Life of “Story”

Truth is subjective, affecting the individual in the present moment. In efforts of survival, Yann Martel’s protagonist Pi Patel shares two stories of the same incident in Life of Pi. Human thought and imagination use critical thinking skills as creative ways of envisioning outcomes for situations. Jonathan Gottschall calls imagined scenarios elements of “story” and sees “storytelling” as an evolutionary adaption. In The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human, Gottschall illustrates the authoritative human voice found in “story.” Forms of fiction such as literature, film, and video games, provide imaginative experience that propels the participant through the critical world of “what-if.” Reality can be harsh. This essay shows that creating elaborate delusions soothes one’s spirit and presents room for possibility.

The facts of Pi’s tragedy are:  the Patel family, with their zoo animals, were aboard the Tsimtsum; the ship sunk in the oceans’ depths, leaving Pi as sole survivor. Japanese officials investigate the occurrence and interview Pi who issues his circumstance through two “storytelling” methods:  subjective-spirituality and objective-rationality. In the first “story,” Pi’s narrative voice constructs the events by offering a rich, detailed observance of the animal world and religious connection with three belief systems. However, the second rendition of the same event at sea presents an anticlimactic dose of reason that issues the ugly truth. Neither “story” explains why the Tsimtsum sunk, and the reader is left deciding which tale holds preference:  the facts or the fabrication.

The second “story” rudely shows face at the end, shocking the reader who longed for Richard Parker’s noble inclusion. This action turns the tables on truth, showing the reality of Pi’s situation as distasteful. The reader comes to love Pi and finds disgust at acts of cannibalism and primal brutality. The reader wishes the truth was not real, that the first “story” was instead possible and accurate. More than likely, the “storyteller” also sides with the tale involving the tiger because the means for creating this “story” lives in survival. In order of simply making it through, Pi relied on the authority of his imagination. Pi created another individual – Richard Parker – from his memory and veterinary knowledge. In avoidance of absolute solitude, Pi utilized the power of “story” in creation of a reality he could deal with or accept.

“Story” is not limited to fiction, and Gottschall notes religious institutions as harnessing societal needs with “story.” The catch, however, is that different religions may tell contrasting versions of “stories.” He said, “Religion draws coreligionists together, and it drives those of different faiths apart” (Gottschall 123). Pi connects with three opposing religions. Forming a bond with each deity, Pi picks and chooses which religious message he prefers. In this way, Pi internally avoids religious disagreement. By subjectively addressing belief, Pi sculpts his own understanding. This essay notes the value lay in accepting multiple “stories” for individual comprehension.

The evolutionary benefit lay with the first “story.” Evolution supports the betterment of species. Gottschall calls the characters from “story” – including fictional, historical, and religious figures – “ink people,” recognizing the “ink people’s” way of wielding authority inside reality (144). He said, “[Ink people] shape our behaviors and our customs, and in so doing, they transform societies and histories” (Gottschall 144). Giving slave-narratives as reference, Gottschall shows that through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe brought atrocities of Southern slavery into the consciousness of Northern citizens. Readers connected with Eliza’s character and empathized with her plight. Pi presented a case for relation and interaction with the animal world as means for survival.

Humans are social creatures. In absence of society, Pi’s “story” provides a sense of community with Richard Parker, Orange Juice, the hyena, and the zebra. Pi creates an animal society in avoidance of insanity, he said, “Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” (Martel 91). Pi could not accept that the Chinese sailor was murdered and eaten by the French Cook, or that his dear mother stood up against inhumane cannibalism, also falling at the cook’s hand. Instead, Pi let the cook be a hyena, his mother Orange Juice, and himself Richard Parker. After all, a tiger is not afraid of a man. Better to be a tiger than a victim.

Truth alters along with the individual, and what is true for one now may not be true after experiencing a challenge or traumatic event. Truth – like humans – is victim to subjective encounter and interpretation. Pi’s truth is that he survived by any means necessary. Pi’s struggle was holding onto his humanness. “Storytelling” is a unique trait of humanity. Through art and literature, humans envision wonderful and terrible outcomes in efforts of lessening life’s struggle. Pi’s “story” encourages that the reader becomes their own tiger. Accept what one has but work towards creating the best scenario.

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Works Cited

Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human. New York:

Mariner Books, 2013.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. New York:  Mariner Books, 2003.

 

Reading assignment written for Bev Zizzy, on Martel’s “Life of Pi”

Reading Notes on “Twilight of the Idols”

When Leisure runs with Research

My session is nearing the end, two more weeks. I have minimal assignments due, and I note that I work much better under pressure. A few months ago, while carrying three courses, I thrived. Much writing and contemplation was required. Now, I have only one topic. And – as a cruel twist – I have to say that I am not real fired-up about said topic. The sad part is, I could be. Maybe one day, my non-traditional thinking will be noted as “ahead of her time” but for the present…’tis socially conditioned that I retreat “back to the mountain.”

