“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
Harold Ramis died last week. He cowrote and directed Groundhog Day, a movie high on my personal top ten list.
Groundhog Day is about a man named Phil who has lost the ability to be surprised by life. He goes to work. He eats. He sleeps. He seeks women. He is bored to his core by all of it. He is sleepwalking through his life, which he mistakenly blames on the dullness of the world rather than the numbness of his spirit.
Then one day something amazing happens to Phil, a TV weatherman. Due to some unexplained cosmic mishap he becomes trapped in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day. He is a prisoner, confined to waking up day after day in Punxsutawney on February 2. He sees the same people. They say the same things.
Same old, same old on steroids.
Although he is trapped, Phil is free to choose his words and his actions. The problem is he doesn’t have a clue what he can do or say to change his situation.
One night while sitting at a bar in a bowling alley mulling over his weird predicament Phil says to no one in particular: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and everything that you did was the same, and nothing mattered?” The barfly sitting next to him answers: “That about sums it up for me.”
Who hasn’t been discouraged occasionally by a day that seems to be dominated by dreary routines?
Groundhog Day is a brilliant comic antidote to the universal human tendency to take life for granted.
What ultimately redeems Phil, and allows him to escape the endless treadmill of February 2 and the curse of his boredom and smugness, is his discovery of the simple gifts and surprises found in learning, accomplishment and engaging with others.
Phil is saved by the gift of radical amazement, a quality of wonder we all have as children but struggle to maintain as adults, buffeted as we are by an unrelenting tide of routine and habit and worry and compelling distractions.
We need all the reminders we can get that life is precious and that the value of time is measured by the choices we make.
The magic of Groundhog Day’s gentle wake up call is that it comes wrapped in a comic fairy tale that you want to see, and be reminded, over and over again.