Then, recently, my wife read the book and was enthralled with it. So I read it upon her recommendation and became enthralled myself. Yes, the story action is mostly of a teenaged Indian boy who survives a ship sinking only to end up on a lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger. Just that aspect of the book is engrossing and makes it a page-turner. But overall, the story is about religion. It is an involved parable that speaks to how our religions are stories that we embrace to help us through life. That's all I'll say about that here. I get into it much more in my review of the book that I've posted on Goodreads.
For this journal entry, and maybe for some more to come, I want to reflect on some of the themes and points Mr. Martel makes in his book. Life of Pi was one of those works that spoke to me on many different levels as I read it. There was much that I related to and "amened" as I read, and I discovered even more as I wrote my review. For example, he makes a really good point about moving.
I've made a number of moves with my family. I mean physical moves--packing up our stuff and moving to another city or part of the same city. A number of them involved house purchases. Why did we do this? If asked that question at those times I would have replied something about going to a better job opportunity, school district, compatible environment or some such. But Mr. Martel stated my reasons very accurately:
People move because of the wear and tear of anxiety. Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing, that what they build up in one year will be torn down in one day by others. Because of the impression that the future is blocked up, that they might do all right but not their children. Because of the feeling that nothing will change, that happiness and prosperity are possible only somewhere else.
Yes, that's exactly why we moved when we moved. And there was good and bad with each move. In none of them did we find that place that was "just right" for us. We ended up coming back to our home city, but then moved around a lot within it. I think we have lived in its every major section and found, once again, that there is good and bad aspects to all of them. All-in-all, we did manage to provide decent places for our kids to grow up and we are currently in a place and a house where we're comfortable.
But we never found that the move was the answer. The "wear and tear of anxiety" always caught up with us. We found that happiness and prosperity were conditions we had to create for ourselves, wherever we happen to be (though "prosperity" is a matter of definition). I think we've stopped looking for that in a place. If we move again, it will be with different motivations.
Now I must make a distinction between moving and traveling. Moving from one residence to another has been, for me, an act of trying to find something, as Mr. Martel stated so well. Traveling, has been an act of trying to experience something. In the little of it I've done, it has always been a seeking for what Joseph Campbell says is that "rapture of being alive." I have made the seeking of that rapture my quest, whether actually doing it or just dreaming about it.
Travel, as an idea and experience, is a classic metaphor and symbol for life lived fully. It is used that way in the recent Walter Mitty movie, and it was what moved me so much when a celebrity visited my city who was known for his travels.
And yet, though travel is widely conceived as a means to "broaden the mind," that broadening can also occur when much spiritual or emotional distance is covered rather than physical miles. Such inner traveling can take us to a new perspective. Indeed, it can be so new that treading our worn paths is like breaking new ground. We see, for the first time, what has always been there but overlooked. This occurred for Mr. Martel's hero, Pi, when taking a familiar way home after a time of spiritual inspiration on a visit:
...I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful...I knelt a mortal; I rose an immortal. I felt like the centre of a small circle coinciding with the centre of a much larger one.
I think our being becomes lighter at such times. We live then at a higher frequency and concentration. These are the only times in our lives that we remember with clarity, and so we are motivated to strive for them. This is the quest of the holy and the wise, each approaching from their preferred direction.
Moving might be necessary and even a positive, but traveling is usually better, especially if it's done out of a desire for experience. In either case, the distance covered is best measured on the inside.