We are not born by our own free will. We received this life and, with it, an expiration date, which is not determined by us. We grow, live and do the things that normally everyone does: starting a family, work, paying bills, fulfilling ourselves through hobbies, getting older.
Time goes by and our life fades. We live in a world of constant transformation, transcience and in which we, even against our will, change, simply by what the passing of time does to us. The person we were as children, as adults, and as eldery people is made up of many differences in values, world perception, consciousness.
And, even though we are stuck in this trail of time, we have made personal changes. We study, manage to change habits (strive to be healthier, more productive at work, more educated), but cannot break away from our fundamental limitation: that of an egocentric consciousness, which sees the world from a perspective which is separate from the whole.
Our egocentric consciousness does not vanish, when we enlarge it with those we hold dear. We can have compassion for animals; for the planet we live on; we can extend our personal ego to a family ego, which perceives its family as the most important thing and seeks to protect it; we can even expand our consciousness to the ego of a country, which eventually might stand against other countries. But, as much as we extend this consciousness to larger groups, we remain fundamentally egocentric beings which shows as soon as we are confronted, when someone steps on our toes and we react, ready to retaliate, attack, or flee, if we get scared.
Nonetheless, most people seem to be content with their lives, letting the trail of time take them without much questioning of why life is like it is, what it expects from us and who we truly are.
Others feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day (1993), in which he plays a reporter who, for unknown reasons, gets stuck every day on the same day, the day he was reporting on a traditional city celebration, which involved the supposed weather forecast by a groundhog. In the story, every morning he awakes, being stuck in the same day in which everything continuously repeats itself, causing him deep anguish.
There are people who, also, feel uneasy with the passing of days, such as the reporter, as if they are trapped in a déjà-vu, so they set out to find a broader meaning for their lives. Such people are mature souls in the turning of the Wheel of Life and Death, in which we live and which the people of India call the Wheel of Samsara– into which life experiences aim to remind us that there is a deeper consciousness in our being: a consciousness that is not self-centered, which stems from the Whole and which is eternal – and to which we can fully attune.
This consciousness is linked to the breath of a full life. Through discovering it within, we can unveil the true meaning for our lives. This is the task we have as passengers on this trip. We are all “passengers” or “travelers” engaged in a journey; and we have heard about it many times, through the stories contained in movies and books. In traditional communities, not touched by so-called modernity, the elderly very often teach and transmit it orally: we are all on a journey that, despite its wide-spread and utter importance, we are almost completely unaware of.
From this point of view, we can understand the reporter’s variations in attitude after he finds out that he is stuck in a repetition loop. In the first “repeated days” his attitude is of denial and irritation: the idea of staying indefinitely in the city, in the commemorative date and in the work he hates, is terrifying. But as soon as the character realizes that he can take advantage of the situation, his attitude confirms the arrogant and self-centered image that is presented to the viewer from the beginning of the film: now he is a sly profiteer, gathering information in a day to use for his own benefit the next day. And, having become very good at it, he uses his skills to try to conquer a woman he felt to be the love of his life. However, skills acquired through dissimulation and selfishness are not able to help him to succeed in his attempt. The result is frustration and, from this point forward, it extends to his whole life. Overcome with boredom and anguish, he commits suicide several times, always waking up at six o’clock in the same hotel room and with the same disgust.
We have, in the story of the movie, a representation of the journey of the human being in search of the meaning of life. We awake to this quest when we realize the essential emptiness of the passage of time, when we fully feel that, in fact, “there is nothing new under the sun.” It is as if everything is always repeated, and this repetition causes us disgust. But with the newly acquired ability to observe, we are tempted to become masters of time, and in the face of the predictability of the world, we believe we have found the key of wisdom – the same key that would open the prison of time. Wrong. In fact, we only foresee the existence of something great, so great that it would be able to fill the void opened by the perception of the repeating cycle, but as the process of consciousness transformation has not been consummated, it is still our egocentric consciousness that directs our actions, and it is with it that we approach that “something great”, in the certainty of conquering it. And, when our expectation is dashed, we realize that nothing has truly changed: we remain prisoners of time.
It is then that, if the longing is genuine, as was the yearning desire of the protagonist of our story, our capacity for observation rises to a higher level, and we face time without anxiety or expectation. As with the reporter, we are convinced that self-centered actions cannot help to grasp the meaning in life, and we are seized by a self-forgetfulness that clears our vision and dissolves the illusions about ourselves and the world.
We got used to look and see everything from the outside and started to believe that change can only happen from outside inwards, but, as Gandhi said, “We need to be the change we want to see in the world.” A fundamental and real change of consciousness only happens from this core of our consciousness, that is neither self-centered nor susceptible to the impermanence of things. From the moment this nucleus is vivified, a new perception arises, a consciousness that raises us from being prisoners of time to being free and self-conscious, yet at the same time aware of its unity with everything and everyone – as it happened to the reporter on the Groundhog Day.