The Beast Within Us

What would you say to a rude fool who probed you about your personal life in front of a group of people?

Suppose these people were your friends.

Suppose you felt intense shame.

How would you respond?

I was thinking about that today.

I imagined such a person putting me on the spot, making me feel uncomfortable.

A long time ago I had an acquaintance named Bob who once embarrassed me severely.

So I will use Bob and pretend that Bob has put me on the spot.

How would I respond?

Of course I could always say: Well, it’s none of your business, Bob.

But since Bob is an ignorant individual without empathy, he’s going to make my life his business.

So how would I respond?

I’ve been thinking patiently about this.

I would quietly say:

You only think you want to know the truth, Bob, but you don’t really want to know the truth.

Because within each one of us lies a dark forest with a lonely road leading inward.

And there floating in the distance lies a pair of yellow eyes waiting for us.

This is what Ang Lee was trying to express in his movie, The Life of Pi.

Without going into too much detail, Bob, the film is a story about a boy named Pi and his search for God. His search is an educational odyssey for he and us. His faith in God is tested by the travails of catastrophe when his boat capsizes at sea and he loses members of his family. He must survive on a life boat with himself, three other animals, and, of course, a tiger named Richard Parker.

Well, we are led to believe Pi is accompanied by animals.

It’s a wonderful movie, Bob, and you should see it.

Well, perhaps you have.

What do you think the author was trying to tell us?

We are all different, and we take different interpretations from a work of art depending upon our life experiences.

Here is what I see, Bob.

The author is telling us that there is a beast within us. The beast is represented by the tiger, Richard Parker.

Richard Parker has a friendly name, but Richard Parker is a beast.

When we are young and naïve we do not understand this. Pi also does not understand.

Pi as a boy treats Richard Parker as he would a friendly kitten.

To teach him to fear the beast, Pi’s father has to show him what the beast is capable of. So he places a goat inside a cage with Richard Parker, and Richard Parker methodically devours the goat.

This frightens Pi.

This is the beast inside us.

This is the dark side of man.

There is little kindness to mankind, Bob.

We are savage beasts with sparse flashes of nobility.

In our souls, we are the Ton Ton Macoutes.

Rabid dogs with machetes.

All of us.

We are savages.

We will cannibalize each other to survive.

But our fragile minds cannot bear this, and so we write fables to compensate for our savagery.

It is the better story, the story we wish to hear.

And so Pi tells a fable to the owners of the boat after he is rescued at sea.

The harsh truth of humans eating humans is too extreme.

The beast is not our friend.

When the beast is done the beast turns away without saying goodbye.

The beast retreats into the jungle as Richard Parker did.

He is us.

He is always with us.

He waits and lurks at the end of that long lonely road within that dark forest within our soul.

He is not our friend.

He is a beast.


Archer Crosley

Copyright 2021 Archer Crosley All Rights Reserved

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