“You know, lost souls are not that different from those in the zone. The zone is enjoyable, but when that joy becomes an obsession, one becomes disconnected from life.”–Moonwind, Soul
If you haven’t seen Pixar’s film Soul yet, I highly recommend you watch it asap. This incredible movie tells a fun story packed with simple yet profound messages about the point of life. The movie follows Joe, a middle-aged band teacher, who finally gets the opportunity to fulfill his life-long dream of playing piano with a famous jazz band. But the very afternoon he gets the gig, he trips and falls down a manhole. The untimely accident sends his soul spiraling to The Great Beyond. When Joe escapes to the Great Before, he teams up with 22 (a soul avoiding Earth) to find a way back to his body before its too late.
As the characters navigate a series of mishaps (including Joe’s soul ending up in a cat), they’re faced with questions about life’s meaning. How do you find your purpose? How do you accomplish that purpose when you do? What really makes life worthwhile in the first place?
In the end, the movie subverts the importance of individual purpose with a very simple message: the point of life is firstly to live.
Finding Meaning in Life’s Joys:
Rather than letting the characters find meaning in their passions or talents, Soul emphasizes the beauty to be found in the everyday.
As 22 and Joe hurry around the city getting ready for his gig, 22 is introduced to good food, street music, and the joy of relationships. She witnesses the barber laughing and chatting with his customers, Connie coming over to share her music with her teacher, and Joe’s mom caring for her son. Simply walking down the street, 22 constantly discovers things that amaze and delight her, like helicopter seeds or lollipops. In each of these moments, 22 starts to recognize what makes “all this living really worth dying for.” She reaches the point where she wants to live, not because there’s a passion she wants to pursue, but because of all the wonder she encounters.
At the same time, Joe begins to realize how much he’s missed out on while pursuing his dream of being a musician. For so long, his whole focus has been on finding gigs. All he talks about is jazz; all he thinks about is jazz. While that passion isn’t a bad thing, Joe lets the joy of music become an obsession distracting him from all the blessings already in his life. Watching 22’s amazement at ordinary things gives Joe a new perspective on all he’s taken for granted. For the first time, Joe opens up and really connects with the people in his life. For the first time, he starts to see meaning where there was none before.
The Point of Life Is More than a To-Do List
While having a dream to pursue or a job you love is great, Soul reminds us that the point of life goes beyond a task we fulfill. Too often we shape our identities around what we do. But we forget that our work and our talents aren’t the source of our meaning. Instead, we find meaning when we’re fully engaged with life. Being present in the moment gives us the chance to build relationships, and to be attentive to moments of joy, contentment, and even pain. These experiences and the connection they give us with others make the difference. Our lives matter not just because of what we accomplish, but because of what we experience, and what we do with that experience.
If we let our passions and dreams disconnect us from our everyday experience, then the fulfillment of those dreams will be hollow.
“I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to an older fish and says: “I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.”
“The ocean?” the older fish says, “that’s what you’re in right now.”
“This”, says the young fish, “this is water. What I want is the ocean!”–Dorothea, Soul
All too often, we miss out on the blessings we have because we keep searching for more. We press forward, we dream, and chase down what we think we want. Then once we finally catch it, we realize how much we missed in our pursuit.
It’s good to dream. It’s good to find your passions, to work hard, and to aim high. But we have to remember to live along the way. We have to remember to love and laugh and cry with those around us.
Everyday, we have a choice. We can choose to loose ourselves in our goals, in our work, and in our distractions; to put on our blinders and see only our small bubble of space. Or, we can choose to engage. We can take the risk and see the world with all its light and darkness.
An if we choose see, we might just realize that all this water we’re floating in truly is the ocean.