Phil’s foolish for obsessing over future

Will McCullough

For those of you who have had enough of the cold weather Villanova has to offer, tomorrow brings the hope of a return to the unseasonably warm weather that made an appearance over winter break. I speak not of some great meteorological nexus that annually warms the temperature. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day.

Initiated by the Celts around the fifth century, Feb. 2 is the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox (thank you, Wikipedia). As most of us have come to know, a groundhog emerges and prognosticates on the length of the current winter. As a general rule of thumb, if the groundhog sees his shadow and subsequently retreats back to his hole, there will be six additional weeks of winter; if on the other hand, he does not see his shadow, winter will end soon.

Most locally and perhaps most famously is the groundhog that resides in Punxsutawney, Pa.: Phil. Bill Murray’s character in the film bearing the day’s name put forth an appropriate description of the day: “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

For some time I have struggled to call Groundhog Day a holiday. It just seems a bit hopeless to rely on a groundhog for predictions about the weather. Even in considering the roots of the day, trust was placed with the length of the sun’s rising and setting. I don’t mean to trivialize the importance of the weather, but the practices involved remind me of tarot cards or a reading from Miss Cleo. All try to predict rather substantial events based on little more than the ignorance of those trying to ascertain the prediction.

At this point I can say with some confidence that today’s methods of prediction are, for lack of a better word, a croc. This is not based on any personal experience, and I haven’t consulted any sources. However, I am sure that most of you will agree with me in my assumptions. Although I can’t say how many people actually render the services of Miss Cleo and the like, the impulse is within us all. We all want to know what is going to happen and might be willing to try anything to gain this knowledge. This makes us all equally as ridiculous.

You may be sitting there saying, “No, not me. I am perfectly secure not knowing what is going to happen.” In the recent words of our eloquent vice president, “Hogwash.”

Never has this been more prevalent than what I am seeing right now. The seniors that are members with me in the unemployed club know exactly what I am talking about.

While our friends are getting what seem like illustrious job offers or cultivating opportunities through internships, there exist a substantial number of us who still have no idea where we are going to be a year from now. Some try to put on a mask of being at ease with this. And perhaps to some degree they are, but I would be willing to bet they all are at least a bit anxious about working in an undesirable job and continuing the parental sycophancy for an indefinite period of time. Even if you have a job, I’m sure you want to know what will be going on in your life next year.

Last summer my father was acting fatherly and asked me if I had a plan. I was kind of struck by the notion. I responded with an answer appropriate to my age, baked in irresponsibility. I didn’t need a plan. I was going to let what was going happen, happen. Even if that means the possibility of defaulting on my rather sizeable student loans. Not surprisingly, this was not what my dad wanted to hear. I can definitely see what he was upset about, but I just cannot see the value in trying to ascertain the future.

I am going to return to Groundhog Day, more specifically to the film. Hilarity aside, the film explores knowing the future. Murray’s curmudgeon of a character is trapped in Punxsutawney as Groundhog Day repeats many times over.

As a result, Phil comes to have memorized the day occurrences and plan his day accordingly. He goes through a series of emotional changes but finally ends at the following state: “Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.” It’s essential to stay in the moment and not get ahead of yourself. While it would certainly be foolish to ignore the future, I think it just as foolish to become obsessed with it. I can’t see too many people putting stock in groundhogs, psychics, or cards, but I can see people “freaking out” over jobs, grades, money or life.


Will McCullough is a senior English and economics double-major from Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].