The Compassion of Animals
Reading ahead, this book demonstrates several examples of compassion both to and from animals. Even early in the novel Patel explains how, “dogs are sometimes used as foster mothers for lion cubs. Though the cubs grow to become larger than their caregiver, and far more dangerous, they never give their mother trouble and she never loses her placid behavior or her sense of authority over her litter.” (p.85) Late in this first section of the novel.
Patel recognizes the human like characteristics in animals that most of us would only label as “human traits.” He defines a “need of companionship” and the ability to think and feel, at least to a small extent, in animals. (p. 86) Patel demonstrates a simply amazing desire to do good in his world even at a young age. He is quite the role model. While Pi understands the logistics of his father’s trade, he still sees the “animal equivalent of anthropomorphism: zoomorphism…” (p.84) between the animals he tends for. He goes on to point out the story, “of drowning sailors being pushed up to the surface of the water and held there by dolphins, a characteristic way in which these marine mammals help each other.” (p. 84) Perhaps his desire for spiritual morality has something to do with his awareness of animal compassion.
Here is a video of a dolphin saving a woman from a shark. Ignore the french text, you can still understand the video:
Common Ground in Spirituality
Pi Patel finds happiness through several means as evidenced by the anecdotes given in the first part of the novel. A young Pi cannot help but admire the high standards of morality outlined by the Hindu, Islam and Christian faiths. In the mind of Pi, ” religion is about our dignity, not our depravity.” (p. 71) His view reminds me of a talk I had with a professor here not too long ago. I will leave his name a mystery, but the otherwise cynical and overly rational professor and I had a wonderful talk about spirituality that we shared and the search for spirituality amongst other people. In the course of our talk, we came to the realization that we were both Catholic. We talked only a couple minutes about the search for humility and compassion that the faith searches for through theological means. However, most of our time was spent extending our own faiths to discover more
about the general hunt for contentment shared between all living creatures. An agreement was made between us that a common shedding of transitory, or worldly, concerns, is shared between most major religions. Whether it be the Tibetan monks, Catholic nuns, or Islamic devouts, many spend years trying to achieve this “inner peace.” Personally, I feel that the means to do this rests in the one divine concept fully expressed here on our imperfect world. Love. Our culture has made the word a trite, overused explanation for things both good and bad. Nonetheless, the concept of compassion through love is a similarity often ignored to spend time invigorating the differences between people of varying faiths.