Time for Lighter Fare

All this story-telling has made me tired. Lots of detours just to get to the main point, and I'm not even sure there is a main point anymore, at least without many more detours. Plus, the collection of essays I'm writing on the side of all this blog-writing traverses the much fuller landscape of my spiritual history, and the overlap is making me, well, dizzy.

I'm not about the put the scope of that other quite literally life-size tale on the pages of this blog. For one, blogs weren't designed for posts that size. For two, you'd surely grow weary of reading them, just because they would be long. (My regular blog posts are already too long by most blog standards. Just notice the length of this one as proof enough of this fact.) So, the full story's much more suited for a book. And besides, if you really want to read about how God astoundingly changed my life over the course of it, in the hopes that He'll do the same for you, you can go out and buy the book yourself once it is published.

So let's move on.

What I'd like to talk about now is how stories change our lives. What makes them move us? I'm reading a book right now, perhaps you've heard of it, called Life of Pi. Have you heard of it? It's about this kid who lives in India. His parents own a zoo. They aren't making much money on the zoo, so they decide to move to Canada. They take the animals with them, in order to disperse them to zoos in America, but while they're bobbing over the Pacific on a wooden cargo ship, the ship sinks and everyone drowns.

Everyone, that is, except the boy, a zebra, an orang-utan, and a psychotic hyena. Oh, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. All squeezed together on a 100-square-foot lifeboat. With no land around and no one to save them for . . . well, I'm not sure how long yet because I haven't finished the book.

Here are a couple amazing things about this story.

1) The boy is devoutly religious, practicing Hindu, Islam, and Christianity with equal zeal, all. Simply put, this boy loves God with fervor and delight. This I find amazing for a couple reasons. First, I admire his love and zest for all things true and all things God. Second, it confounds me that he can hold each of these religions with complete devotion in his heart without seeing this as a contradiction in terms. And third, I'm learning more about Hindu and Islam than I ever knew before (which was, in actuality, nothing.) So I'm intrigued to understand more. Ultimately, I want to know more about this boy and how he puts the three worlds of his religion together in a package he can take to sleep with him at night.

2) As a rule, I don't enjoy stories about Eastern countries or wild animals. I'm not really into all that "jungle stuff." In fact, before I finally purchased this book, I had picked it off the shelves at Barnes & Noble at least five times in the past few years -- the length of time it has been a national bestseller -- trying so hard to care enough to buy it. I mean, everyone was buying it. And not in the same way everyone was buying The Da Vinci Code. You know what I mean?

I kept wanting it to be about math -- you know, something about the mysterious life of that good old 3.14 -- but every time I read the back it yielded the same old snapshot: young kid survives a boatsink and makes it to Canada with a huge Bengal tiger in tow, somehow. And, oh yeah, he practices Hindu, Islam, and Christianity as if all three of them are equally true.

I guess what I'm saying is amazing about this is that, if you're like me and don't go for these stories usually, the story holds a mesmerizing power that will reel you in and rivet you by page 30. Give it at least 30 pages, I say, and you'll finally get what all the hype is about. That's when it finally happened for me, at least.

Except hype would be an unfair word to use on this book. It is no hype. It is no hack work. It's purely and simply . . . beautiful. Beautiful in its language. Beautiful in its plunging dive into the animal kingdom, taking you with it into the compassion, true grit, and humor it takes to care for all those animals, one by one by one. And it's beautiful in its treatment of faith, quite honestly. I actually feel the holiness of God when I read this boy's thoughts about prayer, faith, and Jesus Christ, and even his love for all his other gods. And finally, I feel the beauty and pure dignity of human life when I read about the days of his life on that lifeboat. The thoughts he had. The things he saw. The pain he carried, knowing all whom he loved were dead. You can't put aside so easily the story of one whose story is like this. At least, I can't.