Eros, the God of Love and Psyche, the Soul

psyche and eros(The myth of Psyche and Eros, the god of love, is found in the Roman Apuleius’s novel Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass, about 150 CE. The myth was retold by C S Lewis in his novel Til We Have Faces, 1956, written in conjunction with his wife Joy Davidson. In the story, Eros forbade his love Psyche to look upon his face.)

 

Becoming Psyche (an interim stage) (2011)

Fathomless grief has washed me clean,
Dissolved the clenching that
I once called me.
I have courted this relief, but
Now, emptied of all I was,
I cry out against the loss,
Not helplessly begging some god
To fill the void, but
Asking, rather, to know that I am already full.

Let me see you, I pray.
Be clearly present,
Be presently clear.
Show your reflection in this empty glass,
Give voice to silence,
Share this solitary bed.

Grief has wrought this marriage
To the soul,
But Eros has forbidden me
To look upon his face.

Being Pysche (2014)

The signs were someone else’s
-so I thought-
the Chinese talisman she drew, the tiny owl,
Minerva’s messenger.
Then Hades lured her down,
lost Proserpine,
into his underworld.
No chance of spring.

I forgot to seek the face of God
I sought her face instead.

Yet she returned; spring rose
and looking up I saw
my own face in a glass, no longer empty.

“I love you and I trust you.”
For days the words went with me.

Then one dawn,
I heard a singing in my head,
A man’s voice, full of longing.
“The water is wide and I can’t swim over.”

Two such longings bridge an ocean.

All day, it sang, until I fell in love.

Lying down to sleep,
flashes of brilliant gold
above my eyes.

Gift of the underworld-
the god of love has shown his face.

Joyce A Hood

(All the mythological references can be found on-line.)

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Valentine’s Day: reconsidered

Romantic love has co-opted February 14th. Hard to believe that is what St. Valentine was all about,although Wikipedia would have us believe that he championed courtly love. Just to be clear courtly love is all about poetry and wearing a lady’s favour, not something sweaty.

It’s turned into a festival of red roses and chocolate. And heartbreak. Not evough cards in the classroom valentine box. No engagement ring again this year. He/she actually forgot. That convenience store bouquet. Dinner out in a much too crowded restaurant with bad service. The roses you bought for yourself drooped over next day.

Let’s re-conceive the idea.

Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love, the feast of the god of love or God of Love, if you prefer. Whether that is Eros or something other dude, up to you. Change the gender if it helps. Now let’s take a look.

Feel your most beautiful feeling. Remember it. Imagine it. Picture its beauty. The full moon in August hanging over the Tioga Pass is a good one. The effervescent foam on the moonlit gulf of Corinth. Use your own.

Now focus deeply within.

Perhaps you will hear yourself say “You are more beautiful.  More beautiful than all the red roses, all the red hearts, all the chocolate given and received. More beautiful than sunlight. More beautiful than warmth on a snowy day. More beautiful than _____(name a recent or beloved new born baby.) More beautiful than ____ (name your most beloved animal and/or person).” You get the drift. Just keep piling it on, naming gardens and places, islands, mountains, individuals, whatever warms your heart.

Does it happen? Do you begin to know that that great beauty and love lives there? Repeat as necessary.

Love does dwell within.

 

 

Cheering for the Underdog: Gladwell’s David and Goliath

Did you consider calling your son, Goliath? Would you tell him to go to the best university possible? If he were murdered, could you forgive his killer?

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book is David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants.

David is one of my favourite names. It means “beloved of God” and denotes a hero and a poet. In 1 Samuel 17, we read of David’s exploit as a young shepherd sent to take food to his brothers in the front lines of Saul’s army as they face off against the army of the Philistines across the Eloh valley. Things are at a standoff. Neither army will venture down from the safety of the hills. While David is there, the giant Goliath, armed to the teeth with spear, sword, and javelin and wearing full body armour and helmet, issues a call to single combat. When no other Israellite answers it. David steps up. He declines Saul’s armour and runs toward Goliath with his sling whipping. The rest is history.

Gladwell examines the situation, citing scholarly literature, ballistics specialists, medical experts and geological facts. Goliath, who appears invulnerable, actually has serious limitations and David, who appears so vulnerable, actually has significant advantages. In fact, it would have been more surprising if David had lost.

Power is not always triumphant. Giants can be felled.

