Issue Thirty-Seven - Winter 2021

Groundhog Day — A Little in Advance

By Stephanie Barbé Hammer

Friends —
One of my favorite American movies is GROUNDHOG DAY, which was directed by the late Harold Ramis, and features an egoistical and annoying newscaster (Bill Murray) who gets trapped into living the same day over and over again in a small town he despises. The town in question is Punxatawney PA, where the famous groundhog of said Groundhog Day lives. What starts out as a comedy becomes in short order a meditation on the lives we feel we are trapped in, a set of routines we are condemned to repeat over and over again.

If you are an Albert Camus fan, you will think of his discussion of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill for eternity.

Camus makes an incredible statement that still haunts any reader who has read him. “We must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

How can that be? “Well,” Camus, explains. “It’s all in the attitude. We make meaning out of our existences.” (This is my paraphrase of a much more elegant formulation)

In my cis gendered white middle class way, I feel a bit like I’m rolling the same — arguably small — boulder up the hill every day. I social distance, I walk, I cook (well, more like reheat), I do curbside grocery pick up, I do remote convos with medical doctors (although at some point I’m going to really need to go to the dentist and see an actual doctor in person). And so on. It’s a lonely business some days. As a big traveler, I miss seeing new places. I have not seen my daughter and son-in-law in a year.

But there is a blessing in the curse, as Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg puts it. I do not have to engage in any more meaningless social chatter. It’s great. Empty conversation is a thing of the past — thank God. And there’s more. Thrust upon my own resources, I have the opportunity to reflect on the past and reconsider experiences I do not think about often, because I am generally so involved with the present and making plans for the future. Third, I’m getting a lot of writing done, and that’s a good thing for sure.

Fourth, and perhaps more importantly, I get to work on SHARK REEF, and I have the pleasure of supporting other writers and helping them get into print, either for the first time, or for the umpteenth time.

If you are a new writer with us, WELCOME! If you are returning writer, WELCOME BACK!

If you are a new reader, welcome to the SR corner of the writing world.

Where was I?

Spoiler alert: The anti-hero of GROUNDHOG DAY is finally released from the repetitious round of duties, but only after he has undergone a complete spiritual and intellectual transformation. And that’s the challenge hidden in the film and hidden — perhaps — in this protracted pandemic moment.

The fact is, I do not know if everyone reading this message will have that chance at transformation — as I write the COVID circle tightens, and while I hope I will survive the pandemic, the chance remains that I may not be that fortunate. But I hope we all do.

In the meantime, we possess the possibility for change.

My friend, the artist Robert Gross, says he considers this time as though being in a chrysalis.

With that image in mind, may we change for the better. And, collectively, may we make where we live — locally and globally — a more just, more beautiful place.

Or to put it simply — in the words of Harold Ramis: “Life is ridiculous so why not be a good guy?”

PS — Please take a look at our new page, What We’re Reading: a rundown of what some of us are reading and loving right now.

Copyright Barbé Hammer 2021