The shadow always knows l Chuck's World
Last updated 1/30/2019 at Noon
The virus crept into our household on little cat feet, slipping through half-closed doors and imperfect barricades, although I should note that no cats were involved. Our cat is fine. I was employing a poetic metaphor.
But this was sneaky. An itchy throat, a stray sneeze, a sudden spell of coughing. It happens, especially in the winter. No one was particularly surprised. We’ve all had colds.
Just a cold. My wife and I have passed around our different takes on it for over a week now, although my son seems immune. The cat, as I said, is fine.
All it meant was that my wife canceled a few things, and I became fond of marathon naps. After a day or two of this, though, I decided it was a good time to catch up on “The Good Place.”
I’m not suggesting that you should watch it, or anything else for that matter. I would never do that. There’s too much television out there, much of it interesting and good. There’s only so much time.
I started watching “The Good Place” about a year ago. It’s a half-hour comedy on NBC, starring Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, and a bunch of actors you’ve never heard of but will get very fond of, assuming you watch. Which, as I said, you probably won’t.
It’s a popular show so I won’t assume you’re completely clueless. The plot involves human beings who have somehow died and gone on to a better place, or that’s the idea. The Good Place. There’s also a Bad Place, but that isn’t talked about as much in the first episode. It will come up eventually.
That’s it. A show about people who go to heaven, I suppose, although this particular afterlife doesn’t seem modeled on any human or theological principles. There is frozen yogurt, though.
There are a lot of twists and turns, but if you do decide to watch then I have no desire to spoil this particular show. And the details, while funny and creative, are less interesting than the premise.
Which is: How do we define moral or ethical behavior? Are there absolutes, or is everything situational? And if our next existence, if there is one, is based on our behavior while alive, who gets into heaven?
The answer for part of “The Good Place,” actually, is sort of “no one,” but I’m way ahead of myself and I’ll stop. Watch if you’re interested. You could binge the whole thing in a weekend, I’m pretty sure. Try to get sick first.
But this is a special week, and “The Good Place” serves as a reminder of just how special. This Saturday, Feb. 2, is Groundhog Day.
It’s been held in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney since the 1880s (although the tradition goes back another 40 years or so), but you know what Groundhog Day is. Animal comes out, sees his shadow, doesn’t see it. It means something. I don’t know what. It doesn’t matter.
Spring is coming, regardless.
I’m referring to the 1993 film of the same name, which occurred to screenwriter Danny Rubin one day while sitting in a movie theater. He wondered what might happen if a person were forced to relive the same day, over and over again. How would they change, if they did? And why?
Eventually Harold Ramis directed the film, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, and while it was a modest success at the time, it’s had a shelf life of 26 years and counting.
I watch it every year. I sometimes get friends to watch it with me. I don’t know if we’ll have an early spring up here or a late one (I’m not entirely convinced we’ve had winter yet), but it’s hard to imagine getting through February and March without my annual installment of “Groundhog Day.”
And the older I get, the more I appreciate it. And I think I have the answer, finally.
I was having a conversation the other day with some folks around my age, and we began to talk about grandchildren. Only a couple of us had reached the grandparent stage, and we listened politely to the others offer their speculative ideas about what the experience might be like. Then we straightened them out.
From my perspective, at least, being a grandparent is not about enjoying the kiddos, then taking off conveniently when they get cranky or need a diaper changed. The difference isn’t the changed responsibility.
The difference is time.
I wasn’t a bad parent, but I’m a much better grandparent. When my daughter took her first steps, I just took a picture and celebrated this big milestone. When my grandson began to walk, I could see all the steps he would be taking, the bikes he’d soon be riding, the stages he’d soon be walking across to receive the diploma he’ll be earning, sooner than later.
Some people crunched numbers and made assumptions a while back, and decided that Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” had been stuck in the same day for 34 years. In other words, the antisocial weatherman played by Murray, Phil Connors, aged into being a better person. He became a grandpa.
Maybe I’m reaching. Watch it for yourself.
Phil Connors learns that he’s become a better person because he’s been around long enough to marvel at life, at the mysteries and the glories, and wonders, and trust me on this, that’s exactly like being a grandpa. I have seen my shadow, and it owns my heart, and it’s always spring now.