In the context of Groundhog Day, after having reviewed the first part of the film, it is worth contemplating at this point where we are right now, as a society. Or rather, who we are right now. And it’s not too difficult to come to the conclusion that in most of the modern world today we very much resemble Phil Connors in the restaurant, stuffing our faces with cake – and enjoying it! Not only is this approach promoted in the name of consumerism, but we highly value the freedom to live this way as part of our culture. The majority of us in the Westernised world fully embrace this lifestyle to the extent that many of us would go as far as defending it at all costs, largely because we know no other way of living.
Being “sick” from overindulging has become normalised to the extent that the majority of people are oblivious to it. As discussed in previous instalments, the fact that human beings have a will