Thoughts on Life of Pi

Life of Pi

A reader asked what we thought of the movie Life of Pi, and since I’ve never brought up my opinions on the blog before, I figured I should share them. I read the book years before seeing the movie, enjoyed it with some reservations. The movie was beautifully done. This review will contain spoilers, so be forewarned.

Life of Pi was a bit irritating to me because it was, in my view, way too enthusiastic about “faith” as the source of wonder in our lives. On the other hand, the story very obviously has an unreliable narrator, so it’s hard to know how much Pi Patel is an author avatar, and how much is about creating a compelling character with quirky beliefs.

For instance: at the end of his narrative, he goes to this island that eats people. This is fairly unbelievable, and the authorities can’t verify that such a place exists, or could exist. Did he really go to an island at all? No way to know.

Then at the end, the Japanese businessmen clearly do not believe his story, and he starts over with another, more human oriented, and arguably more plausible story. Which story is true? Again there’s no way to know. The “author” visiting him asks which is true, and Pi says, “It doesn’t matter; all that matters is which story is more beautiful. And so it is with God.”

Under a religious interpretation, you can take this at face value: “Yeah, it’s beautiful, so it’s true!” But if we try to be as charitable as possible, as atheists, we might say: “Wait a minute, that’s nonsense. One of those stories was objectively false. This casts doubt on the entire tale, and comparing God to that isn’t doing religion any favors.”

In addition to the religious influences on Pi, there is a sympathetic atheist in the story. In the book it’s a beloved teacher, in the movie the duty falls on his father. The atheist presents our position pretty well and fairly, even though Pi muddies that position by blending it with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

Personally, I lean toward thinking that the author takes some of this mysticism seriously, but a the book and movie are so open ended about their message that they can be a bit of a Rorshach test for what you want to think. In the end, fictional stories ARE often judged more by how beautiful they are than how true they are, and the only real mistake is to confuse fiction with real life.


  1. says

    Yeah, it was fiction, full stop. And all that blather about “faith” and such wasn’t even relevant to the story — there’s plenty to be amazed about in the natural world that Pi sees on his way, and giving all credit to God and faith and prayer is just a lazy-cop-out way of trying to make religion relevant to real life.

    Another thing I hated about the movie is that we’re expected to choose between two stories, after one of the stories was shown to us in visual medium. Showing us all those special effects animals and plants and islands, and then hinting it might not have really happened that way, is almost as lame as ending the movie with “and then I woke up.”

  2. A Hermit says

    I just remember wanting to throw the book across the room after reading the last page…

    I enjoyed the first part, in which the protagonist is busy synthesizing all the best parts of various religious beliefs, to the consternation of assorted priests and teachers. The interlude on the lifeboat is an entertaining bit of fantasy but that last bit about preferring the pretty story and not worrying about the truth (at least that’s how it sounded to me…) actually made me quite angry.

  3. Kazim says

    Sure, but “Total Recall” does exactly the same thing — shows you a fantastic world with lots of special effects, then using a narrative device to call the whole thing into question. I think it’s clear that Total Recall is deliberately and successfully open ended about “what really happened,” so I feel like it’s a legitimate storytelling device.

  4. parasharkrishnamachari says

    It’s funny, too, how in the beginning, when the child Pi is just picking up on every religion out there, he makes it clear he’s just swayed by some emotional influence. His initial introduction to Christianity raised an issue we’ve all raised about the “substitute atonement”… His interest in Islam was all about the artful sounds of the hymns that made him feel all warm and fuzzy. I find it particularly amusing that in the movie, they make it kind of clear that on a number of points, his atheist father was the one who was actually right about almost everything. Pi’s only counterargument was that he “felt” something more, which itself was something pointed out as nothing more than projection.

    Sure, the storyline with the tiger was the more beautiful one, and the way it is presented is at least somewhat plausible… barring things like meerkat swarms and carnivorous floating islands and what not. More specifically, the plausible bits are things like how he managed to tame the tiger and keep him at bay with regular food passing, rainwater harvesting, etc. That and the fact that it didn’t really anthropomorphize the animals, and using a backdrop of actual historical events that took place in India around that time. More than anything, though, the movie was a showcase of outstanding VFX (and being a VFX engineer myself, I can tell you we all love a good challenge), so regardless of which story you prefer, you got to see the “better” one. But like you say, “better” and “true” are not the same thing.

    I wonder if anyone ever bothered to ask themselves the question… Sure, the tiger story was amazing and wondrous and beautiful. Would it be any less so if there was no god? Pi’s efforts at surviving were largely logical — he reserved his rations away from the tiger on the boat, he moved to eating the fish he caught when that was no longer available. All of these things would be the same with or without a god. What role does “god” even play here?

  5. wdimac says

    I felt the whole book was a fable about the power of story itself. Our stories are a coping mechanism that allow us to live with the more unsavory sides of ourselves. The truth can often be much more difficult to accept. It’s much easier to accept the story which relieves us of looking at ourselves honestly.

    And so it is with god….

  6. kny789 says

    I read the book on the advice of a friend and watched the movie soon after. The movie was visually the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen, but I was stuck for words on how to describe the book and the actual narrative until I’d read this blog.

