As big Pixar fans, we’d been looking forward to watching the studio’s new movie, “Soul”, on Disney+. Learning more information on the creators and thought process behind the film in an episode of “Inside Pixar” made us even more excited to see it. So, after the kids were snuggled into bed in a post-Christmas slumber we curled up on the couch to see the much anticipated film.
To start, it is a stunning piece of art. You’re quickly swept into the world that is created by the animators. One where it’s easy to forget you’re watching animation at all. The details, the textures, the way the light is so expertly captured and reflected – it all is awe inspiring when you stop and think about the work that made it happen.
What did I think about the story? Well, as soon as the credits began to roll I said, “darn you, Pixar” with a tear making it’s way down my cheek. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sobbing like I have at other Pixar films (I’m looking at you, Up!), but I thought it was a beautiful and much needed message. I’ve heard various thoughts from others; my husband thought it was good and enjoyable, but not remarkable. Others share his opinion while some thought it was phenomenal. I’ve also heard of parents from the Christian faith who won’t let their children watch it because it doesn’t depict a biblical version of pre- and post-death experiences. But let me tell you why I think the message of this movie is so lovely and necessary.
*There are spoilers below, so you might want to come back and read after you’ve enjoyed “Soul” yourself.*
Going into a movie about a man who gets a second chance after a near-death experience, it is natural to expect a lesson on not taking things for granted. But “Soul” takes the path less traveled and drives home a different version of that point. For instance, when Joe is on Earth with 22 we see multiple opportunities for him to realize that his life has so much more purpose than he realizes in his role as a teacher. There are little notes along the way of how his teaching has impacted the lives of students but he still thinks his only value will come in being a performing musician. Even his mother doesn’t point out what feels like his “obvious” value when he asserts his belief that his life hasn’t mattered up to that moment.
We start to get a small understanding of the film’s unique lesson when Jerry chides Joe for thinking the Spark is about a single purpose. It comes alive in full color as Joe gives up everything so 22 can live – and it is punctuated by the end of the film. Not with Joe coming back to earth to pour his heart and soul into his noble role as teacher, but simply walking out his front door and breathing in life. The message is not that one purpose is better than another or that you are doing something more or different than you may realize and you need to not take those alternate purposes for granted. No, the message is that none of this human experience is about purpose at all – it’s about experience the spark of LIVING.
I had a mentor once who spoke of purpose as assignments. She didn’t expect to have a single life-long purpose, but different purposes – or assignments – for periods of time in her life. I think this is so much more approachable and realistic. We often get so bogged down with living out our purpose that, like Joe, we forget to LIVE. We forget to experience the small joys that make life alive. The reminder to stare at the sky, experience the pleasure of good pizza, feel the miracle of wind on our face, and to marvel in the spin of a whirly gig is the beautiful, timely lesson in “Soul”.
I encourage you to take the lesson from Joe and 22 and go out into the world today not as one laser focused on a purpose at the expense of all else, but as someone set on soaking in every little thing life has to offer and let the current of joy lead you on your next assignment.