The Truth is Hard to Choose


Reese Levine, Editor-in-Chief

Not knowing which story is true and which is false infuriates me. One of them must be right, but the only one who knows the truth is the one telling the story, and I am not that person. I am, of course, referring to Life of Pi, a book written in 2001, but made more relevant by the release of the movie recently.

“And so it goes with God.” This line, the most pivotal in the novel, follows after Pi asks the Japanese investigators which version of his story of survival they prefer: the one alone on the raft with a Bengal tiger, or the one where he must kill a cannibal cook. The investigators choose the one with the tiger, because it is the “better story.” The question the novel is asking is thus; why not choose the better story, one with a god and an afterlife, rather than the more tragic and cruel story, even though it seems more believable and rational?

God. A powerful word, soaked in the blood of millions, encompassing the hopes of the entirety of humanity. Is there one, many, or none? Each religion has its answer, and each is certain it is the right answer.

Religion is a subject that I have never before touched upon, because I don’t want to get into arguments and because I never have felt a need to. But now I feel I have to address it, if only to articulate what I am afraid of even thinking about.

Excepting a few trips to church and synagogue with friends and one or two Christmas Eve masses, I’ve never been a religious person. And even those few times, I have felt restless and impatient, knowing I could be doing much more productive things with my time. I have never felt even the shadow of the presence of God, and do not see the point in being a member of a religious organization.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what religious groups do for the needy, the poor, or their own members. I just feel that a group could have all the same properties and do all the same things without praying to or believing in a deity. If God really is somewhere out there, he has left me alone and I him, and I don’t think either of us are any the worse for wear.

Though it may seem like I’m an atheist, that’s not entirely true. I’ve always felt myself leaning more toward the atheistic side of things than the religious side, but still like to consider myself an agnostic. Recently, though, I found this quote from Life of Pi, reproduced here in its entirety:

“I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: ‘White, white! L-L-Love! My God!’ – and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, ‘Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,’ and to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.” Ouch.

Since I don’t want to be considered a dry, yeastless person, I obviously cannot be an agnostic. But where does that leave me? I’ve never seen anything that even remotely confirms the existence of God, but it’s basic human nature to want to believe in something more than just this life, and I’m a basic human being.

If it was as simple as accepting the better story, like Pi says we should, I would do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. I just can’t accept a story based only on authorities other than myself, which brings me back to my starting point. I hate stories where it’s impossible to determine for certain what is true and what is not. I’m in limbo, caught in the cracks between the states of believing, not believing, and choosing not to make a decision. There might be someone out there who knows the truth, but only he knows for sure and even if he answers honestly I would not believe him.