    Rorshach test is definitely the perfect description – I came away from the story thinking that rewritten, the book could have been a great tale of adventure, adversity, and of nature, but instead meandered about in sections – the religious parts of the book (including many of the initial chapters) were simply unnecessary.

  7. legal9ball says

    I found the movie to be quite satisfyingly subversive of faith in god. It indicts faith in god as nothing more than make believe. Good. It should be seen that way.

  8. paulmcclintock says

    The choice between the conflicting stories is a false dilemma. The fantastic version doesn’t work properly without the realist version to contrast it. If you leave out reality, the fantasy becomes shallow and pointless. The realist version wouldn’t work on its own (as told – it would have to be presented properly rather than the brief and bland treatment it gets in the film) either.

    I’m mostly irritated by the lopsided way the two competing narratives are presented. In the end they weren’t really playing fair. If done well, realism (and as the metaphor goes: rationalism) can be just as beautiful, and potentially more beautiful, it just happens that this story wasn’t told by someone who could do that, so fuck Pi and his (ironically) closed mind.

    Conflict of interest: I am currently attempting to write a novel that involves many of these themes. I saw Life of Pi not long after finishing the first draft and it pissed me off.

  9. jamessweet says

    I only saw the movie, but that said, my thoughts were similar. My only real complaint is that, in the movie at least, the journalist too readily agrees with Pi that the beautiful lie is preferable to the objective truth. Especially from a journalist! I would have preferred to have the journalist insisting that truth matters for its own sake, while Pi insists that the more beautiful story might as well be more “true”. Then let the audience decide. I felt that the film, at least, was open-ended on that point all the way until the last minute or so, and then they kinda tried to answer the question for the audience.

  10. jamessweet says

    That’s only at the veeeeerrry end. If only that had been a little different! As I said in a comment below, if the journalist had challenged Pi, and they disagreed, then that would have been perfect. I agree with legal9ball that, up until the very end, it had played it very fairly: People who are inclined to like the “better story” of faith will see that aspect, and people who are inclined to value truth for its own sake (like me) will see that aspect. It mostly did a good job of pitting the two against.

    Then at the very veeeerrrry end, Pi asserts the case for the beautiful lie and…. his interviewer just caves, and the dramatic music “tells us” that Pi is right. WTF? Man, it would have been totally perfect if, instead, the interviewer asked, “Doesn’t the truth matter for its own sake, though?” and had them disagree and let the audience decide.

  11. Kazim says

    I don’t think he was a journalist, he was a novelist looking for stories. So his reaction makes more sense in that context. At first when I was reading the book, I wasn’t sure if the first person point of view meant that the novelist really was the author of the book telling a true story.

  12. wholething says

    I never read the book but I loved the movie. The ending was just Hollywood marketing. It was far more interesting to learn that the tiger was his own survival instinct. But I tend to prefer the ugly truth over a beautiful lie.

  13. says

    Spiritual Will
    Had Its Will

    Richard Parker,
    He’s the lineman.
    Hey I need you.
    You’re somethin’
    Rock the boat,
    A little patrol of safety
    From the most dangerous thing of all,
    What keep me on my toes
    Till the morning come.
    Put ‘im beside your bed.
    You grow strength that way.

    Never a release from the tiger.
    I’m not lyin’.
    Among other things
    You show it rules to obey
    It will learn them.
    Boy mustn’t get too carried away.
    The moment of mastery has arrived.
    A friendship now it knows you.
    Take him to salt.
    He’s your challenger no more.
    It’s your moment past him.
    Something bigger,
    Bigger than life even,
    Is your next movie.
    Can’t a cheetah do it,
    Make on earth reveal God.

    Richard Parker,
    Thank you Richard Parker.
    I must’ve been asleep.
    This symbolism gown,
    This gonna cost yah.
    You make them wear veils
    What you’d reach for wrong.
    I skipped a generation,
    Let it come in for school.
    After a good many trials and tribulations
    I reached my way North.

    Now what did Life of Pi
    Have to teach us?
    You know,
    I wanna tell you somethin’.
    You thought you just winked right out of there.
    For oneness to occur
    How many miles of road
    With their temple
    The comic consciousness.

  14. demonhauntedworld says

    I read the book years ago, and saw the movie last week. I don’t remember the religious themes being quite as pervasive in the book, but that might just be my memory.

    The take-home message from the movie for me was that people would rather believe what is beautiful (or convenient) than what is actually true – so in that sense it’s actually an indictment of faith and religion. Of course, most people won’t see it that way, and that probably wasn’t the message that was intended.

  15. DaruBenta says

    From the author himself:


    “I remember for years, I volunteered in palliative care, care for the dying. And I remember thinking, if you are dying in your bed, you know, if your legs are like two little sticks and you have a mountain of a stomach and you’re rotted by disease, you know, you’re, the flesh on your face is melted away and you’ve lost your hair, what’s the point of being reasonable? Why not believe in whatever? You know, whatever? Jesus, Buddha, any one of these? Why not believe that someone transcendentally loves you? Why not believe that? And so why not live that way? To entertain that notion that the operating principal of the universe is love? Why not believe that? In the meantime, still be reasonable, you know, still use reason to improve your life, but once reason fails you, why not believe in this great plan, you know, this great cosmic plan where ultimate realization is this massive act of love. Why not?”

