I am a big fan of the movie “Groundhog Day”. All the characters are believable and the cast do a very good job in bringing them to life. Every year I try to watch it on the day. Most years I celebrate the day as Candlemas or Imbolc but this year has gotten of to a hectic start and I’ve had no time to do my usual activities. The handyman should have finished repairing the wall in the bedroom but now is coming today. Appraisers came to view the house yesterday creating more interruption and putting my work further behind. The story there is one for another post.
So this year more than ever I relate to “Groundhog Day”. I find myself repeating things over and over and feeling like I am not getting anywhere. I moved everything out of the bathroom for the toilet to be replaced, them moved it back. When the parts cam for the faucet I repeated the process. I had to move all the food around when the refrigerator died. And I had to move everything out of the kitchen to the dining room so the delivery men could get the new one in.Then I had to move everything back again after it was set up. This moving around was repeated when the handyman had to break down the bedroom wall to fix the faucet and will be repeated after the wall is repaired again. There are places have to go and things I want to get done but it there have been so many people coming to the house it seems like I can’t get away.
The weather hasn’t helped either, another reason to connect things to both the day and the movie. The origin Ground Hog Day may lie in the old Celtic custom of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens. Then there is the legend of the Calleach, the mystical ancient Gaelic hag, which has it that if she wants to make the winter last longer, she will ensure the weather on Imbolc is sunny and clear so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, bad weather on Imbolc was a sign that winter was almost over. So I am keeping an eye on the weather forecast. Tomorrow naturally look out the window on rising, and then check in with Phil, the resident prognosticator of Punxatawny PA, the nemesis of Bill Murray in the namesake movie.
Regardless of the outcome in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, shadow or no shadow, I will watch the movie. People see lots of different things in this movie. Most people do see Bill Murray’s character slowly reform as he repeats each day. It is a story much like the of Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ , one of redemption. There are some significant differences, at least as I see it. Scrooge’s second chance comes from Marley, as he says “A chance of my procuring.” We don’t know who gives Phil Connors, Murray’s character, his second chance. There is no hint of a dark demise or bad consequences for Connors as there was for Scrooge.
When I first saw the movie, beyond simply enjoying it as entertainment, I saw the movie as a great demonstration of karma. It was not until long after I learned Harold Ramis, the director and co-writer became interested in Buddhism through his wife. Phil Connors time warp allows him the equivalent of many lifetimes in a single day. How long this took is a subject of much discussion apparently, as is interpretation from various religious perspectives. I think rather than debating the time it took, the focus should be on the fact that it took time. Most people have no real concept of eternity. I worked with astronomers and of all the people I’ve known, they are the only ones who really seem to grasp the both enormity of time and space and their connection.
The important fact is that Phil Connors was given time. Time to come to the realization there was a better way to interact with the world and to find contentment. Even within the limits of a movie less than two hours long we get to see progress is only made in tiny steps with each repetition. Many of Phil’s actions are futile. like the repeated suicide attempts. In the beginning many of his actions come from purely selfish motives, and these too prove , if not futile, that they are not working to free him from the loop or improve his day, his one and only day. This in spite of the fact he retains memory of past versions of his activities. Gradually we see him move to learning and kindness and generosity.
In sharp contrast to how we treat one another, whatever gave Phil Connors his opportunity gave him time to develop from it. We are impatient and want instant reform from people. We get frustrated and angry when we believe others are not being swayed to out point of view. Everything must move at high speed. This only leaves us as we find Phil Connors on the day before the time warp. Perhaps my favorite lesson from ‘Groundhog Day’ is that positive change takes time and patience is is required. We are all like Phil Connors in some way and we need to be willing to give ourselves and others what he got, time enough to change.