As lockdown orders come and go, and the pandemic grows and recedes in waves, it can feel like this crisis is never going to end. Whether you’re confined at home or still going out to work, most of us remain under some sort of restriction that has changed how we live our day-to-day lives. And for many of us, these restrictions cut us off from diverse activities and leave us living the same day over and over. We’re all in a version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day now.
But Groundhog Day is not just a movie, it's full of life lessons that can give suggestions about how to live through this crisis.
The powerful message of Groundhog Day
The tale of a man stuck in an inexplicable time loop, reliving the same day over and over until he betters himself, has inspired a wide range of followers. Buddhists, rabbis, and Jesuit priests all find echoes of their religious beliefs in the film, and psychologist Paul Hannam has written two books based on the film.
Humanity’s desire to better itself has powered many tales of retribution, but something about Groundhog Day’s mix of comedy and morality has captured the imagination. The film has become a classic with a cult following who will tell you, without irony, that the movie gets better every time you watch it.
At its heart, the film is about appreciating what you have, taking control of the things you can change, and letting go of the things you can’t. When Bill Murray’s character Phil tries to use his knowledge of the day to trick people into thinking he has changed from the shallow character he starts out as, it backfires. It’s only when he changes his own outlook and finds something in his life that makes him happy (in this case, learning piano and helping the citizens of Punxsutawney) that he finds some joy in each relived day. And of course, wins the girl.
In Groundhog Day, Phil can’t change what’s happening in the world. What he can do is take stock of his life, appreciate what’s already in it and then make sure he holds onto it. Phil finds his place when he first discovers something that fulfils him and then finds a way to spread that feeling outward by helping others, fulfilling a whole other part of himself.
Not everyone is able to take up a new hobby in lockdown and no one is getting the opportunity to be stuck in a time-loop until they become an expert pianist! But the activity isn’t the point, the point is finding something that makes you happy , so you can spread that happiness on to others.
The movie is a great cautionary tale of losing sight of what’s important in life – family, friends, love. And it’s also a nice reminder of the values that New York Life believes in. That being good at life means looking out for those you love, and that love starts with an action.
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