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Middle Pane

absurdism, philosophy, science, music

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Made-up Past

View from the Massanutten Lodge Area of Skyland
View from the Massanutten Lodge Area of Skyland (Photo credit: dherman1145)

You are influenced by the past, but in reality there is no past.  The past is something that you made up that just simply jives with whatever you can accept as your reality.  It contains your fears that you will relive until you overcome them.  But it also contains your hopes and your joys.  The suffering that you may have encountered has taught you a lesson.  All of this combines to make you who you are today.  Every choice made you the person reading these words.  You are alive.  That is pretty fucking amazing.  How can any of that be wrong?

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Life of Pi ***SPOLIERS***

Cover of "Life of Pi"
Cover of Life of Pi

*** LIFE OF PI SPOILER ALERT ***

We saw Life of Pi last night, and I wanted to write some quick thoughts about it.  Most are around the end, so I want to make sure that I don’t give anything away to someone that might want to see it.  I don’t have that large of a readership, so I am not that concerned.  But if you do read this blog, and you want to see this movie, then skip this post.

The movie revolves around a middle aged man, Pi, talking to a writer and telling of his life growing up and exploring multiple religions.  He lives with his family in a zoo in India that is run by his father and mother.  Early on he is curious about his path and is open to many things.  Hinduism is his start and it is mentioned that there are over 33 million gods in Hinduism so he was bound to identify with a few of them.  He sits in bed reading graphic novels on Hindu gods and goddesses.  For him, the gods are super heroes.  [That is an interesting analogy and one that we fall short of seeing today.  We see our myths as mere myths and nothing to identify with.  It is easier to do so as a child, but growing up we seem to get more set in our ways.]  He even explored Christianity and thanked Vishnu for bringing him to Christ.

The meat of the story is him being in a ship wreck and jumping onto the life raft at the last second.  A zebra, hyena, orangutan  and tiger also make it on the raft.  The hyena attacks the zebra and kills it.  It then turns to the orangutan and the orangutan smacks it unconscious.  The hyena awakens and pounces on the orangutan and kills it as well.  The tiger jumps from under the tarp covering the boat and devours the hyena.

Pi knows that the tiger will kill him, so he makes a small raft attached to the rescue boat.  He floats on that catching fish for the tiger.  He keeps his distance, and at one point he has the ability to let the tiger drown.  However, he cannot bring himself to do this and saves it.  After a while he attempts to train the tiger.  He may not be able to tame it, but he should be able to train it.  He comes up with a plan on how he is going to do it, and after practicing many times he goes for the implementation and fails.  He is discouraged, but gains his courage again and stands up to the tiger with a sharp stick.  The tiger eventually submits, and while still something to be feared, he and the boy form a relationship.  They both land on an island that provides them nourishment by day, but the pools of fresh water turn to acid by night and the island eats fish, meerkats, and whatever falls in the water.  Pi knows that he cannot stay here.  He gathers supplies and the tiger, and they both push off for their goal.

Near exhaustion, Pi reaches a sandy shore in Mexico.  He pulls the boat onto the beach and collapses feeling the sand as the “warm cheek of god”.  The tiger heads to the edge of the jungle and Pi expects him to look back.  He wants some form of closure, but the tiger just pauses and then moves on.

In the “present”, adult Pi tells the writer he is talking to that the shipping company performed an inquiry and he told them the story of the tiger and the raft.  They do not believe him.  They want the truth.  He then tells them the story of the life boat with the cook killing the sailor with the broken leg, his mother slapping the cook, the cook killing his mother, and then Pi killing the cook.  The zebra was the sailor, the cook was the hyena, his mother was the orangutan , and he was the tiger.  [Realization.  Light.]  He asks the writer “In both stories my family dies and I am the only survivor.  Neither story has anything to do with the cause of the sinking of the ship.  Which one do you prefer?”  The writer replies “The one with the animals”.  Pi then says “And so it is with god”.

My thoughts on the story evolved once the realization was in place.  The tiger was really a metaphor for Pi’s sense of self.  It seems ripped from the drawings of the 10 Bulls.  From his search, to the taming of the tiger, to riding it home, to not needing the tiger any more, to being out in the world.  The parallel seems so sharp to me, but that could be because I have been focusing on the 10 Bulls lately.

  1. The Search – Pi is fascinated by many religions.   He explores all and sees no conflict in them.
  2. Seeing the footprints – This is a difficult one to pin to a specific event in the movie.  Pi sees evidence of something more.  There is also the event of the tiger killing the goat which changes him.  Aboard the ship, Pi sees the beauty of the storm and yells at God to bring more rain.
  3. Perceiving the Bull – Pi kills the cook and sees his true nature.  He is surprised and frightened by his actions.
  4. Catching the Bull – Pi fashions a life raft to keep him safe from the tiger.  He has no choice but to do this to keep himself alive.  He keeps the tiger at bay, and he cannot escape from it and it cannot escape from him.  He has the opportunity to let the tiger drown, but he realizes that he cannot kill the tiger.  He feels compassion.
  5. Taming the Bull – Pi trains the tiger and becomes disciplined in his actions.  It is still a ferocious beast and they are not completely one in action.  His self is still separate.
  6. Riding the Bull Home – Pi and the tiger arrive on an island and Pi knows he cannot leave the tiger there.  The tiger knows that this is not home.  Pi gathers supplies and he and the tiger leave.  He sees him as being separate from the tiger, but they are one in action.
  7. Bull Transcended – Pi and the tiger arrive at the beach.  The tiger goes to the edge of the jungle, hesitates, and moves on.  Pi did this all himself.  He survived the 266 days at sea by himself.  He did not need the tiger.  The tiger was something that he made up to keep going.  Is the self the same way?

