How I Almost Let Other People’s Opinions Erase My Own
The invaluable life lesson that Pixar’s newest movie “Soul” taught me
Dec 28, 2020
It’s been a long time since I have been deeply moved by a movie. Yet alone an animated movie. But I just finished watching Pixar’s newest film titled Soul and I am speechless. I’d say the movie is aptly named because the writing touched my soul and left me pondering the meaning of life.
The story is about a middle-aged man named Joe Gardner who is a middle-school band teacher. Joe has a passion for music and has been trying to make it as a professional musician ever since his dad took him to a Jazz show when he was younger.
But Joe hasn’t been able to catch a break. He is on the verge of giving up chasing his dreams when he lands the gig of a lifetime. The only problem? He “dies” just a few hours before the show. I use quotations because the rest of the movie is a highly entertaining story about Joe’s journey back to earth.
What is the purpose of life?
This question is explored in detail in Soul, however, my own thought exploration of the topic didn’t stop when the credits rolled. I am surprised that an animated film touched me in such a deep and emotional way but Soul asked the very questions I have been asking for the past few years.
Namely, what is the purpose of life and how do I know I am on the right path? Is there even a path that I am destined to find or is life just a random accumulation of events and happenings? These are deep musings for a children’s movie but something inside of me came alive while I was watching.
It all reminded me of an Alan Watts quote:
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everyone rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of running around in a great panic. If I’m being honest I spent 4 years desperately searching for my purpose. Like a chicken with its head cut off, I stumbled blindly from one topic to another trying to find what would light my soul on fire. I was looking for that lightning bolt moment when inspiration would strike and I would suddenly know what it was I was supposed to do with my life. Unfortunately, that moment never materialized.
Instead, I have experienced a slow discovery of what I believe to be my life’s purpose. Like an archeologist gently brushing dirt of ancient fossils, I have gradually seen more and more of what makes me come alive. It has been both a frustrating yet rewarding experience.
But what if this gradual discovery is just the left side of my brain trying to find meaning in a meaningless world? What if Alan Watts was right and the purpose of life is simply to be alive and experience life? Everything would certainly be easier that way. And yet something inside of me feels like he is wrong.
Agree to disagree
I can’t tell you why I disagree with Alan Watts but I can say with certainty that I would feel uncomfortable if the bar for my life fulfillment was set at merely existing.
Early in the morning, when the world is quiet and I feel connected to my soul, something deep inside me whispers. It doesn’t speak in words but rather in emotions and feelings and images. It lets me know that I am here to fulfill a great purpose and that my purpose involves helping people change their lives.
It’s easy for me to lose track of this inner knowing throughout the day because I am constantly assaulted by a barrage of advertisements and notifications. This knowing whispers and the rest of the world yells, but it’s in those moments of stillness that I feel my untapped potential bubbling up inside of me.
Like the name of someone I am trying to remember, I have this unshakeable feeling that’s on the tip of my brain. It’s that I’m supposed to do more with my life than simply be alive. I’m meant to progress the plot, shake things up, question everything, and never settle.
Overcoming my resistance
Full disclosure: I almost didn’t publish this article because I saw what other people were saying about Soul. There are many scathing reviews that are frustrated that PIXAR turned Joe, the BIPOC protagonist, into a blue soul about 10 minutes into the movie.
After reading a few of these reviews, I learned an incredible life lesson. That two people can see the same thing and have wildly different interpretations of it. I saw a movie about finding one’s purpose and helping other people appreciate the subtleties of life. Others saw an anti-black train wreck of a film that deeply insulted them and left them feeling angry. Which opinion is right? Neither.
Part of what makes us human is that we get to structure our own thoughts and opinions. These are separate from who we are as a person but they are formed by the lens through which we see the world. The fact that two different people can watch the same movie and have such differing opinions is proof of this.
I decided to publish this because I would be letting myself down if I didn’t. I never want to let my opinions and thoughts be deleted based on what other people are saying. If there’s someone who reads this who is angry at what I have to say, please help me understand your point of view. I strive to always listen to other people’s beliefs and opinions and to never think differently of someone just because we don’t agree on something.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Soul and I recommend checking it out so you can form your own opinion on its value.