  16. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, very bad life strategy. Sure, in a situation in which it really doesn’t matter anymore … fine, whatever makes someone feel better can be the most compassionate approach.

    Why not extend that to the rest of life? Because life matters. And the universe sure as hell doesn’t treat us in some fuzzy, benevolent manner. Those who are far more likely to make life better for our primitive little species are those who look at the universe as it really is and try to figure out what we can do about the pitiless indifference with which it treats us.

    Those who are really doing the most good are those doctors and researchers working to make the next poor slob’s body not waste away like that.

  17. Lord Narf says

    Or, to analyze this more technically, this is one of the most grotesque errors of scope that I’ve ever seen. Hell, it’s the classic error of scope. Here’s this one, rare instance, in which we think that something is best (and I don’t even go that far; I don’t think it’s best, just understandable), so let’s apply that to every aspect of life. That’s like Dr. Kevorkian (one of my personal heroes) saying that since doctors should help patients end their life, if the patient is terminally ill and in constant suffering and wants to die, then doctors should help every patient end his life, if he comes to the doctor for a flu shot.

  18. says

    You can begin with inner exploration, and no substances are needed, but neither are they prohibited. I mean by exploration open the doors of your inner life, and it’s better not to carry believe in there, whether that is for or against any meaning in things. If you do really pay attention to what’s going on around you, you naturally wake up within your dreams (because you pay such attention and hence realize more easily you’re dreaming), and you’ll have your conscious will online to explore, and try to touch the side, top, bottom, of your inner world, figuratively speaking. If you were to do that, and it would take as many years of study and reflection as your outer university education has taken, if you indeed have one, then you would be in a position to answer your question yourself.

    What is called meditation but is really more like concentration, is another method to open the inner doors, but you have to be able to go from the senses being absorbed in the outer scene to them being so on the inner, something we normally only experience during sleep, but it’s certainly not easy to go from one to the other and maintain continuity of consciousness. Again, time.

    Now, there is a more direct method to arrive at the answer to your question, but it’s about the hardest thing a human can do with their mind, and you have to have some notion that there are other things to do with the mind than think. Much has been said about silencing the mind, and if you are able to do that, and I don’t mean just keeping your thoughts at bay, not putting the cursor of your attention on any thought and following it (though it’s a method of getting where you’d be trying to go); I mean there’s this place above the thinking mind, superior to it, where knowledge is immediate and direct, and the representation of thought is not needed, though there all will appear illusion I might add. Of course, from your comment’s character it’s likely you’ll laugh at this. It’s the normal reaction to things we don’t understand.

    I’m always amazed at both the religious and the atheist, as both seem to be largely unconscious of up to a third or fourth of their lives, put little stock in their own inner life, do not explore the inner limits of themselves and tend to scoff at the very prospect. Both have considerable a priori roadblocks. I’m including a link, if this blog accepts them, of an article I wrote for Aeon Magazine on some results of inner exploration, an essay challenging the New Atheism, although they declined to publish it:

  19. Lord Narf says

    You’re still speaking gibberish. You’re jamming a bunch of new-agey words together without forming them into anything coherent or meaningful. This is the kind of shit that frauds like Deepak Chopra do. They make these mystical-sounding statements that fools assume must have deep meaning that they’re not enlightened enough to understand.
    This is the opposite of what language is supposed to do. New-agers like to throw together a word-salad that sounds profound but actually conveys almost no meaning. If you can’t simplify and make yourself understood, then there’s something wrong with your communication abilities, not your listeners’ understanding abilities … or there’s something wrong with the idea you’re trying to convey.

    Anyway, get back to us when there’s experimental evidence for anything you’re talking about. Sounds like you’re pushing transcendental meditation or some similar crap.

  20. Jerry P. says

    Since neither the film nor the book give us an indication as to what really happened in the context of the story, we’re left to decide for ourselves. This doesn’t work for me here because whether I pick the so-called more beautiful version or the more realistic version, they’re both fiction. Neither one actually happened. It isn’t as if this were a true story where we don’t know the outcome. Since it’s all fiction, the author could have decided the outrageous version really did happen to his protagonist. That’s fine–anything can happen in fiction (and it usually does). The author doesn’t say, which indicates neither version happened–that part of the story, the reveal of the “truth” isn’t included in either the book or the movie. The reader/viewer can decide for him-or-herself; but no matter what you pick, it’s still fiction.

  21. Lord Narf says

    The point of most good fiction is to make philosophical points, though. I think the point he was trying to make is complete bullshit, but there you have it.

    What I’ve gotten from the summaries of it is that the author is trying to advance religious and general credulity. Not good.

  22. says

    I will try and answer your question again, but not the way you demand I write. I do believe there is room for different ways of conveying things, and I happened to have spent some years in the university learning a more classical form of writing (Homeric and Attic Greek) that might very well be as you say, but from a different perspective, gibberish nowadays. You asked me where could you could some of what I just took, and I took that to actually mean you weren’t asking so much as scoffing, not being sincere in your communication, holding your tongue in cheek I think it’s called. However, there does seem to be something genuine in your question too, and so I took the time to try and answer it.

