Monday, February 25, 2013

A little piece of Pi

I’m back from the Isle of Man now, and having been on trains, planes and automobiles, I’ve had plenty of time to finish ‘Life of Pi’ but since my return I’ve had no time to blog my thoughts. So here goes:

How often does a film disappoint if you have read the book, or a book disappoint if you have seen the film? On the back of watching the movie I was very keen to read the book, but mindful of the above, my intention was only to alleviate my fear of being shallow, as the supposed depth of the story had sailed serenely over my head!

Very early on, Pi says ‘Let me tell you a story. A story that will make you believe in God!’ but I had left the Multiplex perplexed, as I didn’t see how the story achieved this boast. Perhaps the book would enlighten?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I really am that shallow! I cannot see how this story of a young indian boy, named after a French swimming pool, who plans to emigrate with his family to Canada, and who then tragically loses them when their ship sinks, and ends up the sole survivor in a lifeboat apart from a Zebra (with a broken leg) an Orang-utan, a Hyena and a full size Bengali tiger proves the existence of God!

Notwithstanding, Pi’s attractiveness (In both film and book) is his innocent search for the truth of who God is. And there’s certainly an argument for a pluralistic faith which is what he ends up having, following both Hinduism and Islam as well as Christianity. This creates a delightful comic scene (tragically omitted from the film) where he bumps into his priest, his imam and…whatever Hindu leaders are called, all at the same time! I suppose as a Christian I shouldn’t be so blasé as to suggest a pluralistic faith could work but does God reject earnestness?

I gave a talk this morning about the Dominican Republic in a little church in Bedford. An elderly man did the bible reading and announced it as ‘Today’s reading is from the book of Ecclesiasticles’ These sound like slang for male genitalia, but I’m sure the bearded wonder looked down from heaven and had a good chuckle. This poor old man was earnestly doing his best, no harm done.

I’ll take it no further than saying that for Pi, being able to draw on the good of all three religions gives him the strength and the hope to battle through this epic encounter with both nature and beast. It works for him, but he is only a fictional character.

Let’s not get too heavy. This is a surprisingly enjoyable yarn, which at one level is simply a manual on survival, but interspersed with wonderfully lucid descriptions of his ever changing, ever challenging surroundings. No small feat when all he is surrounded by is sea and sky!

Yes, this book is deep, both spiritually and philosophically, but it’s a free country and you only have to address it at this level if you really feel you have to. But I don’t. I want to read so that I can conjure up colourful vivid images in my mind that allow me to escape to where the author takes me, and in ‘life of Pi’ I would at times, sitting up in my bed, think I could feel the rhythmic movement of the waves, gently rocking my bed as if I too had become cocooned inside a lifeboat.

You’ve probably missed it at the cinema, but I would certainly recommend buying the DVD.  But a cheaper option is to apply that most pleasing of cocktails, picking this book up in a charity shop and using your imagination!

There was a vastly over rated (in my opinion) book a few years ago called ‘The five people you meet in heaven’ and  if there were limitations on the number of inhabitants I was allowed to meet, the central character of this book would be on my list. To hear him regale this tale first hand would be celestial!

Y'know, Pi in the Sky when I die!

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