Between helplessness and hope: a reflection on the movie “The Life of Pi”

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 drastically increased in recent few weeks. Many people may already know someone who is undergoing COVID-19 testing, compulsory quarantine or is confirmed to have been infected. Even without undergoing such, we all face lots of uncertainty that causing sense of helplessness. For instance, we may worry if we have come across someone in the street or at workplace who is a hidden carrier of COVID-19. For those who need to undergo compulsory quarantine, they may feel being isolated, restricted or discriminated.

When I think about what the humankind is facing in this pandemic, a movie, “Life of Pi” pops up in my mind. This is a movie about how an Indian man, Pi, survived a shipwreck and drifted on a lifeboat with a tiger. Pi lost his family in the shipwreck and felt helpless for facing the uncertainty of drifting in the Pacific Ocean. The story, in the surface, is about Pi wrestling with the tiger physically. He struggled between having to feed the tiger and preventing himself from being eaten by the tiger. Metaphorically, it is about Pi struggling between giving in to one’s helplessness and persevering with bravery and faith.

There are also other animals at the beginning of the journey in the lifeboat, the hyena, the zebra and the orangutan. The hyena killed the zebra and the orangutan. Later the tiger killed the hyena. According to some reviewers, these animals are all components of the self. The tiger is the primal self, the zebra is the innocent child, the orangutan is the protective adult, and the hyena is the shadow (the unknown self that the conscious self does not identify with, such as the dark side of oneself). These components of the self represent who we are.

It is beyond dispute that the current pandemic caused a lot of troubles, losses and uncertainties in our lives. As what Pi is facing is also losses, uncertainties and troubles, he is certainly having high level of helplessness. In fact, Pi did not give up and tried his best to face his adversities with hope. The raft he is riding represents his faith and hope. It brings him to a safe place in the end.

In the face of the current pandemic, instead of being conquered by our primal self, the tiger, we may try our best to strive for expressing our bravery and hope in resolving all the issues we are facing. The tiger may represent our fear, anxiety, helplessness and anger. We need to embrace these inevitable emotions in our primal self and at the same time, finding solutions to solve the known problems and cultivating faith and hope in the face of the unknowns. We need to remember that there are many components in our self. We need to be aware of our dark side in the face of this stressful situation. Only if we are able to see our self as a whole with different components, for instance, a child, a protective adult, the shadow and a primal self, we can have the composure to face all the challenges ahead of us. Let’s face all the stressors and uncertainties with bravery, faith and hope.

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