"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Life of Pi

We watched the movie "Life of Pi" the other night. I had heard of the book, but had no idea what it was about, so I had no real expectations for the movie. The only thing I knew was that it either won, or was nominated for several Academy awards, which is good enough for me. It turns out that it has a very strong spiritual element to it.

This isn't really a spoiler, as the end is self evident right at the beginning of the movie. A writer comes to Pi's house and asks him to tell his story of being shipwrecked. Basically the entire movie is taken up with him telling this story. At the end he is telling the writer that he told this story to investigators right after it had happened but they didn't believe him, so they asked him to tell them a more plausible version, which he did. The writer then asks him which version is true. He responds by saying that in each story he is shipwrecked, he losses his family, he survives, and the rest no one can prove. He then asks the writer which story he prefers. The writer says the first one. To which he says, "so it goes with God".

To my mind there are two possible meanings to this (and maybe a third), although I suspect one of them is probably the one that was meant.

The first one concerns stories in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, such as the creation story and others. The Jews don't believe the creation story literally. To them it is a metaphorical myth they use to explain the origins of the earth and their people - more specifically how our relationship with God was disrupted. The important thing to them isn't whether or not it actually happened, but the lessons learned.

We have also been watching the mini series "The Bible" produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. The other week was the story of Jericho. You know the one where they march around the city each day for seven days and then on the seventh day they do it seven times, blow their horns, shout, and the walls come down. Lots of people religious people try to put a scientific spin on it, saying the constant marching somehow set up vibrations in the earth; that the trumpets and shouting created a harmonic resonance in the walls causing them to self destructed. However, this really doesn't explain why they had to go in and kill everyone.

Could it be that this story and others like it in the bible are also metaphorical? That their strength is not historical factuality, but in the personal - and perhaps corporate - lessons to be learned. Could it be that the lesson of Jericho is that God wants us to live in ways that, at the time, do not seem logical, but we need to do it anyway, because "his ways are not our ways"? That the walls are more symbolic of things in our life that are not in concert with God's ways? That once we see God's ways are righteous  we need to get rid of all vestiges of things in our life that are not in keeping with his ways? Is their constant march to the promised land really a march to the Kingdom of God as extolled in the New Testament?

The other possibility for Pi's statement has to do with the various religions in the world. Is it to say that in all religions the basic indisputable tenets are all the same, and the rest can't be proven anyway, so it's just a matter of which one you prefer? Tony Campolo says there are few non-negotiables in the Christian religion, and the rest is up for grabs. Is this similar?

Which one do you prefer?

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