Well, Groundhog Day has come and gone, and unless you’ve seen the movie by the same name, it can seem like an insignificant day to comment on, any way you look at it, what with spring showing up when it will, shadow or not, and calendar date notwithstanding.
But to those of us who have seen the movie, perhaps even every year since it was made (I’ll never tell), we can’t help seeing the very deep and significant message therein. And although it is only a movie, and the result of someone’s creative imagination, it is both thought-provoking and inspirational, as well as reflective of real life
Real life, you say? Well, yes, if you view the movie with “real” life in mind. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: We never have time to do it right the first time, yet we somehow always have time to do it over.
I’ve found that rather true in many ways in ordinary life. People are in a rush to park their car because they’re in a big hurry; then, they realize they did a really poor job of parking and are forced to re-do it if they don’t want to get a ticket, or block somebody in. Or people who are hurrying to, say, finish making that dress for the party, or that cake for company coming over that night have the horrible awareness that they got something terribly wrong and had to start over. Or consider any project at the office, or any paperwork in general, from trying to fill out a form that has to be perfect, to writing up a report or an article to meet a deadline, to doing anything that has to be done right away… who hasn’t been there? We rush because we have so little time, then have to do it over because of that very rush, which caused us to foul it up in some way.
So Groundhog Day the movie is the odyssey of one man’s adventure on the road to finding out the whys and wherefores of “doing it right the first time,” and learning all about doing it right as we go along. Would that we all could see the actual results or outcomes of whatever it was we did — maybe from the things we said, as well as the things we did, or even didn’tdo — and have the luxury of getting the next day in which to do it over right — or at least better, until we can learn to do it right the first time.
I’m thinking that since so many of us don’t always get things right the first time, or even the second or third time, and that makes a difference in someone’s life somewhere (can you imagine all the people languishing in prison right now because either some policeman or some lawyer didn’t get things right in the details of the arrest or the defense?), that there has to be a way to eventually get all of us on track with understanding the needs of our fellow beings from their perspective, and as a result of what our actions may have done to compound their situation.
We probably can’t really understand how our being five minutes late could make any big difference in the lives of those on the waiting-for-us-to-show-up side, and yet it can. It can cause someone to miss a plane or a train, causing them to miss an appointment, or even miss being at the side of a loved one who didn’t live till their friend or family member got there. We can’t really know how our false accusation might totally destroy a person’s life, and yet it can. People believe what’s out there, and like feathers in the wind, the false rumor can never totally be gathered up and swept away. We can’t imagine how the stealing of a simple bicycle, worth maybe only $100 at the time of such theft, could possibly turn an otherwise productive and happily employed person into an unemployed, hopeless and homeless soul. The thief, of course, only thinks he (or she) is stealing a bike, and a relatively invaluable one at that. Yet to the victim, the thief has stolen his means of getting to work, which means he has stolen his job, which means he has stolen his income, which means he has stolen his ability to buy food and pay his rent, which means he has stolen his home and his meager comforts, which means he has stolen his dignity and his sense of self-worth and even his health, which means he has stolen his spark of life, the thing that got him up every day and kept him going and taking care of himself. Yet as the thief, all you knew was that you stole a rather inexpensive bike.
The Groundhog Day concept would fix you up fast — or maybe not so fast. But you’d get that same experience over and over; you’d relive the moment of stealing the bike AND the whole day — which would let you get to see the results of what you did in the bike owner’s life — until you could see and understand why that was not the thing to do… until you could really “get it,” and learn to do the right thing at the time.
But since the Groundhog Day movie concept probably is not real on this earth (although ostensibly we wouldn’t know if others were experiencing this, since part of the reliving of the experiences in the movie depended on everyone else experiencing the day as if for the first time), I would say that there’s got to be something in place for all of us to learn the kinds of lessons Bill Murray (the one reliving the day) learned, although he learned “the hard way,” and thanks to the imagination of the script-writer.
So, let’s imagine that there is such a learning arena for one and all (since — let’s face it — none of us die perfect, having hurt no one in this life, deliberately or not) and we all DO get to learn those lessons that Bill Murray got “the hard way.” We check in to “Getting it Right 101” and take our seats. Some are asked to move up closer to the front of the room, since they need a little more “hands on” help. Some are asked to help the teachers assist with the teaching, since they more or less already “got it”while on earth. Then, the lessons begin! Students are moaning and groaning, since they can’t believe that they were anything but right (in their own mind; their limited view), until one by one they start to “get it.” “Now I see!” is heard on one side of the room, while “I can’t believe I did that!” is heard on the other. Pretty soon, everyone is seeing each other through truly opened eyes, and understanding prevails.
I personally don’t know how any of us can go forward in our fixed, set viewpoints of “anything goes as long as I get mine” — or “I’m obviously right, so you must be wrong” attitudes — since we really can’t know the mess we might have left in our wake from acting in a way that is less than an acceptable way for the particular circumstances without being so educated to what we did wrong.
Once we can KNOW why what we did — or didn’t do — is not right (not according to all those who would love to judge us and find fault, but according to “rightness” itself), we’ll be, in essence, self-correcting and ready to move on. But until then…
We’ll do it until we get it right.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her firstname.lastname@example.org.