At the end of the movie, and apparently the book as well, after telling two very different versions of his tale the main character asks which is the better story. When the journalist (in the movie) chooses "the one with the tiger," Pi responds, "And so it goes with God."
I've heard several interpretations of what this line is intended to convey, but here's what Yann Martel, the author of the book and, so, the line itself, as said:
". . . Pi makes a parallel between the two stories and religion. His argument (and mine) is that a vision of life that has a transcendental element is better than one that is purely secular and materialist. A story with God ("God" defined in the broadest sense) is the better story, I argue, just as I think the story with animals is the better story. But you choose."(I found this in a transcript from the ABC's Good Morning America Q & A with the author as part of their "Read This!" book club.)
A lot of time and intellectual energy by a lot of people has gone into the project of coming up with convincing arguments for a belief in God and here Martel, through his character Pi, is essentially saying that the reason to believe in God is that it makes for a "better story." And he acknowledges that it is, fundamentally, a choice.
I've thought this for a long time. It's not my only answer to the question of why I believe in God (and, as Martel says, "defined in the broadest sense") but it is one of my favorites. And last night, coming across this "argument" again I remembered two of the sources that long-ago influenced my thinking.
One is the wonderful book Illusions: adventures of a reluctant messiah, by Richard Bach. Bach had gained huge fame with his earlier Johnathon Livingston Seagull, but it was Illusions that really grabbed me by the collar and has refused to let go. It tells the story of Bach himself, during one of the summers he spent barnstorming around the country in an old biplane. The story tells of his meeting a man named Donald Shimoda who, it turns out, is actually the Messiah who had returned to earth but had essentially quit that job when it became clear that people really didn't want to listen to his message. Still, one doesn't quit being Messiah too easily and, so, he agrees to teach Bach what he knows about the meaning of life.
Word eventually gets out about this mysterious stranger and the wonders that seem to follow him, and he gets interviewed on the radio. After sharing some of his teachings the host asks him why he believes such things. Instead of saying, "I live my life this way and it works" or something even faintly convincing like that he says, simply, "I believe it because it's fun to believe it."
This is, I think, echoed in another book that shaped me -- The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada. One of those teachings has to do with "the path with a heart."
"All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you."All paths are the same -- they lead nowhere. Still, you need to chose, and so you might as well chose the path witha heart. The path with a heart will be more fun. It will make for a better story.
And so it goes with God.
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