call it the journey of life. The life of Piscine on the lifeboat is nothing more than plain, good old life: you’re own your own for most of the time; the greatest fear you have to face is the reflection of yourself (Richard Parker); some wonderful things come, and go (the flying fishes, the whale, the jelly fishes and the carnivorous island).

Life just paints one gloomy picture, doesn’t it? Nope, that’s not the way I see it. We need all that – the confines of a lifeboat, the Richard Parkers, the flying fishes – in order to feel alive. If one couldn’t be alone, connection is just going to make you feel lonelier; if one couldn’t confront one’s greatest fear, i.e. self,  living could never be authentic and wholehearted; if one couldn’t enjoy the moment, to feel enough, a constant state of fear and anxiety is guaranteed.

In short, celebrate today but also be reflective about it.

Where is your glowing whale?

The young Pi practised three religions, Hindu, Christianity and  Muslim. The essence of religion, to me, is to be reminded that one shall be reflective about self, and to embrace something bigger than yourself. In other words, to be humble. When Pi’s told the insurance company people about his journey with Richard Parker on the high seas, they were annoyed, “I’m sorry to say it so bluntly, we don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but you don’t really expect us to believe you, do you? Carnivorous trees? A fish-eating algae that produces fresh water? Tree-dwelling aquatic rodents? These things don’t exist.” Pi replied, “Only because you’ve never seen them.” The insurance company people responded, “That’s right. We believe what we see.”

Without an humble mind, we would only believe what we see, the world as it is. We then start internalizing what we see as the truth and create a single-story narrative where we shut down everyone else’s story. It is only with humility that we could paint the world with colours, to believe in fairy tales, and not to see the world as it is, but to imagine and create a better world.


I believe that most of us would have chosen the story with carnivorous trees and aquatic rodents, over the “real” one. I did too. But it doesn’t mean that Life of Pi is “a story that made me believed in god”, rather, it makes me feel that religion is a double-edged sword – it cultivates humility, but its single-narrative also pushes us away from humility. To me, believing in religion is just one of the many ways to cultivate humility and spirituality. Arts, philosophy, meditation, or simply watching the blue skies above are also effective ways to enrich my spiritual world.

I wish one day I could tell people that, I too, like Pi, have seen things that others have never seen before.