Thursday, January 29, 2004

I'm reading Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It won the Mann Booker Prize this year. It's a novel about an Indian boy whose family owns a zoo, and eventually they leave Indian to move to Canada, but their ship has an accident and goes under, and the boy and several of the animals from the zoo are the only survivors on a life boat, drifting on the sea. The animals in the life boat with him are a zebra with a horribly broken leg, an orangutan who is in shock, a bloodthirsty hyena, and a tiger named Richard Parker, who is seemingly doing nothing at this point in the book. The hyena, though, has killed the zebra and the orangutan and our boy hero is perhaps next.

The novel so far has been about the narrator's faith system. He is in love with God, and practices Hindu, Christianity and Muslim, until all the leaders in his town realize he's going to all of their services and try to make him pick which one he is. He sees all of the faiths as one, though, much to their dismay. They feel guilty when they demand he chooses because he claims, "I just want to love God." It's a heartbreaking scene, really, because you have three religious leaders trying to force the kid into a seperation from his God at some level, because all three faiths together is what he needs and wants. I'm a bit annoyed by the narrator's (possibly author's) viewpoint on agnostics, which is to say that it's wishy washy. After all, many readers would say that the narrator's viewpoint on religion is wishy washy, having three different faiths, claiming them all to be of the same source. I think this is brilliant, but not so brilliant when the same narrator has such a narrow minded perspective on agnostics. Why would someone who claims three faiths find agnosticism to be a wishy washy perspective? After all, it's one step removed from his own, if we're defining agnosticism as the idea that God may or may not exist, but that none of the religions available can adequately describe what God is. Here we have a narrator adhering to more than one faith in order to describe God better, to worship to his heart's completion. Yet the religious structures themselves do not accomodate this sort of thinking. He obviously believes in God, yes, thus putting him in the believer's camp. But his meta-religious theology, I would think, would place him in a more compassionate position when he concerns himself with agnostics.

Oh well, enough of this perplexity. I'm off.


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