I had had a tough day. The kind of day that makes you so world weary you want to crawl down below the earth into Mole's hole and stay there in front of the glowing fire for a good long while. Since Mole and I are not on quite those familiar terms, apart from in my imagination, I had to settle instead for an evening in front of the glowing television. The TV is capable of supplying its own kind of tonic, however, and Groundhog Day ended up being exactly what the proverbial doctor ordered.
In the film, Bill Murray plays Pittsburgh TV weather man, Phil Connors, who is reluctantly sent to cover a story in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania about a weather forecasting groundhog. This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration. After he and his crew, the lovely and kind producer Rita and the amiably goofy cameraman Larry, are prevented from leaving Punxsutawney due to the weather they must stay the night. On awaking the 'following' day in his bed and breakfast Phil discovers that it's Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. He is the only person in the town who is aware of the day being the same again and again; everyone else believes it is February 2nd for the first time. First he uses this to his advantage, then comes to the realisation that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing every single day. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say, Phil will go on living the same day until he gets it right. Finally, he wakes up on February 3rd a changed man, but it has taken months or years of tries (we never know how long it has really been) to live Groundhog Day in a way that allows him to escape his massive time trap and carry on with his life. The film manages to tell its cautionary tale with intelligence, great warmth, and the caustic wit of the inimitable Bill Murray.
When I woke up to my alarm clock yesterday, February 3rd, it was not playing 'I've Got You Babe' like the clock in the film, but it was playing, just as it was on Groundhog Day when the digits read 6:30, Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. The coincidence was a bit staggering and I woke up quickly. Was I also to be doomed to live the same day again? No, of course not, but the idea of it made me think...
For the past few months, I've been getting up in the morning, and after making sure my youngest is ready for school I fire up the computer, check my email and log into Facebook. Facebook has its up side: funny photos of cats in impossible poses, posts by my family members inviting me into their day, a comment or two on my own sharings, links to new music or video, invitations to events, etc. Facebook also has its down side. For each person this downside is different. Maybe it involves gossip or slander involving a friend, or those all too common photos of mistreated animals or a starving child paired with a photo of someone with an iphone, or even insults to one's ideology. I know very well that most people on Facebook do not intend to hurt their Facebook contacts. However, there is a great deal of indiscriminate leaping onto various bandwagons from which are flung various declarations and images which, when they hit the innocent (and dare I say it, sensitive) bystander, can be as a dart to the heart. A couple of these darts hit me on Thursday, and although I tried not to take them as personal attacks, I could not help the wounds they most certainly inflicted. I limped around with them all day long.
I came to realize, as the day progressed, that Facebook had somehow become my own personal version of Groundhog Day. Every day I got up, got on, and experienced the same type of highs, the same type of lows, but what I didn't realize was how my habitual ride on this emotional teeter-totter was affecting me. By Thursday, I suppose I had reached my saturation point. I felt dizzy and overwhelmed, and in order to move on I had to make a decision about my relationship with that form of social media. In order to regain perpective I have decided to go on a Facebook fast. As someone wise said, "Fasting is not about denial but about freedom...freeing ourselves from the things that bind us and keep us from good relationships with ourselves, with others, and with creation."
Here's to the freedom of a brand new day.
And here's Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' performed by John Cale.