February 1, 2011
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” – Buddha
It’s that time of year again when we all turn inward and look to our own self-improvement. No, I’m not talking about New Year’s or Christmas; I’m talking about Groundhog Day. More specifically, I’m talking about Harold Ramis’ philosophical cinematic masterpiece “Groundhog Day.” For anyone not familiar with the film, let me summarize it briefly: Phil is a jerk. He’s a weather reporter for a Pittsburgh television station who’s on assignment in Punxsutawney to cover the groundhog on groundhog day. He gets caught in a time loop, repeating this same day over and over, seemingly forever. What does he do with eternity? At first, he uses it for selfish, frivolous things, but eventually, channels it into an opportunity to better himself.
It should be clear to anyone reading this blog why I love this movie so much. It is, essentially, a manifesto for self-betterment, renaissance learning, and the triumph of man over destiny. And with Bill Murray as the lead, it’s darn funny to boot. A quick recap of what Phil learns, when faced with the prospect of eternity: he learns to speak French and Italian (and maybe Russian, as he references Chekhov towards the end), he learns to ice sculpt, play piano, dance, and appreciate poetry. I like to think he learns quite a bit about medicine, too, based on him rushing into the old man’s hospital room asking to see the chart. I mean, why ask to see the chart if you don’t know anything about medicine (and considering the infinite time to learn, it’s not unreasonable to think he does…particularly since he helps Felix’s back troubles and performs the Heimlich). He learns everything about the people around him. Most importantly, he learns how to be a more complete human being.
Anyway, I’m writing this to do more than just praise the film, though it is truly awesome. I’d just like to point out that the key to Phil’s escaping the time loop is his self-betterment. His self-actualization and his newfound focus on engaging the world are the key to escaping the time loop, and through them, he comes to enjoy and value his life, his world, and the people in them in a way that he doesn’t at the beginning of the film. That is, it is only in living for today that he can progress to tomorrow.
As we here at primitiverenaissance all know, mindsets are great, but effectively useless without action steps. Luckily, “Groundhog Day” provides us with both. If this is all you take away from the film, or this blog, you’ll be doing alright.
“Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.”
The action (Phil says this to Rita on waking up on 2/3):
“What can I do for you today?”
Live for today. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Find and appreciate what makes each day unique, even if it isn’t easy. Never stop learning.
Feedback: If time and money were no object, what skills would you learn? What actions would you take to make the world a better place?