For me, the power of faith has never been described more eloquently than in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The book is about Piscine, a 16 year old boy from Puducherry, India. After he is shipwrecked, he goes through a terrible ordeal. His love of God pulls him through:
The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving.
However, the part that I want to share today is a bit more light hearted and comes from the beginning of the book. Piscine’s parents are Hindu, but he also gets acquainted with Christianity and Islam. He does this with such conviction that he soon becomes a practicing Christian, Muslim and Hindu. One Sunday afternoon, when he is walking on the boulevard with his parents, disaster strikes: They bump into the priest, the imam and the pandit and Piscine’s triple piety is discovered. The three wise men are appalled and start a heated discussion about their religions that continues for three pages.
Father raised his hands. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!” he interjected. “I would like to remind you there is freedom of practice in this country.”
Three apoplectic faces turned to him.
“Yes! Practice – singular!” the wise men screamed in unison. Three index fingers, like punctuation marks, jumped to attention in the air to emphasize their point.
They were not pleased at the unintended choral effect or the spontaneous unity of their gestures. Their fingers came down quickly, and they sighed and groaned each on his own. Father and Mother stared on, at a loss for words.
The pandit spoke first. “Mr. Patel, Piscine’s piety is admirable. In these troubled times it’s good to see a boy so keen on God. We all agree on that.” The imam and the priest nodded. “But he can’t be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim. It’s impossible. He must choose.”
“I don’t think it’s a crime, but I suppose you’re right,” Father replied.
The three murmured agreement and looked heavenward, as did Father, whence they felt the decision must come. Mother looked at me.
A silence fell heavily on my shoulders.
“Hmmm, Piscine?” Mother nudged me. “How do you feel about the question?”
“Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God,” I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.
My embarrassment was contagious. No one said anything. It happened that we were not far from the statue of Gandhi on the esplanade. Stick in hand, an impish smile on his lips, a twinkle in his eyes, the Mahatma walked. I fancy that he heard our conversation, but that he paid even greater attention to my heart. Father cleared his throat and said in a half-voice, “I suppose that’s what we’re all trying to do – love God.”
I thought it very funny that he should say that, he who hadn’t stepped into a temple with a serious intent since I had had the faculty of memory. But it seemed to do the trick. You can’t reprimand a boy for wanting to love God. The three wise men pulled away with stiff, grudging smiles on their faces.