Today is Groundhog Day, and apparently Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, portending six more weeks of winter. I don’t feel qualified to comment on that, since it has been 80 degrees this week here in Austin. However, I do have some thoughts related to the movie of the same name. I passed on this movie when it was initially released, and only recently saw it on television.
Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, is a 1993 movie about a reporter who reluctantly travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual festivities. During the visit, the reporter somehow becomes stuck in time, awakening each morning doomed to repeat Groundhog Day over and over. The events of each day are essentially the same, subject only to minimal modifications in response to actions taken by Murray’s character. The townspeople and his crew are not aware of the cycle; only Murray dreads each morning.
At first, the reporter is confused and overwhelmed, trying to make sense of the situation. Then his inborn cynicism surfaces, and he takes advantage of the people around him and the fact they will not remember any of his bad actions. He is drawn to Rita, a member of his crew, but she distrusts him and resists his advances. He becomes increasingly angry and then depressed, and he even commits suicide. But the next morning, he hears his alarm, and the cycle continues.
Eventually, he gives up. He stops fighting the situation and decides to use his time productively. He makes friends with the townspeople, learns to play the piano, speak French, and carve ice sculpture. Knowing exactly what problems the townspeople will face, he begins to help them. He starts having fun. Once he has completely surrendered, Rita sees his positive qualities and spends the night with him. The spell is broken.
The movie never explains why Murray’s character got stuck, and it really doesn’t matter. Murray is Everyman and Everywoman. Faced with challenging circumstances, we instinctively resist and struggle. We get angry, and we try to manipulate the world around us. When that doesn’t work, we sometimes fall into despair.
But only one response really creates the change we desire. That response is to surrender to what is, to be of service, and to decide to experience the most joy possible in every moment. What we resist persists, but what we release can float away from us. Surrender, service, and living in joy remove us from the power struggle with what is, and releases the energy that creates space for what we really want to come into our lives.