On My Mind: Groundhog Days

Apr 21, 2020

We watched “Groundhog Day” over the weekend because we were in the mood for a comedy. But as we watched it, it felt more like a documentary.

You probably know that the movie is about a TV weatherman played by Bill Murray who comes to realize he’s living the same day over and over again. The alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m., Sonny and Cher are singing “I Got You Babe,” and he looks out the window to see everybody headed downtown to find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. Day after day after day.

Maybe the idea of life on a loop seems familiar right about now.

In our house, the loop feels like the cat waking us up at 4:30 in the morning, followed by coffee and cereal, followed by a series of Zoom meetings, followed by zonking out in front of the TV watching “The Great British Bake Off.” Every day I hear the same Carolina wren hollering cheater-cheater-cheater. Every day I see the same giant Great Dane walking by the house.

It’s not a bad loop. Most of it is pleasant. But I’m starting to hear Sonny and Cher in the back of my head when I get up every morning.

You might have also heard that a lot of people have found meaning in “Groundhog Day” well beyond the typical movie comedy. Phil Connors, the character Bill Murray plays, starts off as a self-centered jerk. Once he realizes he’s stuck in a time loop, he spends the first part of it indulging himself in petty crime and all the donuts he can eat. Then he goes into a phase of depression, killing himself in ever more elaborate ways, but that doesn’t break the loop either. Only when he falls in love with Andie MacDowell’s character, Rita, and sets out to be a better man, does he finally reset the clock. (I would’ve said “spoiler alert” there, but the movie did come out in 1993.)

Philosophers and theologians have watched “Groundhog Day” and seen it as a Buddhist story of reincarnation, or a Christian story of purgatory. There’s even an interpretation that sees Punxsutawney Phil as Jesus. Your mileage may vary on that one.

To me, it’s a simpler story, and one that makes sense for these virus days. Act like you care about others. Tell the people you love that you love them. See the world as something bigger than yourself.

The days might seem the same right now. But how they actually play out is mostly up to us. The way to get to tomorrow is to live today well. 

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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