MR: Groundhog Day

November 12, 2010 | 7 comments
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Mormon ReviewA new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with Adam Miller’s review of Groundhog Day, directed by Harold Ramis. The article is available at:

Adam Miller, “Groundhog Day,” The Mormon Review, vol.2 no. 5 [HTML] [PDF]

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7 Responses to MR: Groundhog Day

  1. Mark on November 13, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Nice article Adam. Well done.

    It will take me a while to think through it. It strikes me that you touch on a number of cross-cutting distinctions, and it’s not clear to me how one ought to think of their interrelations. One is the distinction between novelty and repetition. Another is the distinction between effort and effortlessness. Another is the distinction between the banal and the deeply meaningful. Another may be the distinction between the mundane and the celestial (but I’ll pass over that since I can’t imagine a heavenly existence that would be better than the right kind of mundane existence. Which is to say, I don’t know how to draw the distinction between mundane and celestial).

    Now what puzzles me is how much repetition, effort, and banality you think a celestial existence can tolerate. Or, taking it from the other end, what’s wrong with hoping for something new and different, a release from at least some forms of effort, or having deeply meaningful rather than merely banal moments and things? It’s significant to me that in your wonderful quote, the prophet Joseph doesn’t say: “if we go to hell, we’re totally down with the eternal repetition of banal toil and suffering.” “We’ll make a heaven of it” implies that something new and something better is to be hoped for; we won’t just settle for anything.

  2. Lee on November 13, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I always thought it was mortality that transformed the mundane into the beautiful. The ability for existence to cease so quickly makes simplicity invaluable.

    In other words, death gives meaning to the meaningless. Simple moments of nature become glorious in finality. Where would the beauty be in Haley’s Comet if it were immune to time? The fact that many of us will die before every seeing its trail of cosmic dust is what makes this existence so wondrous.

    If the celestial kingdom is anything remotely similar to the routine matters of this existence, I have a feeling we’ll fall into dreadful boredom.

    -Lee

  3. Tom Haws on November 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    1. The thought occurred to me that as the mundane is now, so heaven is now. Now is the hour and the day of my salvation.

    2. I loved your insights into the movie. I’m not as sure I loved your ties in with Mormonism, but they sure made me entertain some new possibilities for Mormonism.

  4. humgrad on November 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Well-written and thought-provoking, though a film about a man whose primary purpose in life seems to be to get the better of Andy MacDowell’s character is also as decidedly un-Mormon as can be.

  5. Adam Miller on November 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Great questions, Mark. A couple of inadequate thoughts.

    First, regarding the difference between novelty and repetition. I think that they are intertwined rather than opposed. Repetition is required by the the incessant need to start again, to start a-new. This is never a starting from scratch (i.e., no creation ex nihilo for us) so it is always a re-petition, a going again. But we wouldn’t need the “again” without the underlying push of time that makes us start anew.

    Second, with respect to the need for novelty or, as Lee aptly put it, the danger of a dreadful, eternal boredom. I wonder: does God ever get surprised? Does anything “new” ever happen for God? If it doesn’t, does this mean he gets bored? For my part, I think that boredom is a function not of what is given but of our response to it.

    If the heart of repetition is novelty, then the opposite of repetition is not novelty but the desire for things to come to an end, for there no longer to be something new that requires us to start over once again, once more time, from the top (de capo!), with all the compassion, attention, and effort we can muster.

  6. Adam Miller on November 15, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks, humgrad. But I’m going to have to disagree about the last part.

    What could be more Mormon than to say that pursuing (your) Andie MacDowell (again and again again!) until you finally learn to actually love her is the very purpose of life?

  7. Tom Haws on November 16, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I agree with Adam #6. After all, Phil Connor didn’t end the movie trying to get the best of the girl. He ended the movie a different man. And that’s Mormonism: becoming better because you lived it.

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