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Everyone’s a little schizophrenic

February 23, 2009
Life of Pi Book Cover

Life of Pi Book Cover

I recently completed Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I know most people who read this book are in early high school or even middle school, but I guess I missed the boat (a little pun for those who’ve read it). While the book itself is a great one, transporting readers to another side of the world to identify with a young Indian boy, there is a darker them than simple storytelling here.

“Let me affirm my belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

FDR—love him or hate him—spoke these words at the beginning of his first inaugural address in 1933, and they’ve become part of the fabric of American culture. Certainly an inspirational quote, especially when uttered to a desperate nation. But Martel, I believe, puts a new spin on this quote in his book.

“The only thing we have to fear is ourselves.

I posted a while back on the different possibilities for human heroism and villainy—below is the embedded video—but this book puts that perspective into a literary sense. At the end of the novel, the reader finds out that the main character Pi embodies both sides of the human coin: the very thing he is afraid of and bent on controlling is himself. And that applies broadly as well.

You see, human beings have a distinct power to affect those around them. And that effect can be positive or negative, good or evil. Everyone’s personality has multiple facets. And everyone has to deal with them at different times.

The first step is to embrace all sides of your personality. Know that each facet complements the others and wouldn’t exist if not for the others. I make sarcastic, asinine comments pretty frequently, but that part of my personality also goes hand-in-hand with my whole sense of humor.

As you live your life, you learn to take the good with the bad. You learn that the bad makes the good that much better. And you relize that life is a series of peaks and valleys, not one long plateau.

So treasure the valleys as much as you treasure the peaks. I’ve heard Louie Giglio say that trials are a megaphone for what you believe. Nobody cares about your beliefs when times are good, but when you’re struggling, you’re under other people’s microscopes. Wield your megaphone intelligently and you can use your life as a message.

And it all starts with embracing the dark and light in yourself. Don’t fear either of them.

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