Main menu

The Life of Pi

The Life of Pi is a beautiful movie about an Indian boy who spends over two hundred days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean. The cinematography is excellent. I highly recommend that you watch it in 3D.

There were great sea voyages in the Middle Ages. Probably the greatest sailors were the Vikings, who left their Scandinavian homes to voyage all over the Atlantic Ocean, to Iceland, Greenland, and America. They also sailed into the Mediterranean Sea and conquered the island of Sicily; and they sailed up rivers in Russia and founded trading posts there that grew into cities which still exist today. Another great sea-farer was Saint Brendan of Ireland. He had a monastery on a ship. His sailors were monks. It is said that they celebrated Mass on the back of a whale they encountered at sea. It is also said that they discovered America before any other Europeans. There is good evidence supporting this claim, but nothing to prove its veracity beyond a reasonable doubt.

Though there were some great sea voyages during the Middle Ages, for the most part people stayed on the land. This was not, as some falsely claim, because people believed that the Earth was flat and feared that they would fall off the side. Almost everybody knew that the Earth was round. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote about the round Earth in his Summa Contra Gentiles, not as an original discovery, but as something commonly known to all. People in the Middle Ages were not as knowledgeable as we are today, but they were not stupid. It should be obvious to all who are not stupid that the Earth cannot be flat. If the Earth were flat, then all the water would run off the edge and after a short while there would be no water left. Most people during the Middle Ages did not voyage on the sea simply because they had no good reason to voyage on the sea, and growing enough food to survive was difficult enough without neglecting crops for long periods of time so as to go traveling.

When people did travel, it was often for religious reasons. People went on pilgrimages, sometimes to Jerusalem, which could require a couple years. Compostella in Spain, Canterbury in England, or Rome in Italy, which would be easier and require less time away from home. When Muslims conquered Jerusalem and it became dangerous or impossible for Christian pilgrims to go there, then the Crusades began to free the Holy Land so that Christians could resume their pilgrimages. The Crusades, of which there were nine big ones and several small ones, caused hundreds of thousands of Europeans to travel to the Middle East beginning in 1096 and ending in 1305. These trips were certainly full of adventure, but adventure was not their purpose. Holiness was their purpose.

The main character in “The Life of Pi” tells the story of his amazing adventure on a raft, with a Tiger, in the Pacific Ocean for over two hundred days. Then, at the end, he gives a more believable account of what happened. It then becomes clear, right at the end of the movie, that the events he had recounted did not really happen. The tiger was symbolic. All other elements of his original story were symbolic. Thus, his original story was true, but not literally. It was true only symbolically. It was then implies – very strongly implied – that if a person chooses to imagine beautiful stories instead of looking at reality as it really is, he will come to believe in GOD. People in the Middle Ages looked upon much of reality as symbolic. They would agree in much that the character Pi says. They would disagree, however, with his claim that to believe in GOD we much not look at reality as it really is. GOD is the most real of all realities. If it seems to us humans like GOD is not real, that is because our minds are too weak to understand what should be obvious. If there is music playing perpetually from the time we are conceived until the time we die, then we would not notice it; but someone who entered the area and heard the music for the first time at age forty would certainly notice it, and might be surprised that others ignore the music completely. If sometime is always present, and we have never lived without it, then we take it for granted. GOD is like that. HE has always been present, and we have never lived without HIM, so we take HIM for granted and to not even notice that HE exists. It is not by looking away from reality and inventing stories that we can find GOD. It is by getting to know and understand reality ever more profoundly. That is what people believed in the Middle Ages.