Gladwell goes on to consider how a disadvantage, like having dyslexia or losing a parent at a young age can have a positive effect. Twelve of the first 44 presidents of the United States, from Washington to Obama, lost their fathers at an early age. (p. 142) Emiel ‘Jay’ Freireich who pioneered a cure for childhood leukemia lost his father and had a truly awful childhood. The strategies we develop to cope with our disadvantages have a way of lifting us out of the ordinary. If….

My own life illustrates the “if” – if at least one person in the situation, the brutal childhood, for example, supports and believes in you. My Aunt Mae did that for me and my sister and we were able to pass it on to our siblings.

Then he tackles advantages like getting into a great university. Trouble is even if you are very bright, you may find yourself feeling stupid compared to your classmates because they are even brighter. Discouraged, you may drop out, whereas, if you had been satisfied with your second choice, you would have stayed the course.

One chapter considers the trickster in folk mythology and how enslaved people saw Bre’er Rabbit as a model for dealing with oppression. It’s all about not getting thrown into the briar patch. Oh, please Mr. Bull Connor, not the briar patch. A careful examination of an iconic photo – a police dog attacking a boy – astonishes.

Throughout the book, Gladwell uses the u-shaped graph to show that good effects can result up to a certain point, but past it, things go down hill. He relates this to class size, California’s Three Strikes Law, and even wealth itself.

The Nazis bombed London night after night expecting to demoralize the people into defeat. Churchill and his researchers had predicted this would happen. Mental hospitals were standing ready. Didn’t happen. Rather the opposite. Londoners remained calm and carried on. The looneybins stood empty. Has to do with the difference between a near miss, which is very traumatic, and a remote miss. People who survive a remote miss, and they were in the majority, actually conclude “that wasn’t so bad”: they have defeated fear.

Two of the most affecting stories are those of great forgiveness and great courage. A mother forgives her daughter’s murderer and a group of Huguenots in a remote area of France not only defy authorities during the German occupation but send a letter to the Vichy government saying, “We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews.” And they prevailed.

What a hopeful and encouraging short read.

The Cure for Fear

Okay, I should be asleep. I need to be. I want to get up early. Things to do. May actually be getting something, (When am I not?) But I have this great opportunity, which I am going to lose tomorrow. I am uncertain and afraid. Tomorrow I will call my oncologist. If my appointment is moved forward to next week instead of the week after, I know the lump that we’ve detected needs further study.

Blake and I were sitting in Starbucks in the lobby of Toronto General, gazing back at the Art Deco facade of Princess Margaret Hospital from which we had just jaywalked.

“Even if I do get an immediate call-back it could still be A or B. That would have to be determined,” I say.

“Or it could be C,” Blake quips.

“Oh, it could very well be C,” and I have to laugh.

Yes, well,  we have just spent two hours waiting to hear Blake’s test results with regard to C. They weren’t bad, but then they weren’t good either. It’s the usual seesaw game of prostrate cancer. Knock down the PSA score and the testosterone with hormones. Ease off. Watch the PSA rise again. Today, it was decided that it was time to go back to the heavy ammunition. Not easy news for the manly Blake, but excellent news in that the drugs have improved since last time and he is line to get this extremely expensive medication for free.

Not many men in the clinic bring along their ex-wives probably, but Blake’s young second wife was carried off by cancer two years ago. So he and I are embarked on this mutual study of mortality.

Much else has been happening this week. My brother Rob underwent knee replacement in Brussels. My daughter and her husband declared bankruptcy and their home is about to be foreclosed on. True this “disaster” has opened up their lives and led them to a prospective mountain home. My grandson, Leo, who has to get his driver’s license or lose his job, has his own test redo to deal with. I had enough fear to go round.

So I kept up my mantra, “I love you and I trust you.” Initially, I just mouthed the words, but gradually I realized what they meant. Driving down to the hospital today, I found it had morphed into, “I love you. I know you are pure love. I trust love.”

Blake and I, out of nothing but pure love, created a home, two children and careers that supported us. An excellent foundation for this present project.

At home, afterward, I read Rumi’s poetry (Rumi: The Book of Love, trans. Coleman Barks). One section is called “Tavern Madness” and the poems in it are about the ‘drunkenness’ of the overwhelming contact with the divine. Dinners in our home were full of such non-alcoholic ‘drunken’ conversations, full of revelation and confidence in our vision of life.

