Saturday, November 30, 2013

then we'll talk

It continues:

"You know, my faith is one that admits some doubt." - Barack Obama

Faith cannot be faith, here, obviously, if I want to link this to Groundhog Day. So, the question then becomes, what is faith? Faith is when we believe stuff without evidence. Pre-loop Phil believes he's better than he is, that he deserves more than other people... Well, I'd actually probably argue that he doesn't really believe that, but I think he would think he believes it. Contrary to the quotation, I don't think Phil's "faith" then allows for doubt. But, the loop changes that. It breaks down his barriers, his defenses, and gives him a whole lot to doubt about who he believed he was.

But, that is cheating, because that isn't what the quotation is about. The quotation, I think, when taken on its own, suggests that faith should always admit doubts. I think this is actually a bad impromptu quotation, though, because it provides no conclusion with which to agree or disagree. One must first supply the conclusion, as I just have, then agree with that. If one didn't particularly like Obama, you could choose to interpret his doubts as weakness, whereas I think they are the opposite. And, trying to tie this to Phil Connors is almost impossible because Phil Connors has no faith. That's why Foley (2004) so readily suggests that Phil is seeking God--it's easy to assume that someone without religion wants it. And, as much as I would classify Groundhog Day as a "religious" film, I don't think it's fair to classify Phil Connors as a) a guy in search of religion or b) a guy who finds religion.

But, there I cheated again. I tell you that Foley said Phil was seeking God, but then deny Phil was seeking religion. Those two things are not one and the same. In fact, as vehemently as I once opposed Foley's notion, I think it's actually a fair assumption to suggest that Phil was looking for God when he looked up from O'Reilly's body. But, Foley...

I've had this "debate" with Foley before. Don't need to have it again. I think my position has changed slightly, in fact, because my "faith" has room for doubt as well.

"Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability." - George Bernard Shaw

This is a serious quotation about a serious topic, and on its terms, I would have to disagree. Plenty of martyrs had plenty of ability. But, the basic idea is simple enough that I immediately think of a very specific moment in Groundhog Day. Phil has just killed himself a few times and there's a scene in the morgue. Larry, who hasn't seemed to care much for Phil up to this point, tells the mortician, "He was a really great guy. I really really liked him... a lot." Larry's lying, of course. But, it makes sense that Phil's death would make Larry rethink his opinion of the guy at least enough to say he liked him... Obviously, this isn't literally becoming "famous" just becoming liked. But, you got to stretch these quotations sometimes.

"No government can be long secure without formidable opposition." - Benjamin Disraeli

This one is easy to link to Phil Connors after taking one big leap. "Government" obviously cannot be a political organization. But, I'd equate it to one's... disposition isn't the word I want. One's psyche? One's superego? What I mean to refer to is Phil's ability to control who he is. And, this quotation then suggests that who we are can never be permanent. Heraclitus would appreciate that. For Heraclitus, change is the one thing that is constant in the universe. In fact, one could extrapolate this quotation out to mean something general like that and do just about anything with it.

Anyway, who Phil thinks he is pre-loop--that guy would never expect that post-loop Phil could be the same guy. But, even with the few days we see (relative to the likely amount he actually spent in the loop), we can see Phil change believably.

"Angry men make themselves beds of nettles." - Samuel Richardson

This quotation seems to me a lot like one from yesterday--"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Men who are angry assume the world is angry and experience a world that is angry, because they limit their own means to sense the universe. Phil is not an "angry" man, but the same is true of him, that he sees the world through the blinders of who he is. He is self-centered so he cannot empathize with anyone else. Other people are barely even people to him. And all because, as he says himself, he doesn't even like himself. Broken down even more, this quotation goes with the saying, "you made your bed, now lie in it." Phil made the bed of his life and he's suffering for its shallowness.

"Television is a medium because anything well done is rare." - Fred Allen

Some silly pun work going on here. And, I think Fred Allen should not have been so quick to judge. There is plenty of well done television nowadays. That being said, given this quotation and the requirement to link it to Groundhog Day I could do a couple things:

1. Suggest that no television show has ever wrapped as much potential (for say, a long-term blog) in 1 hour 41 minutes (or just over two episodes of an hour-long drama, or four episodes of a sitcom) as Groundhog Day has. But, I love television as a medium and don't like lying in an impromptu speech. A debate round, sure, but not an impromptu.

