My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
These are the first words that led me into the story of Pi Patel, the boy in Yann Martel‘s Life of Pi, whose name and life’s story are a riddle to me as much as they present a possible solution to the riddle of life just like the mathematical constant after which he was nicknamed, the irrational, transcendental number that, in his words, “runs on forever.”
In a way, although it is everybody’s tale, I consider Life of Pi a writer’s story. At once, it highlights a writer’s commitment to the truth and his flair for invention. There’s a thin line between a lie and the truth and it takes a masterful writer to tread it, always precariously, always in danger of exaggeration, always with the temptation of twisting the truth beyond recognition. There is truth, however, as there is a lie, whether you call the moon a natural satellite of the earth or a force that lifts both tide and mood.
What is life after all but a divine invention? What if the parting of the Red Sea were no different from a beautiful Bengal tiger with that wild, dangerous, murderous side that could be tamed in Pi’s story? What if Ishmael, fleeing a preoccupation with death in Herman Melville‘s Moby-Dick, did set out to sea but did not have the omniscience that in real life we deem possible only in the realm of the divine? What would become of our story, the sequence of events that is our life? In the words of Pi Patel, “the world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”
And doesn’t every story necessitate a divine spark, which allows the storyteller to connect with those who make his story live on, have a life of its own, live through the glory and the opposition?
Call me Ishmael.
But you yourself are Ishmael.
We are a story as well as storytellers of life, where our very own is a substory woven into a tale that runs on forever, from Adam and Eve ’til kingdom come.
With hope we can be Ishmael, with his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-present eyes, at least until the later part of Moby-Dick, where more and more he relegates himself to the background as a narrator.
With hope we can be Pi Patel, who has the storyteller’s gumption to dismiss the mundane in favor of the wonderful, the terrifying, the heartwrenching, the soulstirring, the extraordinary.
Sometimes, life is simply what happens between birth and death, between wakefulness and sleep. Throw in an occasional dream, which is often forgotten. We can survive our years on earth even if we limit our definition of life to this simplistic thought.
But survival is only part of our reason for living. It is only part of our being.
Sometimes, life is bland and routinary. Sometimes, ours can be a typical, uninspired existence under a small patch of sky that is either bright with daylight or plunged in the darkness of space when the sun is in the other side.
But as far as we know the sky is infinite.
And so is our power to make of this life something worthy of an incredible story.