Finding Meaning

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Love That Transforms

By Skip Hellewell

This is the 52nd “Finding Meaning” column. It’s been a year. The first column, like this one, followed Groundhog Day. It was a cue to that transcendent movie, “Groundhog Day,” featuring Bill Murray and the delectable Andie McDowell. A year ago, I wrote: “You’ll recall that Murray played an arrogant TV weatherman sent, against his wishes, to report the event from tiny Punxsutawney, PA. In his dark and vile mood, Murray’s character ruined the day for all and he was doomed by the gods to remain in that day. It was as though one day was such a precious gift, that Murray would have to repeat it over and over until he got it right.”

I found the idea compelling—rehearsing one day until you had it perfect. Aren’t we hard-wired for self-improvement? It’s unclear how many times that one day was repeated, but it was long enough to become an excellent piano player, a skilled ice sculptor, and fluent in French. The philosopher Immanuel Kant thought meaning and transcendence lay in our duty to develop our gifts and improve the world. Murray’s character did this. He learned the daily cycle of the town, memorizing the moments of need. He caught the boy falling from the tree, saved the man choking on his steak, and fed the homeless man who might have died that night.

There was unexpected feeling as he made his report on the day, quoting Chekhov on a winter “bleak and dark and bereft of hope,” then closing with, “standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.” You had to love the moment when he showed McDowell his ice carving of her; it was beautiful and she was both surprised and moved. But the part when he played piano in the band and the town was dancing with uncommon joy—that was pretty good, too. Finally, though he doesn’t know whether he’ll ever escape the day, he tells McDowell he has found happiness because he loves her.

Speaking of love, last Saturday, on Groundhog Day, the Beautiful Wife and I drove to Oxnard to attend a wedding. The wedding ceremony was moving. A great-grandmother who couldn’t attend sent a note: “Life is a puzzle; solve it together.” The audience sighed. The bride and groom read vows they had composed, promising love and devotion. The audience sighed again.  Love was the reason for their marriage. The timing was dictated by one of the guests—six-month-old Bentley. His arrival transformed two kids enjoying a carefree life together. Now they had a purpose—to do right by Bentley. They started by formalizing their relationship with the wedding we attended. Now they begin the work of solving the puzzle of life, together. Kant would have nodded in quiet approval.

As we drove home in the rain I thought of our own long-ago wedding. The night before, the BW was unsure I would show up. I did. Marrying her was the best thing I ever did. It’s made us both better people. If you raise some good kids, you’ve improved the world. Rearing a family, learning to love, solving the puzzle of life together—it’s all transformative. Kant was right. Next Thursday is Valentine’s Day. Just wanted to call that to your attention. There’s meaning in love.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email [email protected].


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



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  1. Laguna Beach is a better place because of Skip and his column. He inspires us all to be better people and find meaning along the way.


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