Groundhog Day: Reawakening Compassionate Action

One of my favorite movies of all time is Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays a very unlikeable weather man who manages to insult everyone in his life. In the course of the movie, Murray is condemned to live the same day over and over. These metaphorical rebirths begin with him trying to control life through his annoying pre-existing habits. He eventually gets tired of himself and learns, through trial and error, the benefits of compassion toward others.

This film suggests one of the best motivators to living with unconditional love is recognizing unskillful habits through the light of compassion. We are offered this lesson over and over until we grow weary of our self-absorbed activities. If we do not learn the lesson, life events will crystallize in a form we cannot ignore. Sometimes an entire culture needs to learn compassion so it attracts (or elects) a great mirror of our mindlessness.

On the one hand, our society is generally more open and accepting of differences of color, sexual orientation, religion, etc. than ever in history. But when it came to voting in 2016, the turnout was the lowest in over 20 years (about 55%). Here we see something of a disconnect between ideology and skillful activity. We cannot have an attitude shift without following it through our compassionate action. The best seaworthy ship is of no value if it remains moored in a safe harbor (to borrow from Clarissa Pinkola Estes). The vessel was built to skillfully sail the oceans. The idea of inclusive compassion can end up being be a smug haven of our own personal life if we do not engage the world with action.

But, if you are reading this, you have been around the block (reborn) a few times. Your pure motivation to wake up from the slumber of ego-grasping is a worthy vessel. And you are in good company. There is an armada of ships, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, speedboats, etc. gathering to float upon waves of kindness and compassion. We just need to be fearless upon an open sea. We cannot control the storms but we can become more skillful in plying the waters.

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