Posted on RAIN News
Harold Ramis recently died. Not to be overly dramatic, but I am crestfallen. A huge fan from his first film to his last, Ramis epitomized “sneaky smart.” Paul Westerberg of the Replacements is his musical alter ego. Their work tells stories filled with cheats, sloppy drunks and ne’er do wells. Beneath the coarse surface, however, there is always astute commentary, profound depth, insight, and, of course, wit.
For me, the definitive Ramis masterpiece is Groundhog Day. It is a meditation on life and how to live it, wrapped inside pitch-perfect dialog, hilarious sight gags, and a ham-fisted metaphor that gets turned on its head.
Bill Murray’s Phil Connors is a weary, jaded, media guy on autopilot. He’s out of gas and his needle hits ‘empty’ in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he’s covering that town’s celebrated groundhog for what feels like the millionth time. Like Sisyphus, his own bad karma gets him sucked into a spiral where every day is a lifetime doomed to repeat itself.
Tired of never evolving, never moving forward, Connors hilariously delivers the news of the delayed spring for what might actually be the millionth time. He finally snaps during the live telecast:
“This is one of the most pitiful spectacles known to civilization. With one nod from a filthy rodent best known to pest control agencies, a moribund old coal mining hamlet turns magically into the Lourdes of Pennsylvania, mecca to thousands of people who, if they hate the winter so damned much, why don’t they move to Florida, anyway?”
(Now, for many Americans, this does not seem entirely unreasonable in light of the interminable winter we’ve endured and continue to. This year I’ve said worse than even Harold Ramis could have contemplated.)
Then a funny thing happens. Phil Connors moves from fighting the fact that every day is not – and cannot be – a sunny one, to accepting it, embracing it. And he starts to grow. He starts to learn. He starts to improve. He lives every day to the fullest as though it could be his last, even as he knows it won’t be. He starts to see that in any given day there are many, many reasons to find happiness regardless of conditions. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open to it.
By the end of the film he is transformed. He is evolved. He relishes life’s little idiosyncrasies as well as its moments of rapture. When life gives him snow, he revels in a good snowball fight.
“When Chekhov saw the long winter, it was a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope; and yet we know winter’s only one more step in the cycle. And standing among the people of Punxsutawney, basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
So, even as things drag on and spring isn’t coming soon enough for any of us, if we step back just a little, there’s so much evidence of its imminent arrival.
Until then, today’s pretty great anyway. People are listening to “audio” in all its forms and facets more than ever before. New entrants are making big splashes quickly, and not doing so at the expense of other existing players. New technology is not rendering older generation technology useless. Quite the opposite. It’s building upon it, carrying the theme forward in new ways. Audio-based content, both spoken word and music, is just as relevant today as it was a generation ago. Perhaps more. It’s as popular with younger consumers as older ones.
“Dogs and Cats living together!” as Ramis would go on to write in Ghostbusters.
This is all good — if not great — news. Maybe a lot of days are more Punxsutawney than Paris, but that’s OK. Spring is nearly upon us and Punxsutawney is beautiful this time of year.