The Life of Pi

January 11, 2013

Life of Pie

It’s still with me. I watched the Life of Pi two days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.

By night it flashes through the filmy velvet of my dreams. By day my head is a rapturous kaleidoscope of luminous fish and sweet Indian music. And my heart is still breaking for the tears of Pi.

I read the book five years ago. Yann Martel not only told a remarkable tale, but he told it gloriously. And with extraordinary insight. These were the thoughts going through my head at the time: A boy who believed in all religions? Fascinating! A boy who survived at sea that long? Fascinating! A tiger called Richard Parker? Awesome!

For months after I was left in the delicious doubt of wondering whether the story was true. I so badly wanted it to be true! A powerful fiction writer will make the reader feel that way. Like there just might be a sliver of a chance. Just maybe…

Perhaps I’m attracted to this story because of Pi’s survival. Although my survival was not as dramatic or epic as his, I still feel a kinship to him. Us survivors have radars like that. His tears were mine all over again.

Life of pie 2

Perhaps the story came alive because I’ve seen those choppy seas. I wrote about a boat journey and those luminous fish in this story. Growing up in Indonesia was a series of survival stories. The sheer insanity of the danger is baffling in hindsight. In fact, my sisters and I almost drifted out into the massive mouth of the Pacific when I was 9. We were larking about on a small canoe off an island in Sulawesi.  The strong currents were pulling us out. Onshore my dad waved madly to us to get our attention. We thought he was just being friendly. Hi Dad! we waved back. I wish I could thank that Indonesian fisherman for paddling out to us. He saved our lives.

But back to the book. I adored it. Except for one little detour. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. It was the mangrove island. Swarming with meerkats. Poisoned with acidic vegetation. But, for some reason the movie interpreted this bit really well. And in the context of a magical tale of unbelievable proportions, it didn’t seem too out of place at all. Most importantly I remembered the reason for it. It was a temporary refuge. It gave Pi a rest on his journey.

The movie reminded me of all the things I loved about this book. And the sweetest moment was when I remembered the importance of Pi’s relationship with Richard Parker. I had forgotten how keeping the tiger alive had in fact kept Pi alive. I had forgotten about the unceremonious good-bye. I had forgotten about Pi’s broken heart.

The most important thing in life? To say a proper good-bye. To know you were loved.

And because we never know when it is the the last time we see someone, it makes me want to make every day a clear and bold declaration of love. I want my dear ones to know they’re deeply loved. If I remembered to do this every morning I’m sure I’d be living my best life yet.

I’ll still go on hoping Pi’s story is true. It’s the kind of hope that keeps me feeling alive. It makes me believe anything is possible. I hope I never let it go.

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*Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

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