Rumi says: I didn’t come here of my own accord
                  And I can’t leave that way.
                  Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

I love the way, poetry lets you work things out for yourself. And I love the idea of surrender to the steady shoulder that is capable of supporting my staggering self.

In another poem, Rumi says, I am the clear consciousness core of your being,                                              The same in ecstasy
                                             As in self-hating fatigue.

And so, I came around to an open heart and fear dissolved.

Considering Loss at Thanksgiving

Recently, I lost my usual social group. It’s because of the flood, the basement flood at the tai chi club I attended two or three times a week. It wasn’t even a very deep flood, not what others in my town experienced that July 8th when the heavens opened, but deep enough to cause a flowering of mould or noxious fungi. Initially, it smelled like charred wood. When no one else seemed to smell it, I knew I was in trouble. A blinding headache confirmed my suspicion. I withdrew. I raised an alarm. This was a health hazard, I said. The contractor who dealt with the building agreed. The rug had to be pulled up and the floor treated with anti-fungal cleaner.

It is now three months later. The rug is still there and so is the over-growth of fungus.

I tried visiting a month ago. As soon as I walked in the door, I got light-headed. Surely, I would adapt. Half an hour later, I kept saying I had to go because my head was aching, but I seemed incapable of taking myself out the door. Walking toward my car, I knew it was the beginning of the end. On Friday, I turned in my key. The instructor who took it asked me how long it takes me to get to the club I now attend.

It is true that I am now going to another location of the same outfit, half an hour closer than the mouldy one, a spacious, airy building that brings to mind Hemingway’s “clean, well lighted place”. But it lacks the 50 or so familiar faces I used to gab to and the four good friends I had made there.

There is a good deal of self-pity involved. I had been going to that club for eleven years and was instrumental in its membership expansion, in upgrading the building and in fund-raising. Every so often, I am given public credit for this. Don’t want it. Want a de-fungused basement.

Give that up, Joyce. You did it. Now it’s done. Have the grace not to snivel.

So I took Magic Erasers into the new club and scrubbed the baseboards before class. I talk to absolutely everyone who will give me the time of day. I take food in for potluck lunches. There’s got to be a pony under this pile of — fungus.

In other news: the cottage I love is being sold. We will not be able to rent it next year. A beloved house in Southern California is being lost to bankruptcy, a loss which reminds me of an earlier loss that I spoke of in my post about The Great Gatsby. https://115journals.com/2013/05/17/the-great-gatsby-a-personal-response/

Worst of all and no joking matter, a young relative is dying. I do not claim that this will actually be my loss, because I am peripheral. It is, nevertheless, a source of grief, all the more because it reminds me that I very nearly lost someone much closer. https://115journals.com/2013/01/06/shed-come-undone/

Roots are being torn up. I pulled two fat carrots out of a garden a few days ago. They are destined to join parsnips and turnip in a mash-up tomorrow. Heat, butter, nutmeg and sea salt will transform them into a mouth-watering Thanksgiving delight. (A Canuckian Thanksgiving) And I know that these changes are also transformative, but, like the carrots, I don’t yet see what we are becoming. I catch glimpses – a new home for one of us among mountain pines, my renewed friendship with my ex-husband after 30 years estrangement and various spiritual books assure me that the young man is about to be changed into “something rich and rare”.

Blake has observed that if we had stayed together in that house under the hill, skimming the leaves out of the pool and feeding the birds outside the patio door, we would be stodgy and rigid. He doesn’t add “whereas we are flexible, large-minded and open-hearted”. But of course we silently believe we have made a transformation of that order.

So for that change, at least, I am grateful.

Let us Consider the Fortunate Fall Again

Someone has just read my post Fortunate Fall: change the future in a blink, so I decided to reread it myself. https://115journals.com/2012/12/11/the-fortunate-fall-change-the-future-in-a-blink/ and https://115journals.com/2013/01/12/the-fortunate-fall-a-further-exploration/

Events connected with the initial family crises are gradually working out and, any day now, we will begin to see happy results become manifest. In the meanwhile, we have forged new bonds. Yes, it’s a cliche´ but those connections seem as if they were welded in fire. You can probably guess that they were cooled by salt water.

Now a young man is dying. When he came home as a 3 day-old baby, I showed his mother how to bath him. When he was 7, I remembered his curly headed, mischievous- self when I fell into suicidal despair. How could my death be explained to him? It couldn’t. So between him and the crisis line of the Salvation Army, I kept on living.

