I went to see the film “Life of Pi” this afternoon with David and some of our friends. I knew nothing about the movie, nor did I care. All it took was the image on the poster–an Indian boy and a Bengal tiger on a life boat–to sell me.
But instead of witnessing the story of a peculiar boy named Pi, the film unfolded as the story of a peculiar man named Beau. Don’t believe me? I believe that’s the point of the story:metaphor is metaphysics.
Our introduction to the main character–a boy who loves math formulas as much as God in any form–shows how he came to believe in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.
My father studied these three religions as hard as a guru, imam and monk. He named his car and boat after Lord Vishnu’s mount, Garuda. He screamed, “Allah Akbar,” with great frequency and ferocity. He read the Bible daily.
Beau did not see any discrepancy in this triumvirate, nor did Pi. With the amount of suffering in the world (and inevitably in your own journey) you may very well need all three–or a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker–to see you through.
I could review each scene in the film and draw a parallel to my dad’s life. Some exact, most evocative. But the heart of Life of Pi, for me, resonates with Brain in a Jar.
Life will teach you lessons you don’t want to learn. But the process of learning them is redemption.
You may, metaphorically, find yourself stranded at sea in a life boat with a man-eating tiger. But, miraculously, it’s your battle against the beast that keeps both of you alive. You have to feed him to keep from eating you. And you have to feed yourself to have the strength to feed him.
After 260 brutal, barbaric, unbelievable days together, the Tiger named Richard will walk back into the forest without saying goodbye. You won’t be able to prove his existence to anyone.
Had you been locked in battle with yourself? Or was the tiger actually someone so awful that you had to make him a metaphor to survive the horror? You don’t know, so you create a story, an identity, around him.
In my story, you lived with a difficult-to-understand father. You eventually came to realize that he was challenging because he was preparing you for things you couldn’t possibly understand. It was his duty. His life was devoted to getting you, and others, ready for death. Like a guru, imam or monk.
Then, after 46 years together, his mind walks into a forest without saying goodbye. You seek to prove his existence by writing a story about him. Writing the story nearly kills you. But you have to keep him alive, so you keep putting words on paper. And that act keeps you alive.
By doing so and upon seeing Life of Pi, you come to the conclusion that your father, Bengal Tigers and God transcend understanding.