Taiwanese film director, Ang Lee, recently received the Best Director Award at the 85th (2013) Vanity Fair Oscar Academy Awards for ‘Life of Pi – the tale of a young Indian boy shipwrecked with a tiger.’ This movie earned him a total of four Oscar Awards including Best Director, Original Score, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. His success, however, is not without trying experiences. From his life, we can see how true it is that one’s attitude determines one’s altitude. For instance, Ang twice failed the national university entry examination when he graduated from the best senior high school in Taiwan. He was seen as a failure because his father was the principal of this high school. Faced with extreme adversity, Ang ‘stayed hungry, stayed foolish’, most commonly linked with the speech Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, once gave in 2005 at Stanford. Similarly, from the movie, many of life’s greatest lessons or secret codes can be seen.
1. ‘Loss’ code: To lose is to gain. Pi’s family left their life in India and moved to Canada in hopes of a better life. Unfortunately, in the process they got caught in a shipwreck and Pi lost his whole family. He drifted alone on the ocean for 227 days. We face challenges and trials constantly in our lives and it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to respond. We can back down from them and feel sorry for ourselves or step up to the plate and take on the challenge because losses can trigger our inner desires and create the potential for progressive motivation.
2. ‘Fear’ code: One cannot overcome a fear but can only learn to live with it. Pi’s fear consisted not only of the stormy ocean but also of a tiger named Richard Parker that he had to live with on a boat for a long period of time. With no way of escaping, they had to learn how to co-exist. Pi fed the tiger and talked to him while the tiger’s killer instinct kept Pi alert. It was extremely touching to see them go through the storm together and Pi walking towards and bracing the almost dying Parker in tears. Fear can bring out the strength for survival that normally isn’t there and can also be a good companion when in solitude.
3. ‘Adversary’ code: By learning to dance with one’s adversary, one can live longer and better. During the whole journey with Richard Parker, Pi experienced true commensalism, benefiting from his relationship with the tiger without negatively affecting him. “Without Richard Parker, I would have died by now. My fear of him keeps me alert. Tending to his needs gives my life purpose,” said Pi. After the storm, Pi saw Parker on the verge of death. What once was fear and anxiety were transformed into appreciation and companionship because Pi couldn’t have survived without Richard Parker. We must all learn to change our attitudes in life especially in the face of adversity because sometimes enemies can bring out the best in us.
4. ‘Intimacy’ code: Cherish what you have and don’t envy what you don’t have. Cherish the time spent with family and friends. Pi’s greatest regret was that he didn’t have the chance to say farewell to his loved ones. Throughout the film, ‘I am sorry’ is the line that was spoken the most times by Pi. Learn from your mistakes in life and live without regret.
Uncertainty brings about fear and destroys motivation. However, in the face of uncertainty, faith is something that is able to carry one through difficult times. Furthermore, this faith can only be built through the process of struggling, testing and choosing. “Oh, plenty. On every floor. Doubt is useful. It keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it has been tested,” said Pi. Therefore, live each day as if it were your first day in life by humbling yourself and trying to learn as much as possible. Likewise, live each day as if it were your last day in life by cherishing and expressing your love and care boldly to those around you.