He doesn’t know that. Indeed at this point, he doesn’t know what is happening.

I am writing this to honour him because I cannot talk to him. What I am honouring is not just his worldly achievements but his inner being, his perpetual light that will not be put out by disease and death.

And to thank him for his shining face that gave me hope and kept me here to aid and comfort others in my turn.

How To Be in Response to Terrorism

It’s tempting this morning, the day after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, to sink into despair, to tighten up in fear. Just what the terrorists had in mind.

So what is my responsibility at this moment?

Of all the images that have burned into my mind, I need to chose the image of people “running toward the fire”, the people tearing down the barriers to get to the wounded. There were many more helpers there than destroyers – bystanders, marathon workers, police, soldiers, security staff, medics, nurses, doctors, hospital staff. There were those who documented events and brought what they witnessed to us.

And yet, the overwhelming pity we feel for the victims’ pain and loss threatens to outweigh the good. They are in the thick of it, but most of us are not. I am not. I have distance. My job is not to add to the thought-form of terror and despair. What I need to do today is not just to “keep calm and carry on”, but to focus on goodness and light, not in some airy-fairy new age way but at a very concrete level. I, personally, can do that by remembering how parents and uncles and aunts and teachers and all the others who “run toward the fire”, outnumber and more than balance the deluded bombers. I cannot and never could afford to give in to terrorism.

What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. You may use some other method of restoring your positive outlook. It might be compassion or faith in God or something else. Feel free to share it.

Easter Retrospective

I love Easter as a time of rebirth, a resurrection of life. When I was a child, there was always a new outfit, hand-sewn and often cut down and reworked from other garments, new white shoes and a new hat, usually white straw with flowers, chilly to wear when Easter was early as it was this year. To me, it was an unparalleled celebration of light, a miracle – like finding the horse radish root pushing green up out of the newly thawed soil.

In those days, I hadn’t heard about the Easter bunny. He didn’t come to the hills where my family farmed hardscrabble soil. But the hens had started laying eggs again by then and they were served in abundance on Easter Sunday breakfast. It wasn’t unheard of for a farmer like my father to polish off a dozen when he came in from milking and before we all set off for church.

Once we moved to town there were still new clothes at Easter and our growing family might even present itself at church, but that was a special occasion. I would have been the only family member who went for all the Sundays in Lent and right the way through, I would have been looking forward to the exuberance of Easter Sunday.

My love for the Anglican liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible were enough to keep my child self coming  back for more.

This past Easter Sunday, I revisited some of that poetry as I drove north to Barrie, Ontario for brunch. I fired up my iPhone and listened to the second part of Handel’s “Messiah”, beginning just before the “Hallelujah Chorus”. Handel took the passages from the Bible and set them to his stirring music. One of my favourite pieces is the soprano aira, “I know that my redeemer liveth”, (Job XIX, 25-26) which ends with “And tho’ worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God”. The remaining songs are taken from Psalms and the writings of the Apostle Paul, mostly the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians.

I have been lucky in my religious education. I listened to the beautiful King James Bible being read aloud in church and at my grandmother’s, daily in the latter case. I went to church religiously: I sang in the children’s choir. And the university I went to was affiliated with the Baptist Church still when I attended it. Not my church and at the time, I was not happy with the mandatory religious studies, but it gave me a ‘grown-up’ perspective on the New Testament, especially on Paul.

As I listened to “The Messiah” – and drove northward, I remembered reading Tim Harpur’s book The Pagan Christ at Easter in 2004 and I got to thinking about Paul’s letters to the early Christian church. The Apostle’s letters are actually the earliest writings in the New Testament and are “virtually” silent “on the whole subject of a historical Jesus of Nazareth” (Harpur, 166). Paul’s writing predates the earliest gospel, that of Mark, by about 20 years. First Corinthians probably dates from 55 A.D. “Paul was a mystic and he knew only the mystical ‘Christos’, Christ not ‘after the flesh’ but after the spirit. As he says, ‘The Lord is that spirit’.” (Harpur, 172) Paul does not talk about Jesus Christ as a personal saviour, in other words, he talks about redemption through the Christ within. It was the next generation of writers, working from an oral tradition, who wrote about a historical Jesus who died 70 years before.

