“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey.”
– Pi Patel, Life of Pi
I have been haunted by the movie “Life of Pi” since I watched it a few nights ago. It was a beautiful movie just to look at but the content embedded within the story I found to be equally as beautiful. It has been out for quite awhile now, so I think it’ll be safe to talk about, but in case you haven’t yet seen it I’ll announce a *spoiler alert* just in case.
The movie begins with an adult Pi settling in to share his story with a young writer who is promised that by hearing…he would surely believe in God. He starts with sharing that as boy he had spent a great amount of time reconciling his faith between three different religions. Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Finding value in all three and eventually taking nuggets of each as a foundation of his own faith. He says,” I came to faith through Hinduism, and I found God’s love through Christ. But God wasn’t finished with me yet. God works in mysterious ways, and so it was he introduced himself again. This time by the name of Allah. — Allāhu Akbar. My Arabic was never very good, but the sound and feel of the words brought me closer to God. In performing salah (prayer), the ground I touched became holy ground, and I found a feeling of serenity and brotherhood…Faith is a house with many rooms.”
The Young writer asks,”But no room for doubt?”
“Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.” He replies.
Essentially, the movie then tells two stories of what happens to an adolescent Pi after being the only human surviving a ship wreck. The longer version that he narrates takes up most of the movie and is full of adventure, sharing a boat with an adult bengal tiger, stunning beauty, courage and overcoming the intense difficulty of loss and loneliness that he had to face at sea. When he is finally rescued, the investigators having to find an official cause for the sunken ship have a hard time believing his story. They reject it completely. So, he ends up telling them another story that parallels much of the first but with more realistic and dark details. The movie ends with the open ended question of which story was true? Had he only shared the second story to tell them what he thought they wanted to hear? Was the first story a figment of his imagination to help him deal with the harsh realities of what he had gone through? As the movie came to a close, the adult Pi asked the young writer with whom he was sharing which story he preferred. The young writer answers as I’m sure most of us would,” The one with the tiger, thats the better story. ” And Pi answers,” Thank you. And so it goes with God.”
I interpreted that as meaning that we can look at our lives and circumstances in many ways, perspective can make or break us. I think the same is true with God. We all look at God in many ways. Some can see Him as guiding us and aiding us through the storms in our lives, providing beauty and rest in between the difficulty to Him being indifferent or even non-existant. Some have even been taught to see him as wrathful and disgusted with us, only merely tolerating some of whom he has chosen to glorify himself. As a Christian, I found this struggle with faith to be a fascinating theme throughout the movie. Probably more so at this time in my life because I could resonate so well with Pi and his struggle of seeking the truth of his faith. He had many different influences but his character never stopped genuinely seeking God. It was very moving to me.
I have gotten myself into some trouble for using the word “interpretation” when discussing my own faith with well intentioned peeps. It seems that sometimes in church culture there is no room to stretch out and examine these kinds of thoughts. I think sometimes we all forget that we are all working out our faith in fear and trembling from drastically different points of view. I think that God is big enough to handle that.
I guess the big lesson learned for me in all of this is to be as respectful of other peoples spiritual journeys as I would want them to be towards mine. I ought not to make judgements or assumptions about things that aren’t my business. My business should be about loving people as Jesus commanded, “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) I also mustn’t rely on other peoples interpretations of an experience I am having first hand. God created me to view him through my eyes and my heart and the perspective is mine alone.
Fortunately for me, my view just keeps getting bigger and bigger.