(This article includes spoilers for Soul)
It’s not a Pixar movie without a takeaway that leaves you sobbing, and Soul isn’t an exception.
Soul is about a band teacher, Joe Gardner, who gets into an accident just minutes after booking his dream gig. On the verge of crossing over to the afterlife before he can even get his big break after years of rejections, he tries to reunite his soul to his body.
It’s easy to assume that this is another movie about the importance of following your dreams or how life is too short to not pursue your passion. But it isn’t. Rather, it tells us something not a lot of kids’ stories do: life isn’t just about finding and fulfilling your purpose.
Joe’s companion in the movie is 22, a soul from the Great Before who hasn’t experienced life yet because she hasn’t found the right “spark” (which they assume to mean their life’s purpose) that earns unborn souls their Earth Badge. But after a day on earth in Joe’s body and experiencing the joys of everyday life – from the taste of pizza to watching a helicopter leaf fall – she wonders, “Maybe sky-watching can be my spark! Or walking! I’m really good at walking.”
Joe shuts her down, saying, “Those aren’t really purposes, 22. That’s just regular old living.”
Except, at the end of the movie, 22 turned out to be right. Joe is made to realize that the “spark” that unborn souls get isn’t anything as basic as their assigned life’s purpose. Rather, they get it when they’re ready to live on earth. 22 got her spark simply by enjoying just living itself.
It’s then that Joe realizes that his belief – that if he dies before achieving what he believes to be his purpose then his life would’ve been for nothing – is completely wrong. He remembers how much of life’s wonders he’s experienced that had nothing to do with his dream of being a renowned pianist: from the delicious food he’s tasted and the feel of a fresh haircut to listening to Jazz with his dad or seeing his mom’s warm smile.
He realizes what the film has been trying to tell the audience: the only purpose we have to fulfill is to simply live.
After a particularly difficult 2020 where many of us have had our plans and passions put on hold and are now feeling pressured to make up for it, this movie was a refresher on what we owe to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy life and to get rid of the unnecessary pressure to find a set and all-defining purpose to revolve our lives around.
Having dreams and achieving them is a beautiful part of existence. But it’s far from the only important thing and definitely not what makes us worthy of living. We don’t deserve to live on earth because we have a grand purpose to fulfill. We deserve to because we’re human and that in itself makes us worthy of the beauty of life.
So, this year, let’s remind ourselves that we don’t need to constantly be working to achieve big dreams or uncover some greater purpose for us to justify taking up space in the world and for it to be considered living. It’s enough to simply do what Joe resolved to do at the end of the film: just live every second of life.