Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Spirituality and the "Life of Pi"

It was around this time a few years ago when I've watched this movie, "Life of Pi." I've written my own kind of review about it and I'd like to share this with you. The movie may no longer be shown in theaters but the lessons learned from it will always linger in the movies of my mind.

Much of the things written about this highly-acclaimed movie were about the film itself, written objectively, that is. I beg to differ here. I’d like to express my thoughts and even feelings about this beautiful story of Pi and how he survived a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger as a companion. 

When I saw the trailer of the movie, I was quite impressed with the cinematography and the use of computer generated images. They looked so magical and perfect! When I watched the movie, I looked beyond the technicalities and saw its heart and what the movie means to me. It wasn’t so easy to see considering the plot simply showed how a precocious young Indian boy named after a French swimming pool, smitten at one point in time with the tiger, would end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with that same tiger. Both of them survived that ordeal.

So what’s the big deal with me? Perhaps it is only when one sees a parallelism in one’s life can one appreciate a movie as light but as deep as this. At first I just saw the ‘externals’. It took me a day for the theme and the meaning of it in the light of my own life and perhaps a few other people I know to finally sink in.

Most of us have storms in our lives. Some face storms of illnesses, some storms of financial problems, others storms of broken relationships and families. Others have actually faced literal storms just like what happened when the wrath of Typhoon Pablo struck a part of Mindanao. It takes a while for a storm in one’s life to pass, leaving some hopeless, some clinging to the sides of their life boats, some choosing to stay adrift instead of struggle against the waves and the wind.

On days when the wind isn’t blowing or throwing anyone out of the boats, there could be inner storms brewing or there could be constant fear hanging over one’s head, just like being faced with a calm sea but with a fierce tiger waiting to devour at the first chance it gets. Fears, anxieties, stresses, depression, insecurities and all sorts of negative feelings are some of those inner storms amidst a calm countenance or even a smiling profile picture in Facebook.

A few years ago during a spiritual retreat, we were asked to draw anything to represent our lives. I drew a calm sea more like a beach I’ve seen in Boracay. There were two trees framing that beautiful picture. My life was pretty much like that: calm, composed with not much of highs nor lows. I thought that would impress the nun who was our retreat master. Instead she asked me if that was just my life and what would happen if a crisis would suddenly arise, would I be prepared for it? I couldn’t answer her then because I thought that would be a remote possibility. Not until a couple of years later when my life had been shaken out of its seemingly peaceful existence had I realized she was right.

There is a Pi and a Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger’s name, in each of us. A lot of us are like Pi who was perhaps bullied but chose to rise above his crises and the irrationality of his nickname; a Pi who was also curious about life, about religion, about God; a Pi who was devoted to his family. In each of us lies a yearning for someone greater than ourselves and spirituality beyond religion. Perhaps there is also a Pi within me.

Some are like Richard Parker, fierce, selfish and even indifferent; someone who didn’t even look back despite what it and Pi went through. I don’t want to be like Richard Parker. I don’t want to just walk away from anyone without even saying goodbye. I was struck by the realization of the adult Pi in that scene and I silently wept when the young Pi was taken away while looking at the tiger as it walked away from him. I don’t want anyone to just walk away, too, without even saying goodbye. No, I don’t want to be like Richard Parker.

I want to be like Pi who at the height of the second storm surrendered everything to God and welcomed whatever God would do to him, even saying he was ready. And he realized God just wanted him to rest so he could move on again. I want that island of lemur cats to recharge myself in; I want to see what sign I will get from my own ‘tooth’ that no tooth fairy could ever give me; I want that final rescue from my own storms.

I do not want to be like those two Japanese investigators who just wanted a story they could believe in and not the truth. I do not want to be shackled forever by rituals of religion just because those were what we grew up with. I do not want to be threatened by eternal damnation because of non-acceptance of another kind of belief. I want a spirituality that is beyond religion and not a fake one. I just want a God that is larger than all of these, larger than the storms of life, larger than fierce Bengal tigers who walk away, larger than the pride, arrogance and insincerity of people combined. I want a God that is much, much larger than myself.

One day, perhaps this ‘Life of Pi’ could pave the way for ‘Life of Me’.


  1. Nice post! Thanks for sharing your opinion! Life of Pi really was an interesting movie with a lot of lessons.

    1. You're most welcome, Mark Joshua. And thanks, too, for reading through this post. :)

  2. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.


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