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8 Life Lessons From the Life of Pi

With the Oscars fast approaching, it's always good fun to look back on the movies of the last year and make predictions. I'm putting my money on Argo to win the big awards (mostly because it makes Hollywood look like a hero), but my heart is with Life of Pi.

Like many people who read the book and saw the film, it is one of those rare cases where the movie is exactly like the book. It hits the right notes, and Ang Lee's artistry is nothing short of miraculous. But beyond the stunning visual spectacle, the film (and book) offers us some pretty aha-worthy life lessons. Here are eight of my favorites (and no, I won't spoil the movie or book!):

  1. We need to treat our animal friends better:
    Pi learns this in a number of ways, but most profoundly by being stranded alone on a boat with Richard Parker, the tiger. Although they don't have a very cuddly friendship, their reliance on each other for survival illustrates one key point: mutual respect. More than 50 billion animals around the world will be killed for food this year. Most of them will live in horrific conditions. When we begin to treat our animal friends with more respect, I guarantee we'll see bigger changes in other areas of our lives as well.
  2. Religion is a mechanism: Young Pi earnestly explores many different religions while his father laughs at his gullible yet precocious interests. As the story unfolds though, we learn the important lesson that religion is not the end, simply a means to our own deeply personal understanding of the world and beyond. This awareness and acceptance could help us avoid wars, bigotry, and intolerances around the world.
  3. There's a difference between being alone and being lonely: Pi and Richard Parker find ways to make the best of their experience. They are alone in the worst possible way—stranded on the ocean—but they manage to keep from being lonely, through the power of story and the magic that they witness all around them.
  4. Forgiveness is always the right choice: Pi lost everything, by no fault of his own. For some people, this could create resentment and anger. But he manages to take it all in stride and forgive the situation. To hold onto the anger and pain would be to let those situations control his life. We may never forget, but we can always forgive.
  5. Don't take things personally: On the same token as forgiveness, we also can't take things too personally. Pi didn't succumb to the gravity of his situation and just sit there feeling sorry for himself. He understood that there was an opportunity in his predicament, no matter how extreme or unfair it seemed.
  6. Don't give up: Whatever it is you're committed to, there will be obstacles along the path. At times it may even seem impossible. But when you truly believe in achieving your goal, you can't give up, no matter how daunting the outlook is. Like Churchill said, when you're going through hell, keep going.
  7. Perspective changes everything: How we choose to see a situation is the situation. Whether it's good or bad is always up to us. We always have the power to instantly change our perspective and thus change the outcome of any circumstance.
  8. Stories are our greatest teachers: We can often illustrate (and cope) with tough situations through the powerful lens of imagination. It's as helpful for our own understanding as it is for others to relate to a situation. And in some cases, it's all we ever really have.
    Learn more about Jill Ettinger

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