Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Lessons from the Life of Pi



Few movies have impacted me as much as Life of Pi directed by Oscar winning Lee Ang based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel. With breathtaking cinematography, hyper realistic CGI and compelling acting, the movie was a visually spectacular work of art.

The basic premise behind the film goes like this:

Shipwrecked by a horrendous storm, a tiger (named Richard Parker) and a boy (named Pi) drifts away in the Pacific Ocean on a life boat. They weather thunderstorms, searing heat, and bone chilling nights, tormented by the endless waves. Through Divine providence, they manage to sustain themselves. 

After what seemed like an eternity, both boy and beast were saved. Many years later, Pi regaled the heroic tale to an author who went on to write about this saga at sea.

(Of course the film was a lot more than this - go watch it if you haven't done so!)

As I thought about the key themes of this "coming of age" fantasy adventure, I realised that there are some useful life lessons that we can distill here. For ease of remembrance, let us call them the 7 Rs.

Religion

As a polytheist, Pi's beliefs probably wouldn't gel with many of us. However, what was special about him was that he had a strong set of universal morals - an anchor which kept him going come hell and high water.

Having something to believe in is critical in keeping us going during both good times and bad. It helps us to weather the storms of life and provides comfort and guidance when we're afraid or lost. 

Realism

When Pi knew that his family was lost with the sinking ship, he wept profusely. However, his grief did not overwhelm him to the point of incapacitation. Instead, he quickly adjusted to the new reality of his circumstances and took whatever measures needed to stay alive.

Having both feet firmly planted on the ground is an important trait to have for all of us. While we should dream big dreams and unleash our imagination, we mustn't also forget the pragmatic realities of our situations.

Resilience

From the time he was a little kid till the time he became a proud father, Pi's always demonstrated resilience. He overcame being teased and tormented due to his name and could withstand the tumultuous life of a castaway. 

It is important for us to overcome the adversities in our lives by gritting our teeth and bearing it. As the saying goes, tough times do not last, but tough people do.

Resourcefulness

To keep himself and his feline friend Richard Parker alive, Pi had to invent ways to feed both of them without becoming dinner himself. He created a makeshift raft to keep himself at bay from the tiger in the boat. He also found ways to fish for food when supplies ran dry.

While our circumstances are unlikely to be as life threatening as Pi's, it is always useful to consider Plan B (C or D). In an increasingly unpredictable world, being able to come up with alternative is a key trait to success.

Reciprocity

In the movie, Pi eventually became "friends" with Richard Parker in a somewhat uneasy relationship. From the initial period when the tiger helped to dispatch the ravenous hyena to the latter moments when Pi fed him with fish, one could see that a certain bond was being formed.

The principle of reciprocity is an oft-preached one, but its application is fairly universal. In every negotiation that you do with another party, always consider how it can benefit the other party while not belittling yourself. Doing so would help ensure better outcomes, especially in dicey situations.

Reflection

One of the ways in which Pi kept his sanity was his habit of keeping a journal. By scribbling on a little notebook, he thought through his experiences and was able to remain calm despite his adverse circumstances. This routine also kept him busy when the hours went by.

Being able to reflect is a key virtue for all of us. While some of us may keep a diary or a blog, others may want to simply take time off to ponder their encounters. Doing so allows us to analyse our faults, purge our fears, and steel ourselves for the road ahead.

Rebounding

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Pi was able to bounce back to life. Despite losing his entire family, wealth, and even his carnivorous companion, Pi didn't bury himself in despair. Instead, he got back into the swing of things and managed to live a somewhat happy life in his new homeland.

In the same manner, we should escape from our emotional shackles and not be held back by our failures once we've crossed the hurdle. While we should learn from our mistakes, we mustn't be too caught up with our feelings that we get mired in the quagmire of despair.

Are there other lessons that you have learned from a recent movie that you've watched?
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