Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Care of the soul

Yesterday, Walhydra voiced her admiration for Bill Murray's 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

Murray plays Phil Connors, a self-centered Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is dismayed that he must once again cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, this year with his new producer Rita and his cameraman Larry. Though Phil wants to leave immediately after the festival, a snowstorm—which he unfortunately failed to predict—grounds them in town overnight.

When Phil awakens the next morning, he discovers that he is caught in a “time loop,” doomed to repeat this very same Groundhog Day, with all its events, over and over and over.

The divinely perverse paradox is that no one else is aware that the day is being repeated. Events change according to Phil’s actions, yet the next morning everything “resets”—even Phil’s successful suicides are undone—and he awakens as the only person who remembers having lived through this day before.

What fascinates Walhydra about this story is that Phil has to give up ever wanting to escape Groundhog Day in order to escape it.

According to the synopsis on Internet Movie Database [spoiler alert], screenwriter Danny Rubin's "intent in the original script was for the time-frame to be ambiguous, but longer than a single lifetime."

Through endless repetition of this one day, Phil gradually shifts from arrogance to exploitive use of his uniqueness to suicidal despair and, finally, to a subtle new resolve.

Eventually, although he realizes that no one else will remember his deeds of previous “days,” he makes it his goal to shield each person around him from the unhappiness and disasters he knows they will meet. At a more intimate level, he moves from trying to seduce Rita with the help of his “foreknowledge” to opening himself to her as another vulnerable human being.

When Walhydra was in clinical depression two years ago, seemingly reliving the same horrible, despairing day over and over again, she remembered this movie as a tragicomic metaphor.

Now, more balanced and hence more aware that there is only the present, Walhydra sees the Groundhog Day metaphor as being even more valuable. It reminds her how every human being must live one day at a time, making tiny advances on some days, backsliding on others—and often doing this without another soul's knowing her neighbor's private history.

Meanwhile, Brighid has finally begun to stir Walhydra our of her winter doldrums. One of the ways she has done this is to have Walhydra rediscover Thomas Moore's 1992 book, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, which Walhydra originally read back in 1996, when her mother, Senior Witch, first gave it to her.

A few days ago, Walhydra happened to read the section in which Moore distinguishes between trying to cure the soul—"shallow therapeutic manipulations aimed at restoring normality or tuning a life according to standards"—and taking care of the soul:
We might take the time to watch and listen as gradually [care of the soul] reveals the deeper mysteries lying within daily turmoil.

Problems and obstacles offer a chance for reflection that otherwise would be precluded by the swift routine of life. As we stop to consider what is happening to us and what we're made of, the soul ferments, to use an alchemical word. Change takes place, but not according to plan or as the result of intentional intervention.

If you attend the soul closely enough, with an educated and steadfast imagination, changes take place without your being aware of them until they are all over and well in place.

Care of the soul observes the paradox whereby a muscled, strong-willed pursuit of change can actually stand in the way of substantive transformation. (19)
This resonates so well with the truth Bill Murray reveals in Groundhog Day.

As much as she resists and resents it, Walhydra is slowly, slowly coming around to the awareness that there is a paradoxical, deep-flowing groundedness to life—full of frustration and pain and anger and regret at times, yes—but ever-flowing.

Paint the soul in my body...but leave the shadows behind me, by carf
And so it is.

Bless├Ęd Be.

1 comment:

Thalia said...

If I'm remembering correctly, in the extras to the video of Groundhog Day the producer? Writer?--I'm afraid I don't remember--says the time loop Phil is in lasts at least a thousand years. The same interviewee also says that he knew he had gotten something right when he kept getting letters from Buddhists saying, "Yes! That's exactly it!"