Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pi and his religions

Wouldn't it be surprising if you found that your neighbor or the mayor or somebody attended and contributed to both a Christian church and a Muslim mosque?  I didn't read "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel.  I listened to the audiobook.  Listening to a story is a little different from reading a text.  Sometimes, when I am reading, I notice a conversation is coming up before I actually read about it.  So, reading may give me hints about some twist or surprise that I don't get in listening.  In listening, you find out about something when the narrator tells you, not before.

I highly recommend "The Life of Pi", which I am pretty sure is quite unlike any other story you have ever read.  You can find the basic premise of the story by using the links above.  If you do, you may well think the basic idea is unappealing and decide to skip it.  I urge you to get it a try.  If you can, you may try listening, either to CD's or an audio download played through an iPod or other mp3 file player.  A portable computer can play such files from a convenient location, too.

One of the many surprises in this prize-winning novel of a Hindu teenager is that when the boy reaches a certain age, he becomes curious about his religion, as well as Christianity and Islam.  He attends classes aimed at initiating people into each of the religions and strikes the leaders of all the classes as a promising future member of that congregation.

When I see the "Co-exist" bumper sticker, I am reminded of Pi and various predictions that slowly, over say, the next 1500 years, the religions of the earth may merge, strengthening and enriching each other.  I wouldn't hold my breath and I don't believe all religions are the same.  I do think that any religion of intelligent and aware people is capable of recognizing the strengths and value of other faiths. 

If you are looking for a good overview of the great religions of the world (and there may be a few more than you realize), a good source is The World's Religions by the highly respected Huston Smith.  If it is not in your local library, point that out to the librarian.

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