A Note About ‘Life of Pi’

This is another entry from 2007 during my time in Costa Rica.

For the second time in my life, I am reading Yann Martell’s novel Life of Pi. It’s a fantastic story of a 16 year old Indian boy who finds himself the sole human survivor of a sunken ship and alone on a life boat for 7 months. Well, alone except for a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger. Now this is no fairy tale where they all get on splendidly singing sea shanties to keep up morale and taking shifts watching for land. Not to spoil the story for you, after a few days the remaining castaways are the tiger and the boy, Pi.

I have to say that reading about the boy’s choice between staying on board with the tiger, or throwing himself to the sharks, doesn’t take me to the blissful haven of distraction that I usually seek in a book. Now a book about eating one’s way around Italy, or restoring a house in Italy, or growing olives in Italy (notice a recurring theme here?), that’s a nice place to take my head. Instead, this book instilled a definite sense of anguish within my poor soul, which is already in a period of limbo between two chapters in my life. But do I put the book down? No, of course not.

Since I am a tiny bit of a control freak, I think I felt that if I didn’t hurry and finish the book, the wretched situation would continue to plague Pi and the tiger called Richard Parker, which in turn would torment my little heart. But then I was always the softie, compassionate one. When I was a kid my sister would trot a toy horse over the edge of a table and I would go to great lengths to ensure the safety of this poor plastic toy. Still, compassion isn’t a bad thing now is it? It’s compassion that led me to become a vegan, which has in turn opened my consciousness. And if being compassionate means that at my ripe old age of 30 I am still concerned about the well being of my companion creature, which happens to be a soft purple heffalump called Lumpy, as well as other living beings, then so be it.

Reading the description of Pi’s gratitude of finding supplies aboard the lifeboat (it took him 3 days before getting to a state that if he didn’t brave the tiger to look for supplies then he would die anyway) really made me think about life and how fragile it is. The whole capitalist system got a bashing that evening. In my head that is. And if reading about being lost at sea for 7 months, alone save the company of a tiger, doesn’t make one think about our own personal and spiritual sense of isolation and the fears we must conquer then I guess one must read something that spells it out more clearly!

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