What happens when you realize a Truth about Reality which no one else in in the world seems to realize? For me the answer plays out in the wonderfully comical and deeply philosophical movie “Groundhog Day” which was directed by Harold Ramis starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. For those who have never seen this hilarious yet deep and meaningful film, I will first introduce you to the plot summary through the eyes of Wikipedia:

“Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.” (Warning: Spoilers Follow).

Analysis of a Lone Sheep:

What exactly does Bill Murray’s character “Phil Connors” begin to realize after he wakes up in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day morning after morning? Simply put, history repeats itself.

 (Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by AdelaideUnderground on Mar  1, 2011)

You may ask, “But doesn’t everyone and their mother already know that history repeats itself?”

What’s so special about a realization which seems to have a long history of its own? One way or another, most of us are quite familiar with George Santayana‘s famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (The Life of Reason – Reason in Common Sense). This was a quote I was introduced to long ago as one of my first lessons in my first history class in grade school. Subsequently, I heard this quote repeated time and again from teachers far and wide presiding over classes of every subject far and wide.

What I hear in that quote:

“Know the past and you can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.”

Why? Because apparently it’s not history which repeats itself, but people.

Groundhog Day 2012

Clearly, even when we seem to know the history of past events, we continue to repeat the same mistakes. In fact, we continue to repeat everything from traditions to beliefs to mistakes and even ways to successes.

Phil’s Realization:

What Phil Connors realizes is not the tip of the iceburg, but the true meaning and depth of the fact that history repeats itself. To his utter horror, what Phil realizes is that everyone is actually living the same exact day over and over again, yet no one seems to recognize it as the same day! In fact, people whole heartedly believe that every morning they are arriving at a new day, a new beginning, a fresh start. Phil is repeating the same day, but aren’t all the people of Punxsutawney also repeating the same day?

So what happens when a person suddenly realizes that he is condemned to repeat the same day for what may be the rest of his life?

Fear:

First there is fear. When one is confronted with a reality which is utterly different from his assumed reality, one must face the unknown. Ironically, Phil Connors finds himself in the position of facing the unknown parameters of living in a known reality. That is, like most of us, what is “known” to Phil is that the future is “unknown,” and in this ‘knowing’ or belief Phil finds security. But when Phil realizes that his future is actually his past, known from top to bottom and repeating in every detail, he suddenly comes face to face with a reality he is not prepared to accept. That is, his life is no longer unknown but shall repeat itself – this is a reality that Phil is unprepared for, it is an “unknown” and what men don’t know men tend to fear and hate.

(Courtesy:You Tube – Uploaded by d4ysleeper on Feb 15, 2008)

Dejection and Crude Survival:

After Phil’s initial shock wears off so too does his fear. He realizes that if it’s his fate to re-live the same day knowingly, then he’ll have to survive by finding a way out of his suffering. What Wikipedia describes as Phil’s indulgement “in hedonism” I call the Survival Instinct or more accurately, the Death Instinct – the mind’s unintuitive drive towards the cliff’s edge – aka, escape! In Phil’s case (unlike the people of Punxsutawney – and perhaps the world), Phil’s problem is not simply that he is stuck in his past and repeating his future. His real problem is that he, unlike the others, is conscious of his imprisonment in that mechanical world.

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by d4ysleeper on Feb 15, 2008)

Phil must now learn to survive in this painfully recurring world fighting against the onslaught of his mental anguish by finding a reason to live. Typically, meaning seems to arise as a by product of the basic urge for power or pleasure. Yes, Phil indulges in hedonism as well as abuse of power, taking advantage of his ‘knowledge’ and the people of Punxsutawney in a feeble attempt at survival, a crude escape from the drudgery of his external reality. But in Phil’s case, the man is conscious of his predicament, his prison. Can a conscious man continue to escape a reality which he so clearly recognizes as inescapable?

At the same time, Phil begins to have genuine feelings towards his coworker Rita (played by MacDowell), but when he fails at all his superficial attempts to romance her and all other pleasures and abuses have failed to satisfy his drive to survive, he begins to feel the heavy burden of…

Despair:

What is despair? I suppose it’s the feeling or thought that living has become a useless endeavor too painfully meaningless to continue.

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by waderandolph on Apr 22, 2010)

In a final act of desperation, Phil decides to take the route of ultimate escape in the form of suicide after suicide after suicide only to find himself waking up each morning unharmed, once again in Punksatwaney on February 2nd, 1992.

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by xezene1 on Feb 13, 2012)

Acceptance:

Finding no way “out”, Phil decides to confide in Rita by telling her about his unbelievable and unbearable predicament. In return, Rita plants a seed, a suggestion which never seemed to occur to Phil until that very moment. Phil has been given the gift of TIME (No Time). Why not use this infinite day to learn, to grow, and to help himself and others? This suggestion seems to open Phil’s eyes as he realizes that what is happening around him is limited in its content, but what he actually has at his fingertips is INFINITE TIME. Yes, Phil suddenly realizes the potential inherant in his situation, and that there actually IS ONE WAY OUT and the route is from with-IN…ACCEPTANCE.

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by krallski2913 on Feb  2, 2011)

Refined Survival:

It’s said that “In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King” (H.G. WellsThe Country of the Blind). What happens when the one-eyed man in the country of the blind suddenly opens up both his eyes? Can a man become his own King, his own Master, finding a true Will?

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by d4ysleeper on Apr 29, 2008)

As Phil begins his new view of the same old day with both eyes open, he finds that his mind is also now open to genuinely discovering the people of the town, Rita, and most importantly, himself. Phil’s heart also seems to open up as he finds new ways of looking at the old, discovering that perceptions of drudgery and ease are not a matter of circumstance but a matter of approach.

Still, Phil is reminded of his limitations when he decides to help a homeless man who is destined to die at the end of February 2nd, 1992. No matter what Phil does he can’t seem to change the fate of the homeless man. Despite his sadness, this event works to deepen Phil’s understanding of what Life really IS. He begins to see that the past and future are meaningless in a world which is actually Timeless. What matters is what we do with NOW. Now is all there IS.

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by Anonushka on Mar  4, 2011)

My Realization

Human beings repeat the mistakes and missteps of history not because they don’t recall what happened in the past, but because they do recall.

If remembering has not stopped us from making the same mistakes, then why don’t we try forgetting (which is not to be mistaken for repressing).

Who has the potential to choose the path of his own being? Who has the potential to awaken to a reality with both eyes opened? Is it the man who is blissfully unaware of his imprisonment or the man who suffers consciously? Who is the man who has more potential to see the Light – the blind man, or the man with one eye open?

Phil Connors wakes up one day to find that he is not the master of his own fate. Unprepared to face and suffer his new reality, Phil fights against the fact of his helplessness. Still his helplessness remains a fact. Fear, survival, despair… can any thing relieve a man who is conscious of the horror of his situation? What Phil Conners finally realizes is that there is no escaping what IS. In accepting his helplessness Phil became helpless no more.

Emptying his mind of all beliefs about what life ‘should be’, Phil Connors finally opens his heart and mind and realizes what Life IS:

(Courtesy: You Tube – Uploaded by RyanCRichards on Feb  2, 2012)

Share: