Tuesday, October 15, 2013

basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts

Well, it's Groundhog Day... again. Actually, and weirdly, the movie hasn't gotten old just yet. Watching it on DVD the past week, because I've been away from my apartment, has allowed me to notice a few new things (e.g. black people) and figure out some old stuff (e.g. locations). My current schedule, with the added classload of grad school (as opposed to the freedom of summer break), coaching forensics, and staying with my kids at my wife's place while she's away, has pushed my viewing time into the late night. But, I kinda figured that might happen just because of school, hence the 6am rule.

(And that rule makes total sense for this movie anyway.)

And, it's nice having something relatively consistent in my schedule day-to-day. Plus, I have an excuse to share stuff like this bit from the Dalai Lama today on Facebook:

Mentally, physically and emotionally we are the same. We each have the potential to good and bad and to be overcome by disturbing emotions such as anger, fear, hatred, suspicion and greed. These emotions can be the cause of many problems. On the other hand if you cultivate loving kindness, compassion and concern for others, there will be no room for anger, hatred and jealousy.

And, if you don't immediately see the connection, I've just to point out how that right there is the kind of lesson Phil learns in the time loop. At the beginning of the film, he wants nothing to do with the locals. But, he shares much of the same human characteristics with them, just like we do. And, he learns to put aside the more negative aspects of his being to make room for the positive, like we ought to.

By the way, I found that poem I was looking for last week. It's called "Late Hours" and it's by Lisel Mueller. It goes as follows:

On summer nights the world
moves within earshot
on the interstate with its swish
and growl, an occasional siren
that sends chills through us.
Sometimes, on clear, still nights,
voices float into our bedroom,
lunar and fragmented,
as if the sky had let them go
long before our birth.

In winter we close the windows
and read Chekhov,
nearly weeping for his world.

What luxury, to be so happy
that we can grieve
over imaginary lives.

It's the Chekhov line that initially connected it in my head to Groundhog Day but it's that last bit that really resonates. As difficult as my life might be sometimes, like a conversation with my not-yet-ex-wife tonight, I am blessed with a life far better than many, with great opportunities in it. I have three beautiful children, a good gig as a grad student and with all my part time jobs, teaching, coaching, and whatnot. And, I have the luxury of being able to watch this one movie every day, to use to explore ideas shallow and deep alike. I can be happy for or grieve for the life of Phil Connors. I don't struggle daily for food or shelter, though there have been moments when I was low on money--don't get me wrong.

Hell, I have the luxury to worry if using the word "blessed" in the preceding paragraph was the right way to go, because it implies a blessing and blessings come from somewhere and I don't think of things like that. I benefit from my placement in time and space, from how my family got to California so that, after my six older sisters, I could be born when and where I was, to grow up in the United States at the end of the Cold War... which certainly had its bad side, but mostly meant I was well provided for, and there was always family around. Lately--i.e. this past week, staying with my kids at their place--I've lamented living alone. I like just sitting on the couch watching an old show on Netflix with my kids. And, I wonder if Phil, outside his depressed period, just hung out with all those old people at the bed and breakfast and had a good time with good company. I hope he did.

And, we should all take the time to just sit around with people we like and who like us sometimes. Not all the time, because sometimes you must be alone and sometimes you must be with strangers or even people you don't particularly like. But, life doesn't need to be moving all the time, getting things done, sticking to a complicated schedule and overloading one's day. The quieter moments are some of the best. But, the noisier ones are pretty nice as well.

I don't have all the answers. And, neither does Phil Connors. But, if I could somehow give everyone the luxury of just sitting around watching an old show or an old movie, I would.

My daughter thinks I give people the benefit of the doubt too much. I vacillate between cynicism and optimism, and I consciously try for the latter. So, yeah, I like to think people will make the right choices... at least eventually. And, in the meantime, I hope their lives are not too difficult, that they are worth living.

Mine is. Worth living, that is. There are changes I would make if I had more control over things, but all-in-all, my life is pretty good. And, exploring all the angles of Groundhog Day is still a wonderful part of it.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to find the answers, if they exist. To avoid the questions, if they don't.

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