The Better Story

The Better Story

In "Life of Pi", Yann Martel suggests that the agnostic is fixated on dry, yeastless factuality. The agnostic is unwilling to give into childlike wonder and imagination, and thus, Martel goes on to say, is prone to miss out on the better story.

The notion of truth, of understanding, of perspective, of belief, of doubt... these are explored through our hero's conflicting recounts of his odyssey from a primarily theological gait. But, we can see how one might apply this idea to other less lofty stuff - stuff that does not pertain to divinity or potential existence beyond the earthly one.

For example, in a professional scope, the entrepreneurial spirit is embodied by an innate ability to push on through, leaving uncertainty in its wake. We hear phrases like:

  • Thinking outside the box

  • Pushing the envelope

  • Daring

This is coupled with the less glamourous side:

  • Discipline

  • Self-motivation

  • Ability to learn from "failure".

But, regardless of whether we are in the workplace or in the spiritual space, or whatever it might be, it generally boils down to this:

  • Are you open and willing to take the leap, or instead, to remain in the relatively comfortable reality with which you are more familiar?

This excerpt appears during the inquisition phase of "Life of Pi", following the telling of our hero's fantastic journey as a shipwreck victim to a couple of representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Transport.

Pi Patel: "So, you didn't like my story?"

Mr. Okamoto: "No, we liked it very much. Didn't we, Atsuro? We will remember it for a long, long time."

Mr. Chiba: "We will."


Mr. Okamoto: "But for the purposes of our investigation, we would like to know what really happened."

Pi Patel: "What really happened?"

"Yes. "

"So you want another story?"

"Uhh... no. We would like to know what really happened."

"Doesn't the telling of something always become a story?"

"Uhh... perhaps in English. In Japanese a story would have an element of invention in it. We don't want any invention. We want the 'straight facts', as you say in English."

"Isn't telling about something - using words, English or Japanese - already something of an invention? Isn't just looking upon this world already something of an invention?"

"Uhh... "

"The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?"

"Ha! Ha! Ha! You are very intelligent, Mr. Patel."

(Mr. Chiba: What is he talking about?")

(Mr. Okamoto: "I have no idea.")

Pi Patel: "You want words that reflect reality?"


"Words that do not contradict reality?"


"But tigers don't contradict reality.'

"Oh please, no more tigers. "

"I know what you want. You want a story that won't surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won't make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality."


"You want a story without animals."


"Without tigers or orang-utans."

"That's right."

"Without hyenas or zebras."

"Without them."

"Without meerkats or mongooses."

"We don't want them."

"Without giraffes or hippopotamuses."

"We will plug our ears with our fingers!"

"So I'm right. You want a story without animals."

"We want a story without animals that will explain the sinking of the Tsimtsum."

"Give me a minute, please."

"Of course. (I think we're finally getting somewhere. Let's hope he speaks some sense.)"

[Long silence]

'Here's another story..."