Groundhog’s Day


In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray, as Phil, a self-centered weatherman, asks two local barflies, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?” One of them replies, “That about sums it up for me.” The point of the film is that this about sums it up for most of us, depending on how we look at our life. In many ways our lives are endlessly repetitive, and it can seem as though few of our efforts to improve the world, and ourselves, have much impact.

Every morning when Phil wakes up, it is Groundhog Day. Stuck in an endlessly repeating cycle, he answers his question above in various humorous ways as he responds to his situation. As time goes by he tries different strategies, such as, in turn, seeking pleasure, getting money, taking risks, expressing defiance, looking for help, even repeatedly committing suicide. But nothing changes, nothing seems to help, and his depression and despair only increase. Eventually, however, he becomes accustomed to the stability of his existence and uses it as a tool for self-improvement. Motivated by his love for Rita (Andie MacDowell), he tries to become someone that she can love.

The awareness of his environment, enhanced by repeated exposure, leads him to find more and more happiness in doing positive things. Gradually this changes his views about what matters in life. The story is about regeneration, and it is a predictable love story. Phil’s interest in Rita changes and matures as he changes as a person in his efforts to win her. The changes are all about what really matters in life, and it makes for a very affecting story. The film is not untouched by contemporary morality, but the message is one that is beautifully consistent with what we believe.

February is often seen as our least favorite time of year, when life can seem repetitive and monochromatic, and spring impossibly far away. The things that really matter, however, are not about the time of year but about the myriad ways that we are learning to be of service. The thoughts and actions of our day-to-day existence are the very things that offer the opportunity to move forward. They do matter. Today may seem pretty much like yesterday, but we are not really stuck in an unchanging world. Life is about service, and attitudes and actions that are in line with this fact bring with them love and satisfaction, and the ability to move ahead to the next day.