Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day isn’t a thing in Laguna. Who worries about six more weeks of winter when the days are warm and sunny with roses blooming? Yet, the Beautiful Wife and I have a tradition of watching that movie of the same name, “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and the delectable Andie MacDowell. We watch because it has transcendental meaning.
You’ll recall that Murray plays the character Phil Connors, an egotistical weatherman who detests the annual pilgrimage to Punxsutawney, Pa. and everything about the town. The enchanting MacDowell plays the young, innocent producer of his weather program. Connors pursues her but in a predatory way—he hasn’t matured beyond loving only himself. In Punxsutawney, Connors, by his sarcastic and condescending behavior, ruins the day for everyone.

The next morning, he finds himself repeating Groundhog Day, and this continues, living the same day over and over. He’s stuck and doesn’t know how to escape. It’s as if a day of life is so precious, that if one ruins it badly enough, that person just might be required to relive the day until he gets it right. Like a world-class musician practicing a piece over and over to achieve perfection.

Phil goes through a sequence of moods, at first incredulous, then angry, then predatory. He uses the repeating days to learn everything about MacDowell’s life for the purpose of seduction. It doesn’t work; MacDowell intuitively senses his insincerity. When, in desperation, he reveals what is happening she makes an optimistic observation: “Maybe it’s not a curse, Phil, it just depends on how you look at it.” Phil takes a fresh look.
A man can be inspired to earnest self-improvement by his love for a woman. What man hasn’t had this experience? Phil begins piano lessons. Groundhog Day includes an ice sculpture contest; Phil learns to ice sculpt. He studies the town to see how he might be of service, running from place to place as help is needed. He daily exhausts himself in the pursuit of better.

How long does this last? We don’t know, but Phil by tedious repetition slowly masters his use of a single day. In the process, he comes to love Punxsutawney and its people. Finally, it all comes together—one day lived perfectly. MacDowell sees the new Phil and is strongly attracted to him. He experiences a love that is sincere. Happy ending.

The other night the Beautiful Wife and I had dinner at Larsens in the Hotel Laguna. I’m a cheap guy but it was our 55th anniversary. I recalled our long-ago first date, how meeting the Beautiful Wife made me want to be a better person. We summed up the fruits of our life together, the children, and then the grandchildren. Creating a family is hard, the work of many long days, and repeating cycles of days. It’s a refining process that bears wonderful fruit if we give it our best. It’s not so different from that movie we watch each year. There’s meaning in that.

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]

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