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Under the Covers: Life of Pi

Welcome to Under the Covers, an on-going series of book reviews to enrich the way we think, move, eat and connect.

Life of PiWise Owl 4 RatingIn my Under the Covers book series, I will rate each book based on its “Life Wisdom” value (from 1 to 5 wise owls). I will review books that inspire, motivate and teach life lessons. Some of our greatest wisdom comes from those whose journeys may be quite different from our own.

When we escape into their world, we can learn from their trials, tactics, and courage. Through their wisdom, we add to our own.

I read the book, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, which I enjoyed very much. Life changing? Not so much.

Then I saw the movie. Oh. My. God. Ang Lee, the director of Life of Pi, is a genius. The movie was breathtaking, thought provoking, and a masterpiece on all levels.

When I learned the book was being made into a movie, I feared it was a mistake. Obviously I didn’t know what director, Ang Lee, was capable of.  Perfection.

The story is about an Indian boy and his family aboard an ocean freighter on their way to Canada. They owned a zoo in India and boarded the ship with all of the animals in tow. Following a shipwreck, Pi, the son, ends up fighting for survival alone on a 26 foot life boat with a bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The storytelling has a similar feel to James Cameron’s approach in the movie, Titanic. The adult Pi is telling his survival saga to a reporter.

This movie will please the young and old, men and women, wisdom or escape seekers. Almost as visually gorgeous as Avatar. The best part was the after taste. I didn’t know how filled up I was until I left. This film oozes with symbolism and makes you think. You can’t help but feel Ang Lee took you by the hand on a spiritual journey. In the end, the life lessons you extract are personal.

You don’t have to be religious or even curious about life’s big questions in order to leave the theatre contemplative. Proof of excellent filmmaking.

Here are a few life lessons from the book and the movie that I can share without being a spoiler if you haven’t seen it yet.

You can’t always trust what you think you see.

Think of the vast universe. Yet we are all prone to believing in our certainty. We are absolutely sure we’ve understood or interpreted a life event correctly. This story points out how little we actually see through our own eyes.

Doubt may actually open our eyes wider.

You don’t know what you’re really capable of when you have options.

I’m a big fan of options. But when we don’t have any, we’re forced to create some. When our survival is at stake, our strengths and weaknesses blend together. Instincts that may have been dormant are re-engaged and our minds open to possibility.

 Having a sense of responsibility can be life saving.


Often during Life of Pi I was reminded of the movie, Cast Away, with Tom Hanks. Remember “Wilson,” the volleyball that became his best friend? There are some parallels with Pi and his stowaway tiger, Richard Parker.

Was it Pi’s desire for companionship or the need to focus on something outside himself that created this gripping tension between hope and hopelessness?

Who is your Richard Parker?

The less we have, the more we appreciate.

Most tales of survival bring this lesson home.

Hardship brings gratitude to the surface because our needs are easier to satisfy.

Hope is faith.

There is a mystique throughout this film that makes it feel like a dream. A perfect blend of drama and tranquility, hope and despair. This is one movie worth seeing in 3D due to its visual magnificence that transcends reality. Yet you believe the entire way through.

Or do you?  (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know how profound a question this is)

Your happiness is directly tied to your beliefs.

This is the moral of the story. Are our beliefs our reality or bits and pieces of a greater whole we cannot comprehend?

reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still more broad definition includes everything that has existed, exists, or will exist. [source]

While this riveting tale immersed me into Ang Lee’s world of digital wizardry, I never knew it. I was too distracted by the spectacular visual canvas, like an oil painting put in motion, and his gift for storytelling.

Great storytellers reach beyond your eyes and ears. They reach your heart and mind. Enjoy the privilege of allowing  Life of Pi to reach yours.

Purchase book or Kindle version of Life of Pi by Yann Martel on Amazon.

"When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time."


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  1. Mike #

    Just saw Life of Pi and I came away with the following thought: One must be willing to dream and rise above the harsh realities of life, to find God.

    February 2, 2013
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