The last few are not really depicted in the movie, although I could be missing them.  I could also be making this connection to the 10 bulls incorrectly.

  1. Bull and Self Transcended – There is no tiger, there is no self, there is no mind.
  2. Reaching the Source – There was no need to search, just find.  Everything is and always was here.
  3. In the World – Out in the world, everyone is enlightened.

The final comment “And so it is with god” implies that all things are the same whether God is there or not.  We are placed on this earth and our placement here has no effect on what has come before us.  Our journey can be a magical one or it can be one of survival.  Why not choose the story that you prefer.  Choose the story that makes you happy.

  • Taming the Wild Ox – Provides detailed analysis from multiple sources on each bull/ox
  • Oxherderzen – Great interpretation and analysis of the 10 Oxherding Pictures
  • Bullzen 10 Bulls – My analysis of the 10 bulls (in progress)

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Father

Every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectation or make up for his father’s mistakes.

Barak Obama

Feet – Santa – Salesmen – Keep One – Ask – Meta Memory – Superheros

I don’t really see my feet when I am walking.  I wonder if they are really there or if they are there only when I am looking at them.  It is the thought of the feet that propels me forward, not the feet themselves.  My idea of how a foot behaves in conjunction with the rest of my body that I cannot see.  Obviously, if you start with feet, then you have to move on to everything else.  Good luck.


My wife’s mom wants to take our kids to see “Rise of the Guardians” this weekend and we took a look at the trailer to see what it is about.  It looks to give a backstory to some of the mythical creatures that a lot of us believed in while growing up and then follows them on a quest to defeat the boogeyman.  It looks pretty cool and I am a little jealous that the in-laws are taking them, but they may want to see it again.  It got me thinking about what it was like to actually believe in something that seems really absurd now that we are adults.  The wonder that they feel and they see the proof that the belief exists because they get presents, or their tooth is not there the next morning.  What it must be like to have that wonder. And of course that got me drawing parallels to religions.  We see signs of something.  Something that makes us believe or things that make us not believe.  It can be blind faith, scientific fact, or years of research; but there is still that feeling that justifies our understanding of the universe.

But what if those feelings or signs are just like the presents on Christmas.  They are real to us and we have reasoned an explanation in our mind based on things that we have been told.   What if there is some force putting signs out for us?  Different signs for different people.  But at one time or another we see or feel those signs, whatever we need that proof or disproof to be.  What is the force putting those signs out there?  The only answer that rings true is the cosmos, and just like parents help give us beliefs to help experience the world, the cosmos is doing the same for us.  It is giving us what we need to experience the universe.  We are children of the cosmos.  We are the same as the cosmos itself.


It amazes me how salesmen have the ability to use words to get you to do or think what they want you to do or think.  They play to what they think you want to hear to allow you to trust them.  And they don’t have to be selling a physical product.  They don’t even have to be selling for a company.  They can just be selling themselves.


Keep at least one for yourself


If you want to know what someone thinks about you, ask.   If someone asks you, tell them.


Our memory seems to be a pointer to just a piece of the full memory.  It is minimal information that we use as a reference point.  Maybe it is just at first a feeling that we then think of a situation that reminds us of that feeling.  It stands as a marker and we expand upon that.  We make it bigger until it spawns out and suits our view of the world and ourselves.  It seems key to let go of that.  The need to identify with the feeling.


My kids are superheros.

Conference – Change – Cheese

We had our first parent teacher conference with our son’s teacher today.  He is doing great and is excelling in reading and math.  She did mention that he does hurry when he is doing his drawing or writing.  It ends up being done, but it is sloppy.  She tries to tell him to slow down and focus.  Just because there are five minutes left, that does not mean that you have to be finished then.

And I can see the same things in my life.  I often rush to finish a task, but the end result is not as shining as it could be.  And it is not that I am not capable of doing it correctly, it is that I get in a hurry and focus more on the time aspect.  I am going to try to heed her advice in my life and see if my son follows suit.  More importantly,  I have learned today that I should always take the advice of a teacher, even when she/he is not talking about me.

We watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” tonight.  My wife picked it out and I was hesitant at first writing it off as chicky drama just by the title.  She explained that it is about a group of retired individuals that are “outsourcing” their retirement to India.  That got me a little intrigued and I remembered that I forced her to watch “That’s My Boy” last week, so I let go and we watched it.

I ended up enjoying it not too long into it.  It is about dealing with change.  A change that is a little down the road for me, but I can identify with going through different periods of change in my life.  It also falls in line with things that I have been reading and seeing lately about adapting to change.

It had some great writing and quotes like

“If everything is not alright, then it will be alright in the end.  And if everything is not alright, then you must trust me that it is not the end.”

Ancient wisdom, but there were also some great analogies made by the characters like

“Change is like a wave.   You can be knocked down by it or dive in and come out the other side.”

I was in a meeting yesterday and we were discussing customers moving from one version of the software to the next.  And they were clinging to the old version.  ”Who moved my cheese?”  Which was an obvious reference to the story/book by the same name.  The book deals with change and being able to look for change.  Nothing is constant.  Cheese that is there one day, may be in a completely different location the next.  The good thing is that we can see the signs along the way and be prepared for and adapt to change.  If there is anything constant, it is change.

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