I saw the movie "Groundhog Day" from 1993 again and again, but only once on the big screen, a few years after its theatrical release. It was shown in a boardroom filled inside the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, followed by a lecture by a comparative religion scholar who made us understand the spiritual meaning and symbolism cleverly packaged in what, on its surface, is a rom-com with a "Twilight Zone" premise.
Even if you have not seen the movie, you still know the basic plot, because the term "Groundhog Day" has entered the common language – which says a lot about its resonance beyond- beyond the film itself – as a shortcut to repeat the same experience and more.
But it's interesting to see, for the first time or the 10th, see the main character – the egocentric meteorologist Phil Connors (a role that only Bill Murray could control) – breaking this cycle through a personal redemption. This is a great metaphor that some scholars consider to be Buddhist, Christian or philosophically secular. It's also directly, practically applicable to the way you spend your day today and everyday.
And what an entertaining Buddhist proselytism is the "Groundhog Day". Like a Jamba Juice sushi or shake, it is so delicious that you hardly realize you are eating raw fish and fruit. This is the reason for the persistent cult status of this metaphysical film: a truly hilarious film that gives insight into the meaning of life.
But the evidence that most invokes wisdom consists of a religious vision and a fruitful use of our precious hours.
Groundhog Day is all about karma
One of the central tenets of Buddhism is that we must continue to reincarnate until we find enlightenment. The concept, called samsara, allows us to live many lives through "various modes of existence" (called gati), modest animals and others resembling gods, determined by your actions (karma) . Once ignorance and the ego are destroyed by your actions and your consciousness, you awaken to the true interconnected reality, which frees you from the cycle and propels you into heavenly nirvana.
In the movie – written by Danny Rubin, a Zen Buddhist, according to Ramis' film DVD commentary – Phil reincarnates every day, but he also transforms his behavior with "time". He derives a selfish advantage from his unique situation – stealing bank trucks, stuffing himself with cake to heaven, thrusting a woman into bed – but ends up perfecting his day with creative self-improvement tasks and helping with compassionate others. Become the best possible version of Phil Connors, he is released from his time prison, while gaining the love of his virtuous producer, Rita.
Phil's predicament is reminiscent of a character from Greek mythology sentenced to life and perpetually pushing a rock on a mountain. In his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus", Albert Camus uses this story to illustrate the absurdity of lives that struggle with meaningless jobs. But Camus says we need to find hope, and therefore meaning, in such a difficult situation, and he imagines Sisyphus to understand him and accept him.
There is a similar Buddhist story about an enlightened monk who climbs a mountain to get a spoonful of snow to fill a well at the foot of the mountain over and over again. Some lessons take a long time and seemingly useless to learn. Buddhist monasticism is itself a "marmot" – similar to the same routine, the same clothes and the same daily rituals – for decades of practice.
Yet every moment is always different. Remember what the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: "No man crosses the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." In this sense, Phil does not repeat the same day again and again because one important element is different each day from the groundhog: him. It's the only thing that changes.
What is the time anyway? Illusory, says the Buddhist dogma, a notion contained in the Zen koan, asks Phil as he begins to understand that his own time is not progressing: "And there is no tomorrow "There was none today."
It's true, Chuck-Chuckers, there's no past or future. There is only now.
"Groundhog Day" is all about Purgatory
There is even a delightfully blasphemous scene in which Phil states that he is a God. "I'm not the My God … I do not think so, "he wonders aloud, contemplating how close he is to the Catholic conception of monotheism. Maybe it's not all-powerful. He's been here for so long that he knows everything. "After shouting, like an angry deity," I'm having good weather! "
Then there is the editing of the film with a homeless man that Phil eliminates very early, stroking the pockets of his pants like he had no money. Later, Phil tries to help several times, but finds that the man dies every time. This is the lesson of the Serenity Prayer, written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and later co-opted by Alcoholics Anonymous:
God, grant me the serenity to accept things that I can not change,
The courage to change things that I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
After accepting the fact that he can not save the old man, Phil takes an optimistic and meaningful turn in the plot and starts living in the service of others (catching a falling boy of one tree, save the mayor from choking, etc.). It is this change of course that allows him to escape Purgatory.
Groundhog day talks about hope
Whatever spiritual dish the film has for you, it's an undeniable call to hope. Phil survives his many suicide attempts – leaping from a church, tossing a toaster into the tub, chasing off a cliff – and reborn as a hopeful charitable man. Baptized by death and stronger for the other side, he told his television audience: "When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a dark, dark and hopeless winter, yet we know that winter is just one step closer to the cycle of life. "
Winter is such a great metaphor for the gloominess that precedes rebirth. "I will give you a winter forecast," the meteorologist reports in the second "hopeless" act of the film. "It's going to be cold, it's going to be gray, and it's going to last you for the rest of your life."
But in a more optimistic phase, he wakes up one happy morning and surprises a stranger with a hug and a quote from Samuel Coleridge: "Winter, asleep in the open air, carries on his smiling face a dream … of spring. " It is taken from the sonnet "Work Without Hope" which contains the famous line "Bloom for whom you can," as did Phil.
This is the journey of the classic hero. Phil is exiled in an unexpected adventure, despairs, suffers losses, but finally learns to overcome his obstacles and despair. At the end of the film, he managed to become the hero of the city for all the mitzvah he accumulated in one day.
Groundhog Day is about you today
You do not need to subscribe to Buddhism or Christianity or believe in reincarnation or heaven so that this story is directly applicable to your daily life.
"What would you do if you were stuck in the same place and each day was exactly the same, and nothing mattered to you?" Phil asks a resident of the city, Ralph, in the movie.
"It's pretty much all for me," Ralph says.
"I think people give too much importance to their careers," says Phil to Rita. "I would like us all to be able to live in the mountains, at high altitudes – it's there that I see myself in five years." "And you?" This sentiment echoes a previous role of Larry Darrell in the film, based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel, "The Razor's Edge." Darrell goes on a pilgrimage to find the illumination of Tibetan monks in the heights of the Himalayas, where he observes that it is easy to be a holy man at the top of one's life. Mountain.
The rest of us is in the valley, where it is more difficult. Every day is not so different from the last one. We are sometimes on the autopilot. We are bored. We repeat our bad habits. We are often egocentric and generally uninspired.
But something changes every day, even if it's imperceptible. That's us. And we can choose how this day will unfold and how we will evolve slowly. There could even be a resolution inspired by "Groundhog Day": memorizing French poetry, playing the piano, figuring out how to help others more often. Like Phil, we can use creativity and compassion to turn a glass-to-half-empty paradigm into a half-full glass. The pursuit of meaning is itself significant. And today, like every day, can be your first day of spring.