Harpur, like other scholars before him, noted the similarity between the story of Jesus and the stories of other divine sons of God like the Egyptian, Horus.  He concluded, after much research and soul searching, that the Gospel stories were “true myths” but not meant to be taken literally. This was not an easy conclusion for him to come to. It had unsettled him badly at first, but ultimately, it lent depth to his faith. It meant that he as an individual was responsible for his own salvation, the Bible having shown the way. Jesus Christ had to be born in the cave of his own heart. The stone had to be rolled away from the tomb of his own deadness, the oblivion of being incarnated in flesh, so that the Christ within would be resurrected and true spiritual consciousness be attained.

By the time I read The Pagan Christ, I did not find the idea surprising. I had worked my way around to a similar position reading Buddhist and Taoist writing. It seems to me that all religions come around to that idea. The 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, speaks of the ecstatic union with the Friend as a sort of drunken abandon. My Aunt Mae dwelt in great joy with her best buddy Jesus. You could hear her singing His praises as you walked up to her isolated, tiny house. I do not doubt that she saw heaven on earth.

At such festivals, I find myself reworking meaning, sorting out the literal from the metaphorical. But in the end, I do not doubt that “my redeemer liveth… and in my flesh shall I see God”.

The Meaning of Life -in three phone calls

Sara was inspecting the garbage when she shrieked, “Who put this in here?” She was flourishing a dirty tissue which she had fished out of the black garbage bin and was now flinging into the green compost bin. At lunch she announced to me and our mutual friend Robin that she no longer gave to ‘people’ charities. People were a blight on the planet, she said. She gave to animal charities and  environmental causes only now.

A few days later, I was talking to Robin on the phone. “The world is not going to be saved by recycling,” Robin said. We agreed that it might be saved by empathy, by caring for others and by extension for Earth.

“But if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter because God is already perfect,” said Robin.

“And God is within us?” I asked, just to make sure she wasn’t talking about that remote, supernatural fellow, the church used to tell me about.

“Of course,” she said.

“So, in fact, we are already perfect,” I concluded. And we  changed the subject to family.

But it began to get to me, that February week. I had shingles. Again! Economic recovery still hadn’t kicked in. I had seen one too many shows about terrorism and torture. And I had shingles.

“What the fudge, is it all about?” I asked my sister, Georgia. “Why are we here, working hard like you, hurting hard like me? What does it mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” she replied. “It’s what Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’. It’s when we go off stage, we find our real life. But then, I’m a simple soul.” She didn’t add, “Unlike you who make everything complicated”. Then she did say, “We just do our best. It’s just practical.”

And that is how she lives. She devotes herself to making life better for others.

But she was right in her unspoken assessment of me. I couldn’t drop it.

My osteopath explained to me that the herpes or chicken pox virus that had been lying dormant in my body for these many years was doing its job and attacking the nerves. That was why I had had what I called the achey flu since mid-January, but now that it had surfaced in the form of a rash, I would begin to recover. The aching had already diminished as the itching increased. Recovery would come through rest and relaxation, not through yet more exercise and effort, he said, thus dismissing my default methods.

More time to think. Just what I wanted.

Maybe I hypothesized, we are trying to perfect the material world, to raise its consciousness. Okay, but the maple tree outside my window seems pretty perfect as it is. And the sheba innu I am going to dog-sit next week, ditto. Hum!

How about this? Out of the One came the many. Are we just trying to get back to the One, trying to remember that we are not isolated, victimized, powerless individuals but part of the powerful Whole?

So I posed the question to Julia in a long, long-distance phone call.

She said, “We are God experiencing Itself.”

“Well, why does it have to be so painful?” I demanded.

“That’s the nature of perception,” she said. “The nerves are part of the mind.”

I had a fleeting thought that as soon as there is mind, there is pain. That brought my mind back to torture.

“Someone like Thomas More,” I mused -I was thinking about how he was portrayed in A Man for All Seasons– “is invulnerable to torture because he is at one with God’s perfection.”

Perhaps during my relaxed and restful recovery, I could take short excursions there.

Isn’t there a liturgical blessing, “May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God…”?

The Life of Pi and Spoilers

As I said in my post on Downton Abbey, I never mind spoilers. Knowing how a story ends doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Rather the opposite. But I know not everyone shares that point of view and, whereas, I didn’t actually say how season 3 of Downton Abbey is going to end (115journals.com), I am going to tell how The Life of Pi ends. Here be spoilers!

