LIFE OF PI: Thorn in the Flesh and Trials | FCC 64

Life of Pi is a cinematic parable about being able to control the ferocious and animalistic heart within each of us. In this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we focus on that theme in order to help you use this film to share the Good News of Jesus and what life with Him will be like.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:08:15 Life of Pi Discussion 
  • 01:12:00 – Listener Feedback and Challenge
  • 01:24:25 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:31:55 – Lightning Round
  • 01:34:40 – Upcoming

***SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet seen this film, please stop the podcast and stop reading the post until you have done so. There is a twist to the ending, and our points on this film hinge on that twist, so don’t let us ruin that experience for you.

Richard Parker is the Thorn in Pi’s Flesh

When adult Pi tells the story of Richard Parker and himself on the boat, he is actually giving us as a clearer and more complete image of himself in a less matured state of being. The Pi in the story is the ideal Pi, and Richard Parker is the ferocious Pi (read, the sinful nature).

The former is humble and meek and wants peace and order, but the other is selfish and proud and wants control for himself. And for as long as Pi is in the life boat, he struggles as he tries to keep that Richard Parker side of himself in check through taming and training.

Taming and training may sound similar, but plenty of differences exist between the two terms. To tame is to subdue, master, and domesticate, whereas to train is to educate, drill, and initiate. To tame something is to take it in from a harsh environment – even when it is a little rough around the edges – and make it worthy of sharing a living space. Pi tries to tame Richard Parker with this in mind, but it doesn’t work like he planned.

This image from LIFE OF PI shows Pi training the tiger Richard Parker with fish meat.

He then moves on to trying to train the tiger. To train something is to equip it with the technical know-how in performing a task and then letting it drill (practice, rehearse) in small and arguable inconsequential situations so that it can do the right thing when the consequences do matter (listen to our discussion on virtue in our show on Calvary for more on this topic).

Such is the struggle that Pi has with his own sinful nature, and so it is for us once we decide to follow Jesus. Once we make that choice, we have to let ourselves be tamed and trained by God not only so that we can live in the space with Him like we once did but also so that we can act out His will in loving others.

Key Text: 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Double-Minded No More

This plurality in Pi’s identity carries over from his childhood, most noticeably in his quest to know God. At first, he says he is introduced to God through Krishna. He then claims to get closer to God through Christ, and he later claims to be closer still through Allah. Pi finds comfort in his belief that the God of the universe is accessible through all of these points.

Pi’s father, however, urges him to choose only one path. He says quite clearly that “believing in everything at the same time is the same as not believing in anything at all.” Those are some wise words that Pi couldn’t understand at his young age and arguably still couldn’t understand as he was on the life boat. As he held on to his blind faith, his life was like the waves of the sea as they tossed and turned every which way with no foundation.

This image from LIFE OF PI shows Pi in a lightning storm.

But our God isn’t a God who requires our faith blindly; instead, He has given us every reason to believe in Him boldly and confidently. That way, when the trials come, we don’t have to second-guess our choices and actions because they will then be strengthened by a solid faith that opens the door to salvation and ultimate completion.

Key Text: James 1:2-4 NET

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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