For Monday my Focused Inquiry students will read “What Nietzsche Could Teach You,” which considers the film Groundhog Day (1993) as an illustration of eternal return. It’s an essay I’ve never taught before. I decided to teach it this semester as a way of responding to a suggestion some students offered last spring on their anonymous questionnaires—specifically that we discuss more of the big questions that we ponder throughout our lives.
So, for our first post-Groundhog Day class, we’ll view scenes from the film and consider the evolution of Phil Connors (Bill Murray), from unhappy weatherman living for the future to renascence man happily embracing the present.
According to James H. Spence, author of “What Nietzsche Could Teach You,” Phil Connors’ change signifies his rejection of the Christian view of linear time in which the future gives value to the present. Nietzsche’s alternative, his eternal return, posits that “[r]ather than moving on to a better (or worse, if we are bad) place after this life, we would relive our life over and over again, exactly as we had before” (274).
Today as I meditate on Spence’s essay and on the film, I’m aware of how rarely I live in the moment, and I’m reminded of a line that friend and teacher Doug Jones often says: We teach what we need to learn. We do, Doug. We really do.
Spence, James H. “What Nietzche Could Teach You: Eternal Return in Ground Hog Day.” Movies and the Meaning of Life. Ed. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005. 274.