Life of Pi: Wrestling with Fear

Life of Pi: Wrestling with Fear

Have you seen the movie, "Life of Pi"?
Did you happen to catch its profound parable on fear?

I love to find hidden meaning in things. If you haven’t seen it yet, WARNING, this is a spoiler. 

At the age of 8 Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel’s father forced him to witness a Bengal tiger killing and devouring a goat by initially dragging it from the outside of the bars of his cage where his father had tied it. After catching Pi with his hands in the tiger's cage his father, a zookeeper, withheld sustenance from this tiger for 3 days to stage this scene. He told his wife that it was for the boy’s good but in truth it was to quell his own fear of losing his son to the wrath of one of their zoo animals. Rather than express his love for the boy, he seeded his fear-of-loss.

Not a surprise then that the father's fear blossoms into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pi’s father proceeds to lose his son, not to a zoo animal, but to a shipwreck. The father and his entire family drown except for Pi. Not only is the father's fear actualized, but Pi meets the fear his father instilled in him head-on when he finds himself trapped in a lifeboat with non-other-than the tiger.

The story depicts Pi’s wrestling match with his fear. At first he’s controlled by the tiger, attempts to avoid it and outsmart it. He feeds it and eventually becomes enraged at it due to the sustenance he loses from his initial efforts. On the last round of his bout with fear he turns to confront it—he tames it, gets to know it and in the end comes full circle by reclaiming the power he had initially lost to it. It is then that he is rescued. A perfect example of "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger.," of how God won't grant a miracle at the expense of our personal growth. I don't believe He can. 

Pi’s world had come to literally and figuratively revolve around his fear—the tiger in the lifeboat and Pi in a makeshift raft tethered to it.

Might there be a fear that your life has come to revolve around? 
How might you be wrestling with it?
What might be a miracle (rescue) you are asking for that God can't grant?

  • Do you need that pay raise so that you won't have to confront your fear-based spending habits? 
  • Do you need that relationship so you won't have to confront the opinions you fear from others?
  • Do you need that health issue resolved so you won't have to confront how you always say "yes" rather than face your fear-of-loss?

The tiger in your lifeboat is what you fear will devour you. Fear-based spending habits, making choices to avoid the opinions you fear from others and fear-based yeses to avoid hurting others or being hurt by them are coping skills for avoiding being eaten. They are the means you busy yourself with when you believe life is out to get you—how you give your power away to your fear (feed it).

Fear that we build a life around becomes like an old friend just as the tiger became to Pi. He was most distraught at it’s parting. Who was he without it?

Who do you become when it doesn’t feel so great to be you?
Who would you be without your fear?
Are you willing to find out?

Money, a relationship and restored health may be the rescue you seek. Eventually, after years or maybe lifetimes worth of unanswered prayers, we realize that we've been praying to be saved from ourselves—from the fruit born of who we become when fearful—a spendthrift, a victim, a martyr, etc. We become the carnivore we are trying to escape from—unknowingly seeking sustenance from the souls of those we use and abuse--to avoid our fears.

I don’t think anyone with integrity can admit to being exempt from realizing that they have been using/abusing someone rather than enjoying them at one time or another. Our relationship with our tiger will either kill us (destroy what is endearing to us, isolate us or literally kill us) if we give all our power to it, or make us stronger (more conscious, more loving, more reverent) if we reclaim our power from it.

How does fear affect your treatment of others?
How might destiny have taken a different course if Pi’s father had seeded his love for Pi?
Is it too late for Pi to come to know who he is without fear?

It will take effort, but not only do I believe it never to be too late for us to know who we are without our deep seeded fears but I also believe that our deep seeded fears are a necessary part of the process. Just get to know them rather than feed them. And just for the record, this is not about blaming Pi's father but about learning from him.

Love thought provoking movies such as this! Life of Pi get’s an A+ from me.

Friends in this Love,
Dr. T


  1. Marieta says:

    Love it. I also thought about this moment with the father but you brought more light to it.

    Thank you


    1. Trish Whynot says:

      Thanks for commenting Marieta! :)

  2. Pat says:

    Wow. That really resonated with me. I've been such a foolish spendthrift and have been afraid of many things, mostly my fear of being inadequate. I've been having a lot of emotion come up and out since I've decided to make things right and clean up my finances. Some days are definitely harder than others. Thanks for the post.

    1. Trish Whynot

      Thanks for sharing Pat!! Glad it was helpful.

  3. Helen

    Wow, thanks to your blog I went to see the movie yesterday. Talk about Pi facing his fears and then being grateful for the tiger for helping to keep him alive. Oh yes I love the realization that my fears are pushing me to learn and grow and without them I would not have reached a new and more wonderful place. I am thankful for my fears, and walking past them, just as Pi was thankful for the Richard Parker.

    And today I am also grateful for your Trish for helping me find so much more meaning in this movie!!

    1. Trish Whynot

      Thanks for responding Helen! Glad you were able to draw from my insights!


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