I read Yann Martell’s novel, The Life of Pi, shortly after it was published, probably  in 2002, the year it won the Man Booker prize. It wasn’t an easy book for me. I found the suspense hard to take: 227 days in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger! And the long sojourn on the island that turned carnivorous at night tired me out. But it was the ending that left me gobsmacked.

I was lured into seeing the movie by the main ad image – a young man in white at one end of a boat facing a huge tiger at the other (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454876/) – and the fact that it was directed by Ang Lee who had made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And, I suppose, some chauvinism. Yann Martel is Canadian like me.

Pi of the title is Piscine Molitar Patel, a boy living in Pondicherry, a city in French India, who was named bizarrely after a swimming pool in France, and who was, naturally enough, known as Pissing by the other boys until he took matters into his own hands. He memorized pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, 3.14159 – , to many of its infinite digits and demonstrated his mastery while explaining to one class after another that henceforward, he was to be called Pi.

He spends his childhood, which apart from the teasing, seems idyllic, hanging around in his father’s small zoo and exploring the major religions, Hindu, Christian and Muslim. By the time political and economic changes uproot his family, he has practised all three. His family is en route to Canada on a Japanese ship, some of their animals in the hold, when the ship hits a vicious storm and sinks. Pi finds himself in a life boat with a zebra with a broken leg, an orangutan and a hyena. The hyena soon dispatches the zebra and the orangutan and has set its sights on Pi, when suddenly, a Bengal tiger rushes out from under the tarp and kills it.

What made me think that I was up to watching that action in 3D?

Of course it was very beautiful, even the underwater scenes when the storm was in full fury were beautiful. The more peaceful zoo scenes at the beginning were exquisite. The flowers practically tickled my nose. The tiger was just amazing, huge and vivid, but very loud and scarey. I felt a little like I had when I saw my first movie, The Wizard of Oz, when I was 6. I had to be taken to the restroom and assured it was just pretend.

In fact, we know from the beginning that Pi survives because middle-aged Pi is telling his story to a writer. Pi assures him that his story will make him (the writer) believe in God. Now this in one of those devices that doesn’t work well with me. It reminds me of Marlowe in Heart of Darkness saying that he is going to tell a story that will change the listeners. Just hearing about Kurtz and the evil he did up the Congo River will do the job. What the heck? I was a little more convinced when I read the critics who talked about cannibalism (the king must die sort) and after I saw it visually in Apocalypse Now. Mostly, I just say, “Okay, I believe you or I’ll suspend my disbelief.”

So Pi recounts how he conditioned the tiger- Richard Parker is his name- using a whistle and seasickness. Eventually, Richard Parker puts up with having Pi on the lifeboat and is glad of what Pi catches and feeds him. Pi, himself, eats canned biscuits from the well-stocked larder. The stay on the flesh-eating island seemed mercifully shortened in the film and eventually after 227 days, Pi and Richard Parker wash up on a beach in Mexico. Richard Parker walks off into the jungle without a parting glance, to Pi’s dismay.

While he is recovering in hospital, two investigators from the Japanese shipping company come to interview him to try to find out why the ship sank. He tells them his story. When they seem disbelieving, he tells them another story.

In this story, the ship’s nasty cook is on the lifeboat with Pi as well as a Japanese sailor with a broken leg and eventually Pi’s mother, Gita. The cook kills the wounded sailor and uses his flesh as bait and food. Then he kills Gita. Clearly, Pi is next and so Pi attacks the cook while he is sleeping and finishes him off.

The Japanese interpret the animal story as follows: the zebra is the sailor, the orangutan is Pi’s mother, the hyena is the cook, and the tiger? why of course, Pi himself or the savage part of him that made it possible to survive.

Pi asks which story they prefer and they reply the animal one.

My sister had asked me the same question a few weeks earlier, although she asked which one I believed. I made the same answer. But really, I meant only that I liked it better. In fact, it is much more likely that the other story was true.

Pi believed that in extremis, God answered his prayers and sent visions, schools of flying fish and edible islands, with nasty side-effects, to save him. It is a beautiful way to see things. And it may be true. It may be that an exterior divine force gets us through what the world throws at us. And/or it may be that we each have our inner Bengal tiger that roars fiercely to life when we are in dire straits.

http://screenrant.com/life-of-pi-movie-ending-spoilers/2/