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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The movie THE LIFE OF PI stays with me in the front of my mind. Saw it a second time yesterday and thought about keeping it to watch again today, but felt like I have enough of it for now. It will be easy to see again whenever I feel like it. I don't know if I've ever seen a film that hit me so deeply and so broadly. Stories in movies tend toward the emotional, sometimes they dip into the mental, and almost never go with the spiritual. The spiritual is a tough call in story telling without seeming coercive, as religionists tend to be. This story transcended religion. The boy learned the way of the heart in different religions that he found to be the same, and his father taught him the way of the mind, reason. The boy, Pi, was taken against his will from his home life in Pondicherry, southeastern India, by ship with his parents and his dad's zoo animals, across the Pacific to Canada. The ship's course went through the southeastern Asia archipelago where it sank into the Mariana Trench. From there, Pi drifted I think it was 227 days and nights to where he ran aground on the coast of Mexico. The tiger, an orangutan, a hyena and a zebra started the journey with him. All but the boy were eventually eaten by the tiger. He would have been eaten too had he not used his mind rationally to figure out how to survive being lost at sea on a "life" boat with a tiger.

The story is the life of Pi in that it amounts to him coming into his own life, into who he is, coming into consciousness, waking up. Like in the story of Pinocchio, becoming a real boy. Both stories concern a boy waking up to his own reality, coming into consciousness, becoming real. Both go through a series of adventures that lead to their opening up within. The boy Pi comes into balance as a human being. He said the tiger kept him alive. The tiger did that by being a threat, by needing to be fed, by giving Pi something besides himself to think about, by being a companion, albeit a companion wanting to consume him. Looking at the tiger as his mind, or as he tells it in the second version of the story, the tiger is himself. His ego. Their communication most often amounted to the tiger roaring in his face. He needed the tiger to keep himself going. He could not have made it without the tiger like we cannot make it without the ego, until we're ready to let it go. This is the vision story of one man's adventures in dis-illusionment, illusions falling away, being torn away, ripped away, cut away, whatever it takes, told subjectively in the utterly alone tense of a rudderless boat adrift in the infinite sea.

An interior experience as intense as disillusionment (enlightenment) is gone through entirely alone. I recall during the first viewing saying to myself, this is an enlightenment story. It could be a variation of a vision Shirdi Sai Baba might have seen hanging upside down by his feet in a well, put there by his master, Zar zari zar Baksh, left to hang until his enlightenment. I thought of the American Indian vision pits where young warriors went for a vision. And I thought of the Great Pyramid with its sarcophagus for apparently the same purpose. Napoleon spent the night in it and was so shaken by what he saw he never told it. Evidently he was not ready. Our boy, Pi, thought he was not ready, but found he was by the time it was over. That's the hard part of getting through our tough interior struggles dislodging attachments and desires. It is so true that our mental wranglings are the equivalent of a roaring tiger keeping us off our center, the boat. The tiger claims the boat by bombast alone, and the boy Pi spends his days on a raft he'd made. Where these rafts and different things that turned up as he needed them are concerned, I caught on right away that the story is a subjective vision, not an objective documentary. Allow suspension of disbelief, I told myself from the beginning.
I wondered all the way through the film what would have happened if Pi's dad and the rescue bunch had failed to appear on time when he was attempting to hand a morsel of meat to the tiger. I've an idea papa was right. "The tiger is your ENEMY! Do you understand?" Though my woo-woo side would like to think the boy and the tiger could click on some level, I know better. The tiger doing the performing was tame. It would not take his arm off, but the tiger in the story just might. Better chance that it would than not. I was thinking wouldn't it be cool if the boy and the tiger became friends like a boy and a dog. It wouldn't be cool. It would be a stupid movie. One of the many tensions I had going on inside myself was hoping the tiger would settle down and they could be peaceful with each other. This happened when they were both starved nearly unto death. I look at the picture of the boy and the tiger and feel a longing to see the film again. I went through the adventure with them, grateful to be able to enjoy the drama of their situation without being harassed by the physical ocean that is wet and sometimes fierce. In Nascar races some of the cars have internal cameras that can see what is happening behind the car and in front, get the viewer down there on the track seeing what it is like from inside one of the cars. Ang Lee's brilliant film gave us a camera up close to see this story unfold in a place beyond noman's land, adrift in the infinite ocean of love.

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