Life of Pi – Interspirituality in Hollywood?

Life of PiLife of…pi times r squared.

My initial intention was simply to introduce you to the movie, Life of Pi, because it clearly fits the genre of visionary fiction, and movies that do so don’t come by that often.

But I couldn’t resist throwing the number “pi” into the mix.

As we all learned in school, pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and the area of a circle equals pi times r squared (A = π × r2).  Nothing extraordinary about that.  At least not until we include a tidbit not usually taught in basic math.  That pi is an irrational number.  Yep, it continues indefinitely without repeating (3.14159…).  Modern computers have extended pi to over 10 trillion digits past the decimal.  Heck, they even celebrate Pi Day.

Well, this got me to searching for connections between the the number pi and the protagonist in Life of Pi (from a spiritual standpoint, of course).  That’s what writers do, mess with themes, symbols and metaphors.  It’s our idea of having fun.  Anyway, I thought I was pretty clever when I came up with the quote by Voltaire: “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

About to dig deeper, I discovered an article in which Life of Pi’s author Yann Martel said, “I chose the name Pi because it’s an irrational number … Yet scientists use this irrational number to come to a ‘rational’ understanding of the universe. To me, religion is a bit like that, ‘irrational’ yet with it we come together, we come to a sound understanding of the universe.”

So much for being clever – or original.

As for the movie…

I won’t get into the plot, because I’m short on space here and my joy, of course, is exploring issues of spirituality.  What interests me, and I hope you as well, is that when the Hindu protagonist of this story (Pi) is introduced to Christianity and Islam at age fourteen, he starts to follow all three religions in an attempt to understand God.  Then through the lens of the each religion, he recognizes the benefits of all.

Now, that is amazing.

No,  I’m not amazed because a young man discovers that three of the world’s great religions have similar potential to help him become a better human being.  Many people these days are exploring interspirituality and discovering…

“…that what so often forms the basis for conflict can really be a meeting place of understanding.”   –Wayne Teasdale

What I find amazing is that Hollywood (in the person of Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee of Brokeback Mountain fame) has produced a film dealing with the universal spirituality in the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim faiths – and that the film is actually getting rave reviews.  Sure the action and cinematography in Life of Pi are remarkable, but still.  Spirituality, let alone interspirituality, in Hollywood?  A film that bridges rather than promotes fear and hate?

The fact that Hollywood has come this far, gives me hope.

It also bodes well for the genre of visionary fiction, a genre as yet unrecognized in literature as well as in film.

If you happen to see the Life of Pi (click here for the movie trailer) or read the book, come back and let me know your reaction to the unusual perspective on spirituality worked into the film.

As always, thanks for stopping by.