    Whatever you may believe about the time you spend sleeping and dreaming, there are more things about that time than I would imagine you quite realize. Do you, for example, come awake in your dreams often and know yourself as a dreamer dreaming? Why would you assume that to be worthless to explore? Have you yourself done any of that kind of inner exploration? Do you even remember generally your dreams? I’m not asking you what you believe they are or are for; I’m asking you, one, if you awake within them often or even sometimes, and two, do you at the very least even remember a good portion of your dreams? It is akin to the question do you know yourself; how self-aware are you? Simply to assume the time you are in sleep is not important to self-knowledge based on what you’ve read other people write about it or heard others speak, is quite like the fundamentalist and their scripture: they don’t look outside that book. Now, if you were to spend several eye-opening years paying as much attention to your inner life deeper than thought and the automan dreams thrown up by the subconscious mind, then you would be in a position, as I said to answer your question yourself if indeed you want it answered.

    I’ve begun with sleep and dream because it’s common to us all, has been with us since we can remember being self-conscious people, though rarely in modern times has it been considered valuable or worth the time and trouble to explore. To make fun of me because I have is not really all that open-minded. You have now asked me for some experimental evidence, and I provided a link to an essay with just that, but the difficulty of course is in your repeating the experiment and getting the same results. The inner life does not conform to the rules of the outer, and the scientific method cannot measure all of reality, no one system can. You will, however, if you do try and repeat my experiments, are able to learn to come awake in your dreams and hence explore your inner world, have your worldview quite shaken up.

    It’s written in the style I write. You might consider for a moment that we have different levels of mind, and different ways of writing engage those levels. Poetry, for example, requires use of the creative intelligence and in some cases the higher or more intellectual part of our minds so to understand it, and it takes reflection to interpret, and in that process of using a higher part of your mind you come away with a higher understanding than you would have if you simply read what is meant to appeal to the mass mind. There’s room for the style of writing you use, and the one I do. Neither of us are fools; we are just different from one another. I won’t be answering any more of your replies, since it would be pointless. I don’t think you want to find any common ground, and, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, you’re mean-spirited, and I understand that’s the way we communicate generally in comments here in the beginning stages of coming online as a world, but it’s not the way I would like to talk with someone. The problem is we only see words, not each other’s eyes and face.

  23. Lord Narf says

    Whatever you may believe about the time you spend sleeping and dreaming, there are more things about that time than I would imagine you quite realize.

    These are the sorts of claims I’m talking about. You’re making all of these vague claims without any support. This is the way that people talk who are pushing new-age crap.

    Of course those sorts of claims about lucid dreaming, transcendental meditation, and the like should be examined and scientifically tested. The problem is, you know what happens when we test them, right? They fail. In any experiment or study run by skeptical scientists who aren’t going to try to cook the results in some way, they always come up with nothing.

    The inner life does not conform to the rules of the outer, and the scientific method cannot measure all of reality, no one system can.

    This is also the sort of crap we get from new-agers.

    Yes, the scientific method can be used to examine all of reality. If something is real, it can be statistically analyzed and tested. It will show up somewhere in the data, particularly if we have those who supposedly do this stuff making claims about what they’re doing.

    If what we’re talking about has an impact on the observable universe, then we can test that supposed impact. We can test those claims, and when we do, they invariably fail.

    … the higher or more intellectual part of our minds so to understand it …

    I don’t think you know what those words mean.

    There’s room for the style of writing you use, and the one I do.

    Yes, my writing style makes things clear. Yours obfuscates meaning. If you want to sell someone new-age bullshit, then your writing style works beautifully.

    … and, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, you’re mean-spirited, and I understand that’s the way we communicate generally in comments here in the beginning stages of coming online as a world, but it’s not the way I would like to talk with someone.

    Because I’ve dealt with plenty of new-age practitioners who push nonsense like what you’re selling. After a while, I get fed up with the proposition of yet another new-ager who can’t back up his/her fuzzy, ill-defined claims.

  24. godlessmath says

    There is more or less a real-world example of what happened at the end of Life of Pi, namely the 1972 Andes flight crash upon which the movie “Alive” is based on. This incident is famous because the survivors resorted to cannibalism of the dead to survive the harsh winter conditions when their plane crashed in the middle of the Andes.

    When they were rescued, the survivors initially told people they survived on cheese, they hoped first to speak with the families of the dead in order to tell them in private first of what they had done. However, word leaked out to the shock of everyone about what they had done to survive.

    Here is my point, after calm consideration people realized this only made it a more meaningful story of survival. The movie “Alive” is by far a more compelling and gripping story of survival against all odds, which tells us far more about the human spirit, than does the “tiger story” in the Life of Pi.

    I prefer the “realism” version in the Life of Pi story precisely because I do think that one is the more beautiful story. It tells us much more about human nature. The other one is simply a Saturday morning cartoon.

  25. Tony Trink says

    I only saw the movie, haven’t read the book. I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, which was actually one week after having openly admitted my atheism. Kind of an interesting time for me to watch that movie.

    At any rate, my reaction to it was quite strong. I did not see the film in the same terms others did. I didn’t see it as a choice between the beautiful lie or the ugly truth. I know that was how the choice was presented in the film, but I think that choice itself was the actual lie.

