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Life of Pi and A Little About Unhappiness

The last two books Anne and I read this semester are “Life of Pi” and “The Pursuit of Unhappiness.” We’re not really sure how Life ended up on our list…but it did and the first half (and the very end) of the book contained some useful bits relating to happiness. The meat of the book finds our protagonist starving on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean and was sometimes difficult to read.

Some of my favorite parts of Pi are:

“When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition” (5).

“Would you rather be put up at the Ritz with with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for you? But animals are incapable of such discernment. Within the limits of their nature, they make due with what they have” (18).

“Repetition is important in the training not only of animals, but also of humans” (23).

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation” (28).

“The presence of God is the finest of rewards” (63).

“These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside” (71).

“People move because of the wear and tear of anxiety. Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing…Because of the feeling that nothing will change, that happiness and prosperity are possible only somewhere else” (79).

“Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” (91).
“It was frightening, the extent to which a full belly made for a good mood. The one would follow the other measure for measure: so much food and water, so much good mood. It was such a terribly fickle existence. I was at the mercy of turtle meat for smiles” (213).

“The rain chilled me to the bone. But I was smiling. I remember that close encounter with electrocution and third-degree burns as one of the few happy times during my ordeal when I felt genuine happiness” (233).

“What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order… It is important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go.” (285).

“Isn’t telling about something–using words…already something of an invention? Isn’t just looking upon this world already something of an invention?… The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?” (302).

This last quote is (as I’ve mentioned before) a theme that Anne and I talked at length about. The way you shape and tell the story of your life determines if it is a happy one. Life of Pi also has a lot of interesting commentary on religion, not all of which is related to happiness. All the same, it’s worth checking out.

“Unhappiness” on the other hand, is a philosophical/psychological book that points out our fundamental misunderstanding of what ‘happiness’ really is. We have so many definitions for the word it’s hard to know what the right one is. “Unhappiness” also touched on many of the topics our other readings talked about. I wish I had more time to write, but alas it is finals week and my work is never ending.

Posted in Alexandra Funk.

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