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Stuck in Groundhog Day?

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If they had a fan club for the epic comedy, “Ground Hog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, I’d be a card-carrying member. As much as I love Murray in his role as “Bob Wiley,” in “What about Bob?” he is at his best, in my opinion, in “Ground Hog Day.”
I revisit that movie, even if I don’t watch it in its entirety, each Ground Hog’s Day, which falls on Feb. 2, this year.
Why?
Because I find myself in that movie.
You are there, too.
And I need to be reminded of that, at least once a year.
Allow me to revisit the plot.
Weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), of Channel 9, Pittsburgh, is reporting, one freezing February, from the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. His assignment, which he obviously distains, is to cover the Groundhog Festival in that fair city. The self-centered and boorish Phil, along with the rest of the crew, including the producer, Rita (MacDowell), gets caught in a huge snowstorm. Socked-in for the night, the surly Phil signs off and crashes. He wakes up the next morning to the same day, Groundhog Day. Thinking he’s had a bad dream, he goes back to bed and awakes to the same day, Groundhog Day, again, and again, and again, and again.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens to Phil; if you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil it for you. (I suppose you can still see the 1993 film on Netflix or another online source.)
My point here is that most of us have lived the same day, more often than we would care to admit, day in and day out, and not even recognized it.
We get trapped in a Ground Hog Day time warp. Zombie-like, we meander through each day, week after week, year after year, letting life slither through our fingers like sand, with no awareness of its significance and meaning.
In his book, “Wake Up! Escaping a Life on Autopilot,” Chris Barz-Brown maintains that over 80 percent of our waking time is spent on autopilot. We all know the feeling of driving a long distance and arriving at our destination with little memory of the journey. This doesn’t just happen when we drive, Barz-Brown tells us. It happens every day, when we are at work, with our loved ones, or simply living our lives.
We can travel through life on autopilot, missing precious moments, the uneventful stuff that makes life worth the living.
It’s Groundhog Day.
Maybe living life on autopilot is a way of anesthetizing the pain of meaninglessness when you feel hopelessly stuck in life.
Phil, in the midst of his misery asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”
Maybe you have felt just like Phil.
I have, too.
No explanation is given in the film as to why Phil gets stuck in Groundhog Day; it just happens.
Just as it does with you and me.
But there is a way out, or through it.
James Parker (Atlantic Monthly, “Reliving Groundhog Day”, March 2013) quotes Groundhog Day’s screenwriter, Danny Rubin. Rubin told of people who began writing him about the movie. “The first note I remember came from a monk in Germany. He had discovered Groundhog Day as a perfect articulation of his Christian beliefs.”
I don’t know what that monk’s theology is and how Groundhog Day reflects it, but I do know something of God’s grace---a grace that comes to those who recognize their hopelessness, and who in the desperate search for life’s meaning, throw themselves upon God’s mercy and on the One who did satisfy the longing we have for rightness and acceptance before the Holy Other as well as others. It’s found in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
But that’s not how Phil found his way out of Groundhog Day.
Or is it?
I’ve got my popcorn next to me, the movie is cued up, I think I’ll sit back and watch it one more time and see.
Editor’s note: You can visit David Whitlock, Ph.D., at drdavid@davidwhitlock.org., or visit his website, davidwhitlock.org.