    Just looking at the two stories presented, the “ugly truth” version of the life raft story was that Pi’s mother died defending her child’s life. Self sacrifice through familial love, the desire to see your offspring survive in the face of your own death. As horrifying as it would be for Pi to witness his own mother’s death, the reason for that death is parental love. That’s a pretty beautiful theme to me. Not an ugly truth at all. Calling that story the ugly truth is an over simplication, in my view.

    Then we have the supposed “beautiful lie” version of the story. He’s “trapped” on a life boat with a dangerous tiger that’s trying to eat him. He reaches a “balance” with the tiger, how? By supplying the tiger with food and water, rescuing the tiger from drowning in the ocean, and nursing the tiger back to health. Pi talks and talks and talks to the tiger, building a faux relationship with the animal. Assuming emotional meaning from the tigers actions. He even goes so far as to link his “relationship” with the tiger to his own survival. He says several times he “needed’ Richard Parker in order to survive. That’s simply not true. The tiger’s survival was dependant on Pi, not the other way around. Then at the end of the life boat story, the tiger runs off into the woods and Pi realizes, “Richard Parker was not my friend.” No duh, he was a tiger. Not only was he not Pi’s friend, Pi’s life was not dependant on the tiger, the tiger’s life was dependant on Pi. There was nothing beautiful about that lie. The lie was through and through. Pi was a servent of Richard Parker, nothing more. Swap out Richard Parker for any deity and you have a perfect analogy for religion. The “deity” was completely and totally reliant on Pi for it’s very existance, NOT the other way around, as Pi had convinced himself. There’s nothing beautiful about a lie that turns you into a slave, and that’s all the “Beautiful Lie” in this story was, a manipulation that turned Pi into a slave who was gratiful for his bonds and grieved over the loss of them in the end.

    The eagerness of the author at the end of the story to buy into the “beautiful lie” over the “ugle truth” didn’t shock me at all. That was a perfect analogy for how religion propogates. It’s funny this story started with the primise that it would “make you believe in God.” It solidified my acceptance of my own atheism and proved beyond a doubt, for me, just how deluded “believers” can be. It’s a deep enough delusion that an ugly story of slavery and servitude can be spun as a “beautiful lie” while a story of maternal love and self sacrific can be viewed as an “ugly truth.”

    I don’t think Yann Martel meant this story to solidify anyone’s atheism, but he did for me. 😉

  26. Kj says

    As i read through the comments above, i cant help but think yann created the most beautiful ending a book could ask for. the open endedness has stirred up emotion and Intrigue past the words on the page. so much so that here we all are googling the books ending, feeling passionate about one cause or another to leave a comment. that is powerful. It has created dialougue and creates a reason to talk about the subject of belief. It also makes you question belief, whether in a positive or mwgative way. i agree with the last comment made about solidifying my disbelief. Not in a negative way though. I like to consider myself more as a humanist, believing in the inner good and strength of each individuals ability to reason within themselves, rather than atheism where there is no belief at all. So i shall say it strengthened my belief that religion is a false logic to help some get through hard times, it is a coping mechanism. religion gives answers to those who need them, giving them comfort within the relms of the unknown. Although Logical reasoning rather than spiritual reasoning is what comforts me, I will never call myself an athiest. An athiest in definition, seems to be just as hypocritical as some one with faith. There is no scientific evidence supporting either theories. There is a lot of information making most religious theories improbable, and this is how i formed my disbelief in them, however there is no evidence making them impossible. This is why i will not say i am athiest and will not say there is difinitively no higher power. I am optimistic and open minded to believe that each individual should be able to find there own inner peace and find accwptance and beauty in this thought.
    This difference in reasoning, interpretation, and faith is what I found so remarkable about this book. it not only creates dialougue, but it brings beauty to fables in religion for the non believer. although you may not believe the tiger story, it is difficult to argue that it doesnt make for the more beautiful, and optimistic story. I believe that the ending was not written to make you neccessarily believe in god, but instead to make you accept and understand the lessons within any religions beliefs.

  27. says

    Atheists would generally take the view that, while in the context of the film, the tiger story is more beautiful, it’s a poor analogy to religion. Where reality is concerned, reality, and not God, is the more beautiful story.

  28. Dan Schuette says

    Lets say the beginning of the story beings at the sinking of the ship. Everyone can agree, the ship sank. But what caused the ship to sink, well no one can prove why, only that it did.

    I think this story shines light on the credibility of the atheist position.
    The universe exists, no one can know why, for now.

    You are presented two possibilities, the pretty story that life has a purpose and is guided by a higher power.


    Life is dangerous full of peril and sometimes seems unfair. I agree it seems unfair.

    Consider Hitler lived did unspeakable things, so did Dhamer, Bundy, and others. If no god exists, they simply die and so do their victims. However if you go with the animal story the perpetrators are judged, and the victims vindicated.

    It is either an ugly world, but reality, oR you can believe we are created by god who will judge the unrighteous and vindicate the vistims.

    Now, I have given you two stories, neither can explain why the would was created, but which story do you choose?

