Remember “Ground Hog Day?” It is a movie that I liked quite a bit starring Bill Murray. Murray is a weather man assigned to visit Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to observe the emergence of Phil the groundhog. Murray found the whole ceremony silly and was bored and cynical about it. What makes the movie a nightmare is that some mysterious power has cursed him to repeat this same day over and over, endlessly. He wakes up to “I’ve Got You Babe” on the radio every morning. Hell could hardly be much worse. Watching Murray cope with this is amusing but I thought, what would I do?
Recently I saw the movie again so I carefully watched what Murray did using a cosmic instead of a comic perspective.
Initially, he did every selfish thing he could imagine. He ate recklessly, seduced a variety of women, stole huge sums of cash and drove expensive sports cars. (He would remember everything that happened in each repetition of the day but his victims would not. This was a significant advantage.) I call this the “Invisible Man” dream. If I were an invisible man and could do what I pleased without consequence, what would I do? Honestly, I don’t want to know and I am glad not to be invisible. I am certain I would be ashamed of myself at some point.
Selfishness is like a long string laid out on the ground. If followed long enough, one will reach the end of it (well not so for everyone. Some of us have a VERY long string.) Murray reaches the end of his after an unknown number of days of self serving behavior. He becomes depressed and tries to kill himself. Every morning, after driving off a cliff or hanging himself or some such thing, he wakes up yet again to “I’ve Got You Babe.” It’s got him and he can’t escape. This is true, of course. No one who takes their own life has truly ended it. Also true is that repeated selfish behavior leads to depression.
Finally Murray starts to spend his day serving others and caring for them. He buys a load of different insurance products from an obnoxious salesman and thus blesses then man, catches a kid who falls out of a tree (over and over), learns to play the piano and entertains the town, etc. Most of it is characterized by the unselfish approach with which he faces his life that has no future. Eventually Murray is released from this curse after his caring, giving, serving self wins the heart of the girl he loves. Sweet ending and good wishes for all.
It seems to me that the secret to life is contained in this movie. We worry a great deal about a future that will not arrive. Our life today is tormented by selfish decisions and immediate problems. What if we could focus on selfless living as our primary purpose for today? “Today, I am going to think less about me and more about you.” In “Groundhog Day,” this had a marvelous effect. Will it do the same in the real world?
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.