(This post includes some spoiler for the latest Pixar movie, “Soul”)
We often think of our lives either as an autobiography, a collection of events that happened in the past, or as a fiction full of wishes that we want to them to come true in the future. Yet it’s neither. Like what my great meditation teacher, Matthew Brensilver, often says, it’s what’s happening in front of us, right now, right here. The breath we are breathing right now. The awareness that observes thoughts and feelings right now. The body we are living in right here. Whether we like it or not, this is IT.
This was the same message that the latest Pixar movie, Soul, was trying to tell us. Joe finally gets to play in the famous band that he wanted all his life and has the following conversation with the band leader, Dorothea:
Joe: What’s next?
Dorothea: We come back tomorrow night and do it all again. What’s wrong, Teach?
Joe: It’s just I’ve been waiting on this day for my entire life. I thought I’d feel different.
Dorothea: I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to this older fish and says, “I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.”
“The ocean?” says the older fish.
“That’s what you’re in right now.”
“This?” says the young fish. “This is water.
“What I want is the ocean.”
David Foster Wallace shared the similar message in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, which later got published as a small booklet, “This is Water”.
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” (full transcript and recording here).”
Whether it’s ocean or water, the young fish in both stories are constantly looking for “something” for their life, while completely oblivious to each moment of their life that they are in already. That “something” could be the ideal version of life they want, because they are discontent with the current life. Or it could be…