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  • Writer's pictureStephen Williams

Three Things Bill Murray Taught Us in Groundhog Day

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

It’s a classic. You’ve seen it. And if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it a dozen times…literally…because, news flash, it’s a bit repetitive. But Bill Murray’s staple of basic cable programming alongside The Shawshank Redemption and Con Air has more to say about how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis than you might realize at first…or twelfth…watch.

3. You can’t take it with you…

What’s the first thing you would do if you could see the future? Same thing Phil Connors did in the film: get money and get…affection. But what about that money and that affection? It was good for one day. And if our life is a grain of sand on a beach then what is our money or more puerile pleasures of the flesh but good for one day. You can eat dinner at Cotton Row tonight but that’s not going to do you any good at lunch on Sunday.

Bill Gates has said that more money, at some point, is “the same hamburger.” Why do we trust our own speculative view of how great life would be if we went up to South Pittsburg and grabbed a winning lotto ticket when the personal experience of one of about three people on earth than knows what that life is like is a resounding “meh.”

When I blog, journal or read the works of others, it’s often about how time is our only non-renewable resource and that we’ve got the same 24 hours that Bill Gates did at Microsoft and Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day. If it’s just about using that time to get money, security and comfort for yourself, it’s fleeting, at best, and it’s going to get old…fast.

2. Every day really is the same…

Anybody here in Alabama read the Bible? Thought so. What on earth do we have to learn from folks that lived in a foreign country 2,000+ years ago? Aren’t people so different now? Hasn’t the internet demonstrably changed our ability to raise our children? Interact with each other? Drive each other crazy?

Didn’t think so. Groundhog Day plays a masterful chaconne on a fundamental cognitive bias that while we think folks in Jesus’ time were just like us everything is just going to be completely different one day from now and the next generation has always gone to hell in a handbasket.

Phil, (Bill Murray’s character, not the Groundhog), begins to look around and use his experience to benefit those around him, rather than manipulating human patterns and principles to benefit himself, alone. This isn’t a pursuit that escapes any of us in our day-to-day lives. What did you learn yesterday that you can apply in your life today…or better yet…use to help someone else?

3. The Importance of Family…

It’s no accident that Bill Murray’s older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, appears in at least five of brother Bill’s films including, of course, Groundhog Day. In the film, Brian plays Buster Green, the Master of Ceremonies at Punxsutawney Phil’s February 2nd Celebration.

Though Brian has had a 1% level career on his own, he has certainly benefitted from his lineage and connections. From Bill’s perspective, what’s the point in being a massively successful living legend if you can’t share the fruits of that success with the ones closest to you.

With that, we’ll close with these wise words from Buster Green, “If you gotta shoot, aim high…[you] don’t wanna hit the groundhog.” Happy Groundhog Day.

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