    Religion is the story based on the animals, atheism is based the real story. The religious story is pleasing, more comforting, and more popular and desperately clinged to, but it’s not the real story.

    Now to the island, it either represents his struggle to reconcile his cannibalism of the cook (consider he eats veggies the tiger eats the mere cats and as the cook decays it will take you with it). Or you can look at it as an allegory to faith, good for an emergency pick up but if you cling to it, it will consume and you will die in it never really knowing the truth about the real word around you. Religion is comfortable, but is doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

    So, either the world is illogically beautiful and you life in a lie, or the truth is awful but empowers you to make the world around you better. Which do you choose?

    It can be hard dropping the delusion but it can be painful, and it allows your tiger to wander off in the jungle while you powerfully move forward.

    So, if the the allegorical story is better than the truth and you accept that, you believe in god, but if not you see the awful truth and are more motivated to move towards the Mexican shore and reality you are an atheist.\

  29. says

    Hello Dan, I’ve had one short conversation on this blog on this post, and because we are having an electronic talk not in each other’s presence where things like empathy, mutual respect, a suspension of disbelief, naturally come into play, no real communication happened. We all have our beliefs, and we base them on what we think is the best evidence around, and someone who doesn’t believe as we do just appears so ignorant, sometimes so much we just feel like slapping them back into reality, but the truth is, compared to how much there is we don’t know about ourselves, we’ll all equally ignorant, all need a good dose of reality, me too.

    First what I notice about your reply is that you give only two options, atheism and the notion of God no doubt you’ve been mostly exposed to in the society in which you live, the Judeo-Christian. I wonder how many years you’ve traveled the world and lived in other cultures with other ideas of faith. But I have to say my biggest question to you or anyone who makes fun of or considers ignorant people who believe in the existence of a higher intelligence high enough to be what we’d consider divine, is have you only examined as evidence the outer world, what you’ve read, heard, or seen outside of yourself and have taken into your mind and mulled over to the point you’ve drawn definite conclusions? Have you equally studied as evidence your inner life, are aware that it’s significantly wider than most give it credit for being?

    We have experiences during sleep, usually lumped together under the term dream. Whatever your belief in regards to their origin, purpose or makeup, do you remember all or most of them that you have? If not why not? That’s basically about 1/4 of your life experience you’re unaware of. Is it possible that it’s precisely in that blind spot that you might find evidence of more than a reductionist materialism? Do you sometimes or often wake within them and know yourself as a dreamer with a will to explore the parameters of dream and the inner dimension in general? If not why not? Why is your conscious awareness limited only to when you’re awake? Before you fluff off that question face it some, and I mean by that self-examination. You talk of truth, well, are you sincere enough to admit this is one area in the search for it that you’ve neglected? If you are self-aware to the point you can definitely say there is no God and atheist is his name (though you’d say it differently), indeed know yourself to the point you can say you have no inner connection either to a higher intelligence or to the inner life of other people, surely you’d have developed that awareness to the point you are conscious of yourself and the experience you are having 24/7. You’ll have to pardon me if you have developed your inner life, remember your dreams, are many times awake within them. It’s been my experience especially with the New Atheism, that atheists don’t. I did and remained an atheist until it was just no longer tenable in light of experience, but what I’ve discovered is not the God you don’t believe in. I’ve found human purpose to be beyond Time and Space.

    You can see the university here, the inner one, the other half of existence most ignore or mostly ignore. Now of course you aren’t searching for God, but have you considered there’s more to you than society, any society on earth, teaches? It’s not really Space that’s the final frontier, or, to put it another way, maybe the stars can be reached both from inside and outside in Space. At any rate, look here.

  30. Ozgur says

    It is a good story and a good film. Nothing more nothing less. Saying it brings faith to those who see the film is like saying we should go ahead and believe in predator.

  31. Russell Glasser says

    So… you don’t believe that a work of fiction can ever be written to promote a broader philosophical point, under any circumstances?

  32. Narf says

    Hell, the number of Matrix solipsists is probably pretty impressive. I still remember the 30 or 40 minute call that Jeff and Matt fielded from that hard solipsist, a couple years ago. That must have been maddening for them, but it was fun as hell to watch.

  33. bob says

    I don’t think the Gérard Depardieu killing and eating people version would have made good cgi or movie sales…or hangon…would it? …hmmmm……

  34. says

    I HATE this movie so much. I think it is my least favorite movie of all time. I just saw it.

    All my life people have being trying to tell me “beautiful lies” to try to “help” me, and later I only resented those people. I don’t mind things like Santa Claus or whatever, but as a kid I assumed when adults talked about Jesus he was an actual historical person, as it turns out he probably didn’t exist. I assumed that god was something that existed even though it didn’t make sense to me… I assumed there was something wrong with me because I was skeptical.

    Plus other things like : “college will get you a good job,” uh nope. I did start a successful business but college didn’t help me with that. Or all the BS about “true love” and how all the movies show courtship as this idealistic thing.

    I hate “beautiful lies,” they only create problems for me, and this movie makes it sound like they should be spread around. Go fuck yourself Pi.