2. Turn the quotation into something else. What is television, as Fred Allen sees it? It's frivolous entertainment. Of course none of it is well done, because none of it is trying to do anything of any import. Once I've got the quotation turned metaphorically into this much broader idea, then I can narrow it right back down to Phil Connors. Pre-loop Phil is television, wanting to entertain himself and just live in the moment, damn the consequences... which is interesting phrasing because ultimately, I think Phil learns to live in the moment, damn the consequences, depending on how you look at it, or what you think living in the moment means, or what damn the consequences means. But, anyway, Phil is the shallow medium Fred Allen sees in television. By the end of the loop, though, Phil has become more like modern television, with shows like Breaking Bad or Mad Men on the air.

"If adversity purifies men, why not nations?" - Jean Paul Richter

This is another weird impromptu quotation because, well, it's a question. Must you prove the first premise of this question in order to prove the second? Must examples prove both? I would argue that Groundhog Day is all about the first premise here; Phil's adversity may not be the normal stuff we'd call adversity, but it's still as detrimental to who he's trying to be, pre-loop. And, it certainly purifies him by first letting him run wild, then breaking him down and building him back up. Groundhog Day cannot be used to prove the second premise true, though. The wording of this question precludes simply turning Phil Connors into a symbol for all men or for nations, because it deliberately and specifically separates men from nations. So, maybe Phil Connors would be the attention getter, and then the speech would be about proving that nations act just like men, that they can be as fickle, that they can be as greedy, that they can be as good. Prove that nations can act like men and then you've got your syllogism intact: men are purified by adversity, nations are like men, so nations are purified by adversity.

"It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head." - Sally Kempton

Phil's enemy doesn't simply have outposts in his head, of course. Phil's enemy is his head. Pre-loop Phil is the enemy of post-loop Phil, holding him down, keeping him from ever existing. And, Phil has to fight himself to win. Along the way, though, he probably doesn't even realize he's fighting, or after date night, I suppose he knows he's fighting but he thinks he's losing, because he identifies with the wrong side in the battle for his psyche (or his soul). Fighting an enemy inside yourself means you have to break down your own identity, and at a certain point, attacking one's identity means the risk of losing all sense of self. It's a dangerous fight.

"In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back." - Charlie Brown

I would have to disagree with this quotation on the one hand, but agree with Charlie's understanding of what he's saying on the other hand. See, I get what Charlie's saying; a book should be something you can flip through, see what's coming, see the answers like it's a high school math book. But, the way I interpret the "book of life" concept is not so literal. And so, the answers are definitely in the back, because it is only at the tail end of life, seemingly, that we can ever really know what all of it was for. Now, I don't like what I just wrote, though, because a) it implies we cannot understand anything until it's over, but there is a spectrum of understanding and I believe we can understand a great deal long before life is over and b) it implies that there is some underlying reason for life that we need to discover. Personally, I think we create that reason, but sometimes it's difficult to explain the distinction there.

But anyway, I would have to say that the "answer" if there are any, would be at the "back" of the book of life. But, Charlie would still not have access to them because you can't just flip to the back of a metaphorical book. And, I haven't even connected this to Phil yet. Phil, I think, would agree with the idea that answers come later, that we've got to live our lives and our perspective from afterward is what explains everything. Or something like that. It is 1:39 AM as I type this. On the TV screen, Phil has just been approached by the nurse in the hospital and I think Phil is still looking for the answers. He wants O'Reilly's chart because he expects there to be something there he can fight. He wants answers because he thinks answers are... I almost wrote "answers are the answer" but that only makes sense in my head, I fear. Like Charlie Brown, Phil expects that there are objective answers, when sometimes life is simply subjective. As the nurse tells him, "sometimes people just die." Really, there's plenty of reason for a given person to die at a given time, but the "answers" don't always satisfy.

"If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail." - Ulysses S. Grant

War has to be a metaphor, here, of course. And, Phil in act three is making war on who he is. Beside the time loop, which obviously negates some rules, Phil isn't acting by the usual rules either. From offering $1000 for a piano lesson to arbitrarily deciding to save a homeless man, Phil is not living life as anyone else normally would. His "war" has no rules except those he is inventing as he goes.

And, I'm trying to be faster with my responses so as to get through the entire list of prompts. But, I will fail to do so. There are still three quotations remaining. The question I have after that last quotation is, was my "war" here adhering too much to rules for me to get all the way through the list? If so, what rules? Was it that I took on too big a task linking this particular list of quotations to Groundhog Day? Or, was it that the more I get into this blog the more I get wordy and so the "rule" was that I couldn't be succinct? I suppose we'll never know...

Or I could say it's a bit of all of those. I should look at the first day I linked Groundhog Day to 21 quotations and see how brief I was, because as I wrote most of these paragraphs these last two days they didn't seem particularly long.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to find the most succinct way to say each and every thing I need to say that day.

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