Piece by Piece: the Wisdom of Soul


Brian Higgins

Staff reporter Madison Saviano explores hot topics and issues that students face in her weekly column Piece by Piece.

Madison Saviano , Staff Reporter

About this time last year Disney’s Soul opened to raving reviews. I didn’t understand the hype and thought that while the message was charming, it wasn’t groundbreaking or anything. 

The story is about a man who dies and while in the void tries fervently to get back to earth. It’s a pretty simple concept, though at times the story loops on itself. He learns that what a soul needs to get to, or get back from, earth is only a spark. It’s the last thing on his ticket home and he flounders trying to find it. The revelation of this movie, so bent on the arts, is that a ‘spark’ is not what animates us, or gets us to ascend into what’s called “the zone,” but the mere passion for living. 

At the time I really didn’t like this message. I myself was bent on ‘the arts’ (just as the main character, Joe, so focused on jazz) and I didn’t like their importance belittled. 

That’s how it felt then, at least, and it’s a reaction I can now counter as defensive. 

Passion for an art or talent is only half the equation; passion for living is the less remembered factor. If I take stock of things I can see how most of us are missing one or the other, and the incompleteness shows. 

For a considerable part of my adolescence I don’t think I had passion for art or for living. That was a pretty bottom of the barrel existence, but what got me to emerge from the slums was passion for writing, filmmaking, and theatre. This discovery led me to become slightly preoccupied with the arts, hence why I was defensive of their portrayal in the movie. 

Upon gaining further perspective, I’ve realized how this preoccupation is in itself akin to “losing your spark.” 

The movie also features “lost souls,” and what’s interesting about these is the ways in which they became lost. One way was that they lost their spark, but the keener insight was in the other way they wound up lost: spending too much time in “the zone.” 

The emphasis from our earliest days has been on art, music, math, or on cultivating some other talent. To Joe, and to me watching, it was odd for these things to be sidelined in such a way. 

Growing up we fear we may never find what unlocks our depth, but once (or if) we do we are apt to get lost in it. And if we are one of those who never feel like they got to find what animates them there’s that despair to get lost in, too. There’s a lot to get lost in either way you cut it, but the saving grace as the movie reminds us is that there can always be found a passion for life. 

As Thanksgiving comes before us I think this is really important to remember. Some of us may be lost, surrounded by what feels like a forcefield of negativity, but grounding yourself in the fundamentals is always available.