Thursday, October 1, 2009

What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today.

Like most people, I usually watch movies and television shows I've already seen because I want to recapture some of what I felt the first (or 42nd) time I watched them; and I'm sure there was some of that when I decided to sit down to Groundhog Day last night for the god-knows-how-many'th time. But I read somewhere that - and I didn't bother to check on the veracity of this - the French view this film as a cinematic masterpiece of deep psychological meaning.

I always just thought it was funny.

Bill Murray was in great form, and everyone else in the cast (mostly delivering the same scene over and over again) did a wonderful job. Even Andie MacDowell.

I have friends who can't stand the movie because of the repetition; but I just think they're focusing on the wrong part of the film. It got 96% at Rotten Tomatoes. The movies I enjoy hardly ever get over 40% (and before you ask, no - it's not my intention to compare Pandorum or Blankman or even Lebowski to Groundhog Day - I know they're apples and coconuts). Pandorum got 32%, I enjoyed the hell out of that one. Inglorious Basterds only got 88% and that was a hell of a fun flick (did you know there was an Inglorious BastArds made in 1977? Me either). The Big Lebowski only got 78%? And Blankman with a paltry 13% (okay, yeah - I can see that).


An amazing delivery.

So I decided to try to watch the movie again with my brain switched on for a change. It makes me apprehensive to admit that I had to make the distinction; but there you go.

Okay. Spoilers Ahead!

The biggest thing I got out of it had more to do with the sameness of our (and by our I mean you and me and people in the western world in general) day-to-day grind. Phil Connor (Murray) doesn't have to be experiencing some magical time-loop - or, at least we don't. He could just be waking up to the banality of the daily grind. It's funnier in the movie - and easier to explain, strangely enough - to throw in the magic; but we all go through what Phil had to go through (to some degree) every day. Our minds are just really good at deleting the repetitive crap so we don't steal the groundhog and try to drive a truck into the ravine.

That deletion-machine aspect of our brains keeps us sane; but it's one of the reasons time seems to "speed up" the older we get. When time feels like it's getting away from us, when the month's already almost over (never mind the month, where's the Year gone?), no matter the lies we tell ourselves, we just aren't doing enough that's new and different every day. There's not enough going on for our minds to hold onto, so it all gets deleted and the spaces in between the good stuff seem shorter and shorter.

I used to think this was because of the relative comparison to the lengths of our lives (a year to a four year old is one quarter of his whole life; but to a 24 year old, considerably less so). I just don' t think that any longer.

When I was a kid, everything was "the first," or near enough to it that I was still working out what it was, what it meant, how it worked. It was all new and exciting and beautiful and wonderful and awesome. But as I get older, I find myself doing the same things every day.
Wake up later than I meant to, splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, go for a walk, exercise, clean-up, eat something, write (or come up with some excuse not to write), eat something else, get dressed, bike to work, change into work clothes, work, eat again, bike home, look at the internet, read a book, watch something on tv, go to bed later than I meant to. Wake up later than I meant to, splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, go for a walk, exercise, clean-up, eat... ad nauseum
Even when you throw in days off and trips out of town, they're either the same days off I had last week or the same trips I took last year, or - on those rare occasions - they're something different. Something to anchor to. Something memorable. Something that won't get deleted, maybe.

I imagine I'm not alone in this. Maybe my friends dislike the film because it feels truer than any of us would like to think?

So Phil Connors, in the movie, is given this gift, really. He gets the chance to see the rut for what it is. At first he runs wild with it (my first inclination when it occurs to me how dull and repetitive I've allowed my life to get), then he slowly succumbs to depression when he realizes he can't escape his fate, and finally stops trying to get out of the cycle and just starts living - taking an interest in the lives of the people around him, doing what he can to help those he can help (including himself) and (I imagine) comforting those he cannot.

So I feel a little bit weird right now. "You might be a redneck if an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger ever changed your life." What about Groundhog Day?

I think all these changes I've been making (and most of them for the better) have all been about getting out of this boring fucking repetitive bullshit "comfort zone" of a holding pattern my life has been in for the last decade or longer. I don't know if I have the courage to do more, though. The life I want to live is not a reasonable life. Deep inside this socially retarded cubicle monkey lurks the heart of a very unreasonable man.

Some part of me always wanted so desperately to take it to heart when my teachers told me to "seize the day," when my Lit teacher read Leaves of Grass, when "Gather ye rosebuds" or "Collige, virgo, rosas" (Gather, girl, the roses) were explained. I wanted to scream my name from the rooftop, or over the P.A. even. I wanted to tell every beautiful girl how amazing they were, every hero how they touched me, tell my parents thanks. I wanted to live a life of meaning and culture and joy and passion. But in the end, I was afraid.

I locked that glorious monster away deep inside me. He got out every once in a while. But as time goes on, as my days begin to melt into one another he grows smaller, weaker. The bars of his cage are almost too strong for him now.

I don't have the luxury of knowing that no one will remember what an ass I make of myself today if I try something new and fall on my face. But I do know that tomorrow is just going to be another today. Same shit on the radio, same people speaking the same meaningless garbage day-in-day-out.

Fuck it. I'm tired of screwing around here - killing myself every day with this trivial horse shit. I'm not ready, yet to just quite my job and blindly chase my passions without a plan; but the only way I'm going to get anything out of this same stupid day that keeps repeating itself over and over and over again is to do something with it.

I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I'm tired of wishing I'd said or done or even tried something. I'm tired of getting by; and I'm fucking tired of keeping this beautiful bastard locked up inside me.

Also,

I think I'm going to get into a lot of trouble.

2 comments:

John said...

Rock and Roll, dude! You *are* a fucking anteater! Go eat some ants!

David said...

Fuckin' A.

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