a life of radiohead and pi

Man, Radiohead really has a way of making everything feel so serious and dismal. I’m sitting here with “OK Computer” playing in the background and find myself slowly feeling increasingly pensive… angsty… empowered… insignificant… perceptive… misled… all at once. Weird. Especially because most of those feelings are contradictory. Maybe it’s time to switch to Spice Girls or something that doesn’t make me feel like Armageddon is upon us in t-minus-thirteen seconds. Crazy how my mood is so affected by music.

Anyway, I recently finished reading Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, and it’s been on my mind a lot. Overall, I really liked it. I was planning on writing something about my impressions of the book now, but Radiohead has sapped the life out of me, so that’s not going to happen. I’m a huge fan of good quotes, though, and while reading I tend to mark up the margins around passages I find particularly likable. So in that spirit, here are just a few of the quotes that got the lucky mark of my red pen next to them. (For the sake of your attention span, I pared it down to six quotes, but believe me, I started with a lot more than this.)

Note: I’m not giving away any huge plot lines here, but if you’re a purist like me and hate knowing anything about books/movies/plays before experiencing them for yourself, look away now!

Words of divine consciousness: …a quickening of the moral sense, which strikes one as more important than an intellectual understanding of things; …a realization that the founding principle of existence is what we call love, which works itself out sometimes not clearly, not cleanly, not immediately, nonetheless ineluctably.

But we should not cling! A plague upon fundamentalists and literalists!

There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. …These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.

Why can’t reason give greater answers? Why can we throw a question further than we can pull in an answer? Why such a vast net if there’s so little fish to catch?

I must say a word about fear. It’s life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy.

…Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.

The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation… nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.

“If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for? Isn’t love hard to believe?”
“Mr. Patel—”
“Don’t you bully me with your politeness! Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”

I feel like that’s a good question for me right now. What’s the problem with “hard to believe”? Life is hard to believe, really. It’s amazing that any of us are here. This question makes me realize that I take many leaps of faith every day without balking. Belief is at the base of everything, isn’t it? Maybe faith is only hard when I decide to trip over it.

It seems this was a good book for me right now. It was an easy read that managed to be soul-stirring without taking itself too seriously. Plus, I liked Martel’s narrative voice. Although the story seemed to drag in places, the dragging never lasted long, and his voice kept me engaged until the story piqued my attention again. I definitely give it a place on my “Recommendable Books” list.

P.S. Lest you be misled, I really do like Radiohead.

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