Ground Hog Day and the Myth of Sisyphus

What do you do on a day when the Myth of Sisyphus is referenced three times in your day? You blog about it, of course.

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The first reference occurred in my morning Satsang.  The second was my exasperated vent about work today. But the third was a fun article called ‘Groundhog Day,’ the Buddhist lifehacker movie. Of course that movie lends itself perfectly for an analogy to Sisyphus.

“Phil’s plight is not unlike a character from Greek mythology who was doomed to eternally and perpetually push a boulder up a mountain. In his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Albert Camus uses the story to illustrate the absurdity of lives that toil away at meaningless jobs. But Camus says we must find hope, and therefore meaning, in such a plight and he imagines Sisyphus understanding and accepting it.”

How can you find hope in such a trap? I have asked myself why I am addressing issues of financial strain – something I have not had to do in 20 years. And yet it is all too familiar as I plan out each cent and carefully choose how much money goes to responsibility and how much goes to fun and impulsivity.

Similarly, every man who asks me out tends to have the same psychological characteristics.  My interest quickly fades, as I recognize that I have already been this Man’s lover.

“Whatever spiritual takeaway the film holds for you, it’s an undeniable call for hope. Phil survives his many attempts at suicide — leaping from a church, dropping a toaster in the tub, driving off a cliff — and is reborn a hopeful, charitable man. Baptized by death and stronger for it on the other side, he tells his television audience: “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life.”

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Groundhog Day is all about purgatory – no movement, no growth, and feeling completely controlled by circumstances.  The only way out is to change the one thing that must change: you.

“Yet every moment is still different. Remember what the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” In that sense, Phil doesn’t repeat the same day over and over because one significant thing is different each Groundhog Day: him. He is the one thing that is changing.”

I am not the 27 year old graduate student trying to make ends meet. I am not the person I have been in relationship in the past.  I am not unsure of my power and my potential. I am not bound by fear or illusion.  Even if circumstances feel familiar, I am not the same.

And right in that knowing, I am free.

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