Thoughts Along the Path . . .

Groundhog Day is coming up this Thursday. Does that mean anything to you? This admittedly trivial mid-winter event has little significance beyond an opportunity for some light-hearted fun. As written in the Book of Proverbs: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” So maybe a day for silly fun is a good thing.

With its origins in the Pennsylvania Dutch community in the US, Groundhog Day is observed here in Canada, too. The traditional story claims that we will get a prediction about how much more winter weather lies ahead based on whether a groundhog’s shadow appears at a particular moment. Putting aside the fact that so far this year we have not had much winter weather, studies repeatedly show that the prediction is wrong about as often as it is right. So maybe the prediction itself isn’t the main attraction — if anyone really cares about accuracy, that is.

Since 1993, the phrase “Groundhog Day” often brings something else to mind: the movie by that title. Starring Bill Murray, this film offers a slightly different meaning to the words “Groundhog Day.” Murray plays a television reporter covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. While there he somehow, inexplicably, falls into a time-loop wherein every morning he finds himself back in the same day— over and over again, countless times. He soon discovers that he has the power to change his behavior, though the next morning he’s back to where he began. Risking a spoiler to anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I will say that gradually he moves from questioning this strange time loop to playing with it to testing its limits to learning from it. When he finally does learn what he needs to know then true change and personal growth happen.

Obviously the film is a comedy, not meant to be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find truth within it. While I was developing ideas for writing this column, I began by looking for quotations on “Groundhog Day.” To my surprise, almost every quotation was about change rather than the calendar event. One of my favorites is this one from Tolstoy, reminding us that change begins with ourselves: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” While I doubt that “no one” is literally true, the essence of this quotation – that change is ultimately an individual’s responsibility – is surely true.

What if every day we are in a time loop, in the sense that we wake up with the choice to keep doing the same thing or to make changes? Does this mean that making changes in our own behaviour can affect change in others? And how do we know that the changes will remain?

The film showed Bill Murray’s character needing time to make permanent, meaningful changes. He had to think differently; to align his thinking with his actions; to internalize the changes and not just go through the motions; to learn to communicate earnestly and sincerely. That process reminds me of a quotation from the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i Faith. Though written in a different context, it offers lessons for everyday living: “Change is an evolutionary process requiring patience with one's self and others . . .”

Is there something in your life, your relationships, your progress toward a goal that you would like to change? Are you stuck in old habits that no longer serve you? Are you willing to be patient, to persevere, to trust that results will occur? I suspect most people, myself included, are interested in change and growth. This means we can focus on something, even if just one small thing, that we want to change. Next we can build on that in the following days, weeks, or months. You may be surprised with what you see happen. And here's more good news: A groundhog’s shadow is not required.




Submitted to Ayr News by Jaellayna Palmer

© Jaellayna Palmer 2023