January 30, 2003

Déjà vu
Watched Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and was struck by how his experience in the movie mirrors our lives. First Murray reacted to the repeating days with the childish glee of lawbreaking: venial things like inconsideration for others, eating everything off the dessert tray, smoking cigarettes. Then he upped the ante in the way some adolescents favor - he drank heavily, smashed his car into mailboxes, tried to evade police and was arrested. The next day he took it a step further by manipulating a stranger into having sex with him. It was plainly unsatisfying because what he really wanted was the character played by Andie MacDowell, and she would not be manipulated. He slid into nihilism, killed himself several times, until finally he abjectly admitted that it was he who was the problem. Because he could not have who he wanted most (Andie), he no longer concerned himself with her as a goal; he became altruistic out of desperation - the grain of wheat and fell to the ground and died. The byproduct of his altruism was Andie's falling in love with him.

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Read much of John Hershey's depressing Hiroshima on the plane ride back from Florida. One of the survivors was a German Catholic priest who spent the next 30 years in almost constant pain from side effects of the radiation but who unfailing thought of others and never gave into self-pity. Just as it would be almost impossible for the early, selfish Bill Murray to imagine the later, altruistic Murray with anything but white-knuckle distaste, so it is for we who are not where that priest was spiritually to appreciate the beauty, rather than the horror, of his sacrifice. The priest at one point calmly remarked that he was glad to suffer his purgatory here.

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