Life of Pi

Life of Pi

***1/2

 

“Life of Pi” really made me think.

It made me think about how religiously homogeneous the Western Hemisphere is. The vast majority of the people in the Americas are part of the same religion. 

Of course there are different sects of Christianity. But they all agree on the fundamental truth of John 3:16, and that’s a pretty big thing to rally around. It’s no coincidence that there has never been a holy war in the Americas.

I can’t believe that St Peter is going to be super judgmental about which sects of Christianity get into heaven. I can’t imagine him saying: “you didn’t believe in actual transubstantiation of the Eucharist? I’m shocked. Get ready to burn.” 

To folks like us in the monotheistic West, it is hard to relate to the very different point of view of people who grew up in India. “Life of Pi” helps us understand. 

If Israel is the Holy Land, India can fairly be called the other Holy Land. Buddha was an Indian and Buddhism was established in India. But the locals didn’t take to it. Not enough gods perhaps. 

Hinduism, and its 1000s of gods, was more appealing. It became the undisputed faith of the subcontinent for a millennium. That is until the Mughal Empire began ruling India in the 16th Century. Now there are hundreds of millions of ethnic Indians who practice Islam. 

The religious landscape got even more complex when Christianity was introduced as Great Britain conquered India in the 1800s.

Pi Patel – the movie’s narrator – is fascinated by religion as a child and tries to believe in all of them. When Pi meets an inspiring Priest, he exclaims joyfully: “Vishnu had introduced me to Christ!” I think it’s safe to assume that no one in America has ever said that. 

Pi’s faith is put to the test when the ship taking his family to Canada is sunk.  The teenage boy is left alone on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nothing but his thoughts and his imagination. And a bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Why not?

After more than 200 days lost at sea, Pi learns a surprising lesson: God does not exist. But it is wise to believe in Him, anyway, because the world is a more beautiful place when you have faith in your heart.

Is this a half-baked Hollywood cop-out? Or is it a profound observation about the virtue of faith as part of the human existence? Or both?

Either way, “Life of Pi” really made me think. I’ve never seen a film like it before. For that reason alone I recommend it. 

 

 

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