Off I crawl, licking my wounds inflicted by society’s barbs, with a text from Herr Professor clung to my breast. Searching for inspiration. {for Life in general, not for the piece} However, while beginning my read the other night, one of Nietzsche’s maxims jumped out at me. Well…much of Nietzsche explodes off the page, but this one, it felt so true I have to share:

“There are times when we psychologists are like horses, and grow fretful. We see our own shadow rise and fall before us. The psychologist must look away from himself if he wishes to see anything at all” (Nietzsche 35).

The quote reminds me to remove myself from philosophical consideration as well as interaction with society in efforts to see the issue – whatever that may be – through an objective lens. By making the situation just that, a situation or a happening, instead of my situation, the experience may be noted from more than one perspective. Applying this to life, I see this method as able to reduce emotional connection to an experience. To look at problems as puzzle pieces to put together – the important factor is that the “I” is assembling the puzzle and not just another piece.

 

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols (1888). Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici. Ed. Dennis Sweet. New York:  Barnes&Noble, 2008.

Picture c/o:  http://www.jamesmaybe.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Dominic_Rouse-Twilight_of_the_idols.jpg

Science Wars

The “science wars” involve the process of science and scientists who do not want other branches of knowledge poking around in their processes. Bowler and Morus said, “The modern ‘science wars’ – in which scientists have responded bitterly when the objectivity of science itself has been challenged by sociological critics – illustrate that there is more at stake here than a simple conflict between scientific fact and subjective values.”[1] Science aims for perfect objectivity, but as the scientist is human, this is impossible, human and perfect cannot happen – a human will always have a personal subjective perspective, even when addressing a topic objectively.

While conflicting views were offered in the readings, the advances and discoveries of the seventeenth and eighteenth century are rightfully labeled as the “Scientific Revolution.” The term revolution is applicable because the type of discoveries made upset and reorganized the general conception of natural philosophy, and a new science began to form. The science of 17th and 18th c was not modern science but the beginnings of understanding science with modern implementation – modern science’s great grandfather. Bowler and Morus said, “… the fundamental changes that took place in the ways in which Western culture viewed the universe and the methods used for finding out about the universe during this period were so cataclysmic that they deserve to be described as revolutionary.”[2] Humans, much like the earth, were not the center of existence.[3] Old science was based on scholasticism while new science followed a scientific method that required rigorous experiments in efforts to establish objective truth. Astronomy shifted from being a figurative appearance in geometry to a condition applicable to reality.[4] Mathematics earned esteem (yet weakened its social value by commonality of trade use) to rival philosophy because of its practicality for trade, business, and exploration: one could not navigate the seas without math – Galileo saw nature as mathematical.[5] Mechanical philosophy held the cosmos as a machine, but the new science was empirical and based on the authority of the senses instead of scholasticism.[6] Francis Bacon insisted that experience was to determine the outcome of natural laws – but the experimenter was required to be a gentleman so as to ensure the truth would be addressed in efforts to form a collective information system.[7]

Newton may be the father of science, but there were other members that made up the family – father alone cannot claim victory. Variant types of minds were needed, and men such as Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Brahe, Bacon, and Boyle were responsible for expanding knowledge. Newton’s contributions to science included: Principia and the Laws of Motion, the creation of Calculus, and Opticks on the theory of white light. Historically, Newton was not given credit for his activities involving alchemy, but modern science now finds it rather intriguing.[8] During the seventeenth-century, alchemy was negatively viewed by society – although noted as the beginnings of chemistry, alchemy is still not held as a scientific practice, but Newton addressed alchemy as experimentation with natural elements.[9]

Bibliography

Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A

Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press,

2005.

Newton’s Dark Secrets. PBS. Nova, 14 Nov 2005. Online video. 8 Dec

  1. http://video.pbs.org/video/2042275819/

Picture c/o:  http://i48.fastpic.ru/big/2013/0412/b2/d8ee737f9524afb30dbf47780d8df1b2.jpg

[1] Bowlser and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 2.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 23.

[3] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 29.

[4] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 27.

[5] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 41-2.

[6] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 43.

[7] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 43-45.

[8] Newton’s Dark Secret.

[9] Newton’s Dark Secret.

Is Science purely Objective?

I like that you note the value placed on empirical evidence but stress the inability for science to adhere to their own limitations. I think that herein lies why science does not like history to probe their processes – for fear that an inevitable stroke of luck or random oddity might expose a fragile system. I notice a higher importance of ego attached to science than other academic fields, almost like a club that is not open to outsiders. I think it will be interesting to consider the advancing intellect of the scientific mind, and by extension the growth of our species.

Recent separation – especially since scientists were once called Natural Philosophers. I think it is interesting that our interpretation of what science “is” and what it “should do” can reflect research and the way that information is attained. And in our day and age, as Bowler and Morus point out, research is ultimately dependent on who is funding the project – determining what science will do – the one footing the bill has a say in the direction of research, even though research does not always yield immediate results.[1] Modern science is left to the mercy of industry and the military because these offices issue practical use and need of scientific knowledge, but mainly because they hold the money.

For DiscussionIs there any area of human thought that is removed from subjectivity? or, Can human scientists be objective? {Wordpress comments are appreciated}

Bibliography

Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A

Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press,

2005.

Picture c/o:  https://xenlogic.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/objectivity.jpg

 

[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 13.