Director Harold Ramis explores the theme of time as our greatest resource with the legendary Bill Murray, Andie Macdowell, Chris Elliott & Stephen Tobolowsky in the unforgettable classic Groundhog Day. This is the Universal Theme with Keagen Fritz.

Written by: Keagen Fritz – August 2nd, 2020 10:25 pm pst

Still ~ Groundhog Day

Still ~ Groundhog Day

We don’t have much time here, and that’s before you factor in all the stuff you can’t get out of. Most of our time is spent sleeping, working, commuting, or any other number of menial tasks we drudge through without choice. When it comes down to the actual time that belongs to us on this earth, it becomes quite precious. On top of that, the previously mentioned menial tasks are incredibly proficient at boxing us in and greedily claiming all our time creating a feeling of helplessness and despair. The unavoidable truth is that each second that ticks by, we lose another opportunity to accomplish our goals and live fulfilling lives. Time is the slippery relationship we have with our transient existence here on earth. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a stoic Roman philosopher, thought that the slipperiness of time is a cause for humanity’s inability to perceive time with the real value it holds, which leads to the misuse of it.

Still – Time dictates our behavior

Groundhog Day is a classic film that holds a special place in many hearts.  The film has eerie circumstantial similarities to our unique societal limbo we find ourselves in these days, but I want to focus on how the film explores time itself and our relationship with it.  

Still ~ Checking the time

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) finds himself in a never-ending cycle of the same day, forced to repeat a constant loop of all the menial tasks he’s been enduring throughout his life. The director, Harold Ramis, once stated in an interview that Phil spends about 10 years in this purgatory. Of course, it doesn’t take nearly that long for Phil to abandon society’s rules out of spite. Sending him down a path of hedonistic fantasy as he does all that he has ever wanted to do but hasn’t out of fear of consequences.

Still ~ Goodbye rules, hello anarchy.

  He feels utterly free, satisfying his immediate desires with his small play town of Punxsutawney. Eventually, this facade of joy fades and leaves Phil feeling more lost and bored than ever before. The fantasies he previously thought would bring him happiness only created a deeper void to slip into. After he properly threw a bombastic pity party for himself, he began to pursue more productive leisures, and this is where the lessons start to appear for Phil.

An electrifying pity party

Aristotle claimed that leisure should be an activity that satisfies these three conditions; It is relaxing while also amusing, it improves moral character, and it cultivates the mind. Treating leisure like this as opposed to pure relaxation can allow us to use our time productively while enjoying what Aristotle deems “The Good Life”. Phil Connors experiences the inherent reward for this type of leisure when he participates in several activities best described as “self-improvement” hobbies.

Still ~ An example of productive leisure

 Seneca also thought life should be set up in a way that allows the maximum amount of time for leisure as well. Being a Stoic, Seneca explicitly defined leisure as an activity where one can be introspective and find tranquility through internal stillness. Phil benefits from his newfound tranquility as he builds more and more motivation for further self-improvement, turning away from his shrinking depression.  

Still ~ Cultivate your mind through books

 He only broke the loop he was stuck in by removing himself from his surface-level desires and pursuing a more profound and authentic happiness. One that feeds his soul. He was fueled by dramatic desperation in the face of what looked like eternal damnation but eventually found his salvation by focusing internally. He began to participate in productive leisure, which in turn unspooled the facade he had been previously wrapped in, blinding him from himself. Just the act of deliberately focused leisure cleared the fog around his life path as it connected him to his deeper self.

Still – Learn and instrument

This is what I find to be the most powerful lesson to take away from Groundhog Day; The rewarding value of pursuing productive leisure, especially in the face of discouraging circumstances. Working on yourself this way can wake up the parts of your consciousness you’ve possibly suppressed by the weight of all of life’s menial labor. Follow Phil Conner’s method of using his days to focus on cultivating himself holistically, it may just set you free.

Still ~ enjoy love

You can stream Groundhog Day on Netflix.      

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About The Author:

Keagen Fritz is a screenwriting and production major at California State University Fullerton with growing industry experience looking to make a living off the written word.  He currently writes for AfterBuzz TV and has his own series “The Universal Truth” where he dives into art to pull out messages that could relate to anyone.    

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