If I’m going to take a que from The Most Interesting Man in the World, I will say, “I don’t always cry, but when I do, it’s usually because of a Pixar movie.” Despite being marketed for kids, Pixar films have remarkable depth and brilliant writing that touch on things all ages can relate to. The original Toy Story was all about accepting change and who you really are, The Incredibles told a story of a man and family who tried to run away from their real identity, WALL-E is an illustration of how man (or robot) is not meant to be alone and without community, and UP is all about learning to let go. These are incredibly profound themes to deal with, and these films have always resonated with me. Recently I watched Toy Story 2, and I teared up when I saw it in a new light.
In the film, Woody is stolen by a toy collector and discovers he’s a valuable commodity, a rare artifact from a bygone cultural phenomena. Woody meets others like him and learns they are all destined to be displayed in a Japanese toy museum. Now Woody must decide if he should go back to his owner Andy or go to Japan. At first Woody is desperate to get back to Andy, but something one of the other rare toys says makes him question himself: “How long will it last, Woody? Do you really think Andy is going to take you to college, or on his honeymoon? Andy’s growing up, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s your choice, Woody. You can go back, or you can stay with us and last forever. You’ll be adored by children for generations.”
It occurred to me that the core philosophical conflict in the film is choosing between the danger of purpose or settling for safety.
Woody was made for a purpose, to be enjoyed by his master. Throughout the Toy Story series you hear toys talk about the joy they feel when they are being enjoyed by their masters, and they feel this joy because they are fulfilling their purpose. But, this purpose has dangers that come with it. Nothing is guaranteed, and you see this in Jessie’s heartbreaking story about being abandoned. Ultimately Woody and Jessie choose to fight the fear and pursue what they were created for regardless of the dangers, because to live forever without purpose would not be living at all.
As the credits rolled, I felt my eyes get misty, because I realized I had gone to the toy museum numerous times in my life. Many of the decisions I’ve made in the past were defined by safety, not purpose, and so many of us do the same thing. We often settle for safety instead of pursing purpose because we have this idea built into our heads that life shouldn’t be hard. We are suspicious and fearful of things that aren’t guaranteed, so we choose safety and comfort. But, I’ve learned this isn’t a meaningful way to live. Good stories aren’t made by safety, they’re built by purpose.
One of my prayers during this time in my life is for God to help me fight through fear and chase purpose in what I do. I don’t want to be safe and look back on my life 30 years from now with regret. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Am I going to get hurt, disappointed, and rejected? You bet. Will I look back on my life and regret things? My plan is not to. One of the main reasons we choose safety over purpose is because we fear responsibility, and I’m ready to get over that. Are you?