Surviving Groundhog Day

ghogpicby Glenn Fairman   2/2/14
There are manifold mysteries that permeate the very air we breathe, so why should I be skeptical about a rodent who can forecast the rate of climate change? And if a humble mammal can soften the psychic blows from this frigid Polar Vortex, then perhaps it can also pick a Super Bowl winner or free America from the iron rule of those parasitic Progressive villains which harry us like Harpies. For indeed, in the year 2014 of the Common Era, apparently anything that can be conjured up by an “emancipated mind” is thought possible.

Nevertheless, it is not an oversized rat that I am concerned with today, but with the Bill Murray film that takes this day’s name. As an aesthetic piece it is damn near perfect; and it is quite easily one of the finest romantic comedies ever made, if not Bill’s finest work. It concerns a day that plays over and over in loop-like fashion, and how one empty and conceited man finds peace after a long series of torturous mishaps surrounding the day of February 2nd. If you have seen it, you will most likely see it again. And if you have not, you must.

The despair that life’s cycle of the mundane bequeaths us is ultimately devastating to joy, and such monotony brings with it the feeling that we are impotent against that fatalistic script prepared for us by the heavens. So often, men believe that their free will is but a charade, even if in reality our self-made prisons are constructed choice by choice until they encompass us like iron bars on a cold bleak winter morning. But Determinism is a myth that we half believe and half struggle against — so often we want something more, but are too frightened or weary to reach out for it. It is via this stilted frame of mind that we construct that self-fulfilling prophecy of besieged helplessness – a prophecy that renders us powerless against our most formidable enemy: ourselves.

Friedrich Nietzsche, no flighty will-o-the wisp thinker, once posited near the end of his life a most “Un-Nietzschean” idea. He called this mystery “The Eternal Recurrence,” and held that each of us were either blessed or doomed to live his life over and over. This being so, it is best to live that life to its fullest and noblest, since eternal joy or misery were the pay-offs that a temporal life of virtue or viciousness would yield. How a philosopher, who was consumed with the Death of God, came up with this out of character vision of the world’s mechanics is beyond my pay grade; yet there is a certain good horse-sense it what he was perhaps pointing to.

In the film, Phil Connors’ (Bill Murray) eternally recurring day is met first with curiosity, then self-interest, and eventually despair. After having lived a multiplicity of Groundhog Days as a kind of “god” who manipulates others by his own superior foreknowledge, he soon realizes that he is trapped in that cycle of recurrence – and the weight of that ponderous chain will cause him to commit suicide over and over with surprisingly comedic results. One cannot forget Phil and the kidnapped groundhog careening down the highway with Bill’s admonition to his captive being “Don’t drive angry! But alas, every horrid electrocution, fiery immolation, or nasty fall is met with the clock turning to 0600 and the strains of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got you Babe.” At the apex of his despair, the Reporter Phil stares into the camera and lets loose this troubling prediction to the world:

You want a prediction about the weather, you’re asking the wrong Phil. I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.

It is only when Phil abandons his own self-centered haughtiness and learns to not only take hold the reins of his life, but begins living to serve others that he finds meaning in his existence. In forsaking his old reactive vision of life, he instead begins a course of self-improvement and opens up to the people he had once treated as opaque objects. In short, Phil learns the vital lesson of how to love and care for others; and it is in this profound realization that he escapes his solipsistic hell, and in the bargain wins the love of his life.

Phil Connors’ character is perhaps a metaphor for the way any consumptive and narcissistic-tinged people conduct their meager lives. We long for love, yet we are not loving. We yearn for the new and novel, but we are afraid of making those changes that allow us to grow and experience that novelty. Above all, we chase our entire lives for a happiness that is merely illusory, and if we should happen to somehow attain that Golden Egg, we find that it too ultimately proves to be as rotten and unsatisfying as any endeavor soaked in the acid of ego is. It is in putting other’s first that we begin opening our eyes to the richness of life. And ultimately, it is with the illumination of His Divine Spirit that this knowledge and perspective comes to us – either in an epiphany or by gradation. But this wisdom is always hard-won.

If a moral is to be had here, could it not be that our lives are cold, barren, grey and empty until we open ourselves to the experience of love: not that needy emotion-laden fiction that is eternally waiting on the receiving line to be filled and stroked, but that purest of forms that is occupied in one’s duty towards others and animated by that desire to serve rather than to be served. For those whom love has seemingly eluded, perhaps this is the key: we earn the love of others by being loveable. It is only through the realization of this sublime wisdom that we can find that elusive contentment: that magic that turns a frigid winter into such a beautiful spring.
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at • (926 views)

Glenn Fairman

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One Response to Surviving Groundhog Day

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The message that I took from this film is that despite the fact that we are all ignorant, slow learning, self-centered, blind men groping in the darkness, if we are given enough time we will finally get it right.

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