  35. says

    Mark, this comment is another exercise in futility I imagine and is likely only to generate more of your hostility, since it seems you’ve come of age not so long ago and are realizing you’ve been duped, cheated, with what society, or the world, or humanity, or whatever you want to call us, has told you about us, but have you thought that you do that duping too, cheat your own self? Fuck what other people say about the experience you have during sleep, which comprises about a third or forth of your day, of your whole life, whether it’s important or just your mind taking a dump, if it’s dangerous or just dumb with no intelligence behind it. You got to figure whatever’s going on there is about you, as personal as you can get, and just like you want to be conscious when you go to the restroom, since it’s good to see how things come out, maybe it’s a good idea to become conscious of that significant portion of your day you are now mostly not?

    But apart from merely remembering the experience, if you really work on it, develop that largely unused muscle, you can become consciously aware during that experience and use your will to explore that realm, try and touch the ceiling, floor, walls of that space to attempt to discover not only the who, what, where, why, and how of that space but also if it might be more there you find the answers to who and what you are and what you might mean or can do and how to go about doing it than what other people tell you. In other words, put the books down and read more your own. You have an inner internet.

    Once you have your conscious will online, if you get that far before you give up, see if you’re indeed alone on the inside an island like most think by doing experiments to see if there is any inner connection between you and other people, or if you can make some kind of contact with the outer world in that inner place, or if there is any intelligence besides your own involved in the orchestration of that inner experience. See if you can remain conscious through out a night’s sleep and if you can go all the way through dream into what’s called dreamless sleep to see what is there. Learn how to fall asleep maintaining continuity of consciousness into the dream state, no small feat, but one that will hone your concentration to where you can conduct the exploration and experimentation I’m recommending.

    First and foremost, as much as you are able, bring nothing a priori into it, no belief about sleep and dream that you want to prove or disprove, and remain a skeptic until you would be insane to remain one in the face of such immense experience, and even then hold out until it would not be a matter of belief but of direct knowledge as evident and personal as the back of your own hand. You spend years in society’s schools; why not also in your own? That this isn’t the very first thing we do, are taught to do – know ourselves –, I’d say is the most fundamental failure in our education, is the very thing that makes us, a social animal species, so herd sour, why I imagine there’s such a strong though unspoken taboo against an inner education, to insure that compliance, what keeps us as animals unaware largely of what might lie beyond our own range, and it’s just amazing how anyone I recommend such a basic thing to reacts like I’ve mentioned something alien, reacts how people react when you point out their most blatant blind spot, most profound ignorance.

  36. Narf says

    And the time to believe there’s anything going on outside of our heads during dreams is when it can be demonstrated with scientific tests, by skeptics. None of the out-of-body, astral-projection proponents have ever been able to pass an empirical testing of their bullshit claims.

  37. says

    Don’t believe anything about dreams; delve into your own and see for yourself. If you ‘hit pay dirt’, meaning stumble on anything that doesn’t fit into reductionist materialism, you can decide for yourself if your experience has any actual bearing on reality or is only your own bullshit. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes you or not, or if you can repeat that particular experience, you know what you experienced and don’t need someone else to tell you that you did.

    The inner conditions are quite different from the outer, and I don’t think a laboratory in this world is yet able to reproduce the same inner conditions in another person, since no lab can see inside any given dream or even hear and see someone’s thinking. It seems I’m hearing you say that science is the sole authority in the world, and that if it doesn’t validate some aspect of experience then that experience is bullshit? Maybe science has a lot to learn yet? Maybe it’s yet in its infancy and cannot yet measure subjective inner experience in the same way it can the outer?

    Would I also hear you say (if you were to answer) that you are generally ignorant of what you experience during that forth or so of your day when you’re sleeping and that rarely if ever are you conscious during that experience? If I were to hear you say that would that be because science doesn’t encourage it? Who would be more aware of themselves, the person who is largely ignorant of their experience during sleep or the one that both remembers it and can often or at times use their conscious will to explore that experience who is as well, like the other, conscious of themselves and their experience when they’re not asleep? Is the person ignorant of that experience using all the tools of consciousness they have available to explore themselves and their world? Can you just say, “yeah man, you just might have a point. It doesn’t mean magic exists or God or the tooth fairy, but you might have a point.”

  38. Corwyn says

    no lab can see inside any given dream or even hear and see someone’s thinking.

    This is no longer the case. Science is now able to read the visual centers of the brain and produce an image of what the person is seeing (OR imagining).

    Not that that matters. Anything which manifests in reality is within the purview of science. If one is going to claim that something is NOT within the purview of science, one must *start* by claiming that it has zero impact on the real world (including mental states of any inhabitants thereof). We have a word for things which have zero impact on the real world: ‘imaginary’.

  39. says

    Corwyn thank you, but could you elaborate? By read the visual centers and produce an image is that image an exact detailed replica of what the person visualized in their mind and does it move and change as whatever imaginary scene they’re playing out does or is it static? Does that image have audio? Is that as the person thinks it or after the fact? Does it follow the stream of a person’s consciousness, all the instantaneous metamorphosis? I would be interested to read of this discovery, as its implications would be far indeed; no more need for criminal trials for one thing, and talk about surveillance, it puts that at almost an absolute.

    The Catholic Church in the middle ages also claimed what you do for science, and the thing was it didn’t and was not even wired to have that potential. Science, on the other hand, is so wired, but as of yet that is only a potential and not manifesting, since there are still grey and even blank areas of reality science as of yet doesn’t grasp, and to say it does is to say what it said before the beginning of the 20th century before the quantum world can into much better view. What gets me is the faith you place in science, like it’s an absolute.

    My guess is that neither you are all that conscious of that forth or so of your life I keep mentioning, and if you were to be your faith in science would waver, or at least you’d see it still has a long way to go to be able to explain personal reality in its entirety, since it doesn’t generally give ‘reality’ to the inner life, views it as you say, imaginary. It all depends on your personal experience, but use that ability we have to be conscious on the inside of yourself and explore that space and see for yourself if it’s imaginary with no direct bearing on reality, meaning the outer world. With your conscious will you can do experiments like I have and test the spirits if you’ll pardon the pun. But I don’t imagine you will, or if you have done so to a certain extent and come up nil won’t continue until you hit pay dirt, since it would require a significant life change, putting a lot more attention to your inner life of sleep and dream. You will instead allow science to tell you if you need to pay attention to your own inner content or just take it on authority? And if that’s what you do, then is that all that different from the religious?

  40. Narf says

    Donny, what you’re speaking about is the purest form of confirmation bias. I’m not speaking in favor of a pure, reductionist materialism. If you can provide real, testable evidence for something beyond the purely material, then that’s the time to believe there’s something there to discover. Until such a time that you can do that, you’re pushing bullshit.

  41. says

    Independent of me and my bullshit, and I’m as full of it as any person, you don’t seem to understand my basic contention here, which is for you to do that testing in your own life, not to depend only on some authority, become conscious of as much of your experience as you can, which would include what you experience during sleep, and you don’t seem to want to admit you aren’t very aware of that portion of your life, and I find that insincere, evasive. I’m not trying to prove anything in these comments on this blog except that in this you are ignorant, that you and others I’ve spoken to here have neglected this aspect of your life for the most part, which when you add up amounts to a very large part of your existence. You really can’t speak with authority about the human experience if you yourself ignore so much of that daily experience in your own life, can’t make any definite claims as to there being no meaning in life or the nonexistence of a higher intelligence or even that nothing of you goes outside your head. In any event, I’m signing off now on this blog, and I did accomplish something significant, which was to hear you and see you’re really quite reasonable and very sharp, probably a nice person to get to know. Thank you Narf.

  42. Narf says

    Some people have fucked up dreams. Lucid dreams are a thing. There’s nothing demonstrably supernatural going on there. Until someone demonstrates anything more than stuff going on in our own heads, why does it matter?

    As I just said, quite explicitly, I’m not making a definite claim that there’s nothing beyond pure materialism. I’m saying that it’s irrational to believe that there is anything beyond that without good evidence of it.

    Rejection of a claim does not equal an assertion of a claim of the negative position. If you’re that ignorant of philosophy, I can’t help you.

    What does any of this have to do with the woo-woo bullshit perspective being pushed in Life of Pi?

  43. jeffrey j jefferson says

    I saw the movie, and certainly wouldn’t waste my precious reading hours on the book (though to be fair, I only read history now – I have come to regard all fiction, even the great writers – is really just ‘some other guy’s story’ and really of little value for me. Today, I read only history (and the occasional page like this). If you want to really, really understand the world – the ‘real’ world that is, not the ‘world of dreams’ (sorry Donny, but you really are completely silly – I hope that new age stuff gets you laid, at least), then history is the way to go. Pi? It was entertaining, but the ending was insultingly facile.

    I was raised Catholic, but found church a bore and never really ‘felt’ the presence of god in my heart. For years, I called my self ‘agnostic’, based on the reasoning that to deny the existence of something unknowable, i.e. a ‘creator’ and the human ‘soul’ was as much a faith-based assertion as affirming it. I suspect that I was trying to leave open the possibility in my own mind that perhaps, just perhaps, there might be a god. Or I was having a hard time shucking that old superstition jive.

    Now I’m 50, and I’ve jettisoned that nonsense, thank god (oops!), and I’m happy to teach my two young boys that, while many people believe in god, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Still, we must be respectful of their beliefs – at least to their faces, because slagging somebody’s beliefs is a good way to make somebody hate you enough to hurt you, and a sensible person doesn’t create trouble for themselves, at least not over something as stupid as ‘Is there a god’.

    Having said this, though, I have become far more hostile to religion as I get older (but this is in direct reaction to the emergence of militant Islam and the Christian Right (thank Reagan for that…I really wish Hinckley had been a better shot. Bush 41 would have made a far better president). Militant Islam I can even understand – they have reason to view the West with anger. But the Christian Right – they’re just loathsome – unprincipled, evil, self-serving. The worst sort of hypocrites. it’s an abomination. If I had any goodwill left toward religion, the Michelle Bachmanns of the world have cured me of it.

    Perhaps it’s because now that I have children, I would like them to grow up in a world without it – that world would, I am convinced, be a far, far better place than the one we currently inhabit. Perhaps in another thousand years or so we’ll have cast that off. But of course, as long as there is poverty, ignorance, and despair, there will always be religion.

    stay cool, friends.


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