Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Groundhog Day - Your Existential New Year

Ever since the 1993 film from Harold Ramis and Bill Murray, the term "Groundhog Day" has become synonymous with mundane repetition and mindless boring redundancy in our daily lives and jobs, but the film was never really about that. Instead, the message of the movie and the life of weatherman Phil Connor is about rebirth and the chance every day to make our seemingly boring repetitive lives whatever we want them to be. I've written about this idea several times, most recently on my blog post from 2019:

The film Groundhog Day is actually a wonderful primer for the wisdom of existentialism, and when I taught the philosophy in my college literature class, I would often lead or conclude with a viewing of Bill Murray’s brilliant portrayal of a man trying to bring some sense of meaning to a life that seems nothing short of absurd. Clearly, the idea of living the same day over and over again in an unfulfilling, dull, mundane place and repeating the seemingly mindless tasks of a pointless job is portrayed as a curse and a cruel joke, and that realization is at the heart of existentialism. Life makes no sense. Phil spends many years in disgruntled fashion viewing his life as exactly that, a cruel meaningless joke of an existence. However, the movie shifts when Phil considers his situation as an opportunity and a second chance at reinvention with the opportunity to get it right.

And in this essay I wrote for Medium:

Groundhog Day is a film with a message — each of us will wake up again and again to the same existence that at times seems pointless. The only point is that you have the rest of your life to make it exactly what you want it to be. Bringing meaning to our daily lives was a focus of the numerous American writers like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose poem “A Psalm of Life” advised us that “neither joy, and not sorrow is our destined end or way, but to act that each tomorrow find us further than today.” The point is progress; the goal is getting better. What F. Scott Fitzgerald called Gatsby’s “Platonic conception of himself” was simply the eternal quest for the ideal, for striving to become our own best selves. Life is an endlessly repeating opportunity to improve. In Bill Murray’s role as Phil Connor, we can find a second chance at New Year’s resolutions and an opportunity to, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “live the life you have imagined.”

Thus, rather than a sad story about emptiness, the film and the day is a great chance to re-think and embrace the rich potential of our lives every day we live. Think about it. And perhaps even considering watching the film every year to brighten and warm up the dark days of winter.

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