'Soul' And Purpose
This week's Random are some thoughts on Disney Pixar's latest materpiece 'Soul'
Joe Gardener (Jamie Fox) finds himself walking on a bridge hanging in the dark sky towards a bright gigantic celestial light. Which is weird because just a few moments ago, he was shouting and jumping with unbridled joy on a New York city crossway. Thrilled that he finally got the chance to play the piano alongside the great jazz player Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), he is so carelessly happy that he misses an open manhole on the road and falls right into it.
‘That’s the Great Beyond. As in beyond life. That’s death right there!’ He gets told by another luminescent ghost like soul heading in the same direction. ‘No, I cannot die on the very day I got my gig. This can’t happen. I cannot die today’ he shrieks. He starts running away from the light, slips off the bridge and falls into another dark abyss.
And now lands in the Great Before: the place where all the souls get prepped before they head to the earth. He is shown thousands of infant souls being assigned random personalities – anger, aloofness, hyper-activeness – and then left to find their purpose. They get their pass to enter earth only after their find their purpose. The one’s who are struggling are assigned a mentor to help them find their purpose.
I was befuddled in the first few minutes of Soul, the latest from Disney Pixar. Pixar’s storytelling generally hooks one from the word go - but Soul is different from your regular fantasy-animation-comedy. It is in the same deep genre as ‘Up’ and ‘Inside Out’ but one thing is for sure: Soul will mean a lot more to the adult in you – definitely for the middle aged soul searching for purpose.
This is the story in a nutshell: Middle school music teacher Joe Gardener loves jazz and desperately wants to make it big. He puts up a smile on his face and goes about his life but is forever hoping for that one big moment in life when he gets recognized on the big stage. And everything will change from then. When that moment does arrive, he dies in a freak accident. In another freak occurrence that follows, he ends up in another realm called the Great Before where he is assigned as a mentor for Soul No: 22 (Tina Fey) to help find it’s purpose.
What follows is a masterpiece in storytelling - a heart-warming tale of reflections, discovery and life lessons.
And some thoughts that came to me.
Our biggest failing is that we’ve no idea of what it takes to live in the present. Take a pen and paper and write down all the things that you are scared off. You’d notice that every single point on the list would be about something in the future. We sit in the present and worry about the future. In our anxiety to make our future secure, we miss seeing the present for what it is. And being in it.
Souls are assigned random personalities before they head down to earth. So there isn’t much one can do about that. But what makes the purpose glow is when we believe and accept that each one of us is unique gift to the universe. That’s when we discover the joy of being ourselves. And we find the true meaning in our lives.
The exchanges between Dorothea Williams and Joe Gardener are classic stuff. After Joe performs with her and gets a terrific applause, he tells her that for a long time in his life, he had waited for this big moment and thought it would feel different. But, he didn’t feel any. Dorothea then tells him a stunning story about a young fish:
‘The young fish swims up to the older fish and says, ‘I am trying to find this thing called the ocean.’ ‘The ocean?’ asks the older fish. ‘That’s what you are in right now.
‘This!?’ exclaims the younger fish. This is water. What I want is the ocean’.
We live all our lives like this, don’t we?
‘Once I hit that designation, everything will change – I will have control’.
‘That one qualification will get me the confidence to take the plunge’.
‘Oh, if for this one time I get out of this mess, everything else will be sorted.
I am not good enough right now. I will wait for the right moment - has made a billion lost souls.
The fear of the future paralyses us into inaction and worry. The past disappears and is of no use. And we screw up the present – even as we know that the present moment is our only chance to create the future. Like the big fish pointing out to the younger one – ‘this is the ocean, kid!’
We tell a lot of stories to ourselves about what we think our sparks are and our purpose is. Some think getting the next sales promotion is their spark in life. That’s where they belong. For someone else it is that tech innovation. Playing the piano perfect is for some. Getting that top rank and being praised by that one person. For some others it’s a person whom they are obsessed about. Or the bank balance.
But here’s the thing: ‘Finding your spark isn’t the souls purpose. Your Purpose is your meanings in life.’
And it is ok if you haven’t figured it out, yet. It is ok to be in search for it. As long as we know that the only way to find one’s purpose in life is when one is ready to start living every moment of the present. Being there. Breathing deep.
Because in finding the present, you’ll find your purpose.
Soul is a straight out of the heart masterpiece. It almost seems like a sequel to Inside-Out. To start with, its from the same director duo of Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers. It is streaming right now in Disney Hotstar Premium in India. Go watch it now. And discover something special.
Every Sunday, I hope to step out of my usual genre of #1MinuteStories and let myself a little long on something Random. It could be a Book, longish story, a string of events, podcast or just a movie like Soul that has - well just moved me to share! Do let me know what you think!
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Here is the Official Trailer.
My post was not meant to be a critical review of the movie. It has been lauded by critics and is already being hailed as the masterpiece and possibly the most mature movie from the house of Pixar