Life of Pi and Therapy

This from a message to an old friend:

Neil, you’re in my thoughts this morning for two reasons.  First, I am listening to my Telemann Pandora station and I will forever appreciate your turning me on to him those many years ago.  Second – we saw Life of Pi yesterday.

 Years ago you went on and on about how much you loved that book and I tried to read it but could not get too far.  It wasn’t grabbing me.  So last week, thinking I wanted to see the movie, I picked up the book again and loved it.  I didn’t quite get the part about making you believe in God until the night after I finished it, I was putting together a dinner for some friends the next night and Mark l was over helping out (he was visiting from So. Cal. for a week) and he had just seen the movie.  We compared one to the other and suddenly I got what Martel was trying to say.  I started talking about how I was so swept up in the story until he became blind and then came across the other guy on a boat that the tiger ate and I thought, “Whoa…wait a minute.  That is pretty incredible.  (It was left out of the movie.)  The whole part before that was very detailed and you could absolutely get how it could all actually occur.  But another boat in the middle of the ocean?  And then, of course, the meerkat island.  Suddenly I began to feel differently about the story – I lost interest because I didn’t find it credible any longer.  Then at the end he tells this very troubling story and he lays it all out for you (and of course there are those little bones on the boat) .  Which story do you want to believe – neither is provable.

I think it is also relevant to therapy work.  People come in with such worries and hopelessness about their future.  But just as with Pi’s story, the future is unknowable and unprovable.  Clearly, when people come in and talk about a future of loneliness or loss or failure their present is wracked with anxiety and they are preoccupied with their distress.   If a person has some faith in the future, trust that they can be content and satisfied, their present distress abates considerably.  So, just as with Pi, which story do they want to believe?

The movie was a bit of a let down from the book, insofar as the basic theme above is concerned, I thought.  The book format allowed Martel to create a very credible story of how Pi was able to survive – and the whole early parts about animal behavior was essential to that task.  So, with the exception of the island, you could believe that story…well I could believe that story.  Ang Lee didn’t have the time or space to make the survival story as credible, I think.  But my oh my was that a beautiful movie.  I think it is the most enchanting cinema experience I have ever had.  It is watching an absolute master at his craft and an impeccable use of 3-D.

Anyway, just thinking of you on this chill, foggy, still and beautiful Northwest morning.