Attitudes towards discovery

6 Nov

My Advanced English students are studying Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi as their set text for AOS Discovery.  While this would not necessarily have been my first choice, it is nonetheless working reasonably well for the cohort and eliciting some interesting viewpoints.

Of particular interest thus far are my students’ opinions as to the significance of the early references to Pi’s interest in religion.  Some students viewed this section of the film as introductory material and have elected to largely ignore it.  Others, however, have elected to view Pi’s interest in religion, and his desire to embody and embrace the characteristics of multiple religions simultaneously, as indicative of his attitude towards discovery more generally.

This second category of students argue that, for Pi, discovery occurs by invitation.  Their argument is anchored in Pi’s comment that “[n]one of us knows God until someone introduces us.  I was first introduced to God as a Hindu.”  There, they argue, the repeated reference to an introduction indicates that Pi seizes opportunities to discover rather than creating them himself.  In this sense, he reacts rather than creates.

The notion that discovery is catalysed by an invitation is an interesting one.  In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, for example, circumstances create an invitation to engage and discover.  There, Walter finds himself faced with a challenge which only he can meet.   I would really like to take this concept further and give my students a list of texts with which they should be familiar and get them to identify the explicit and/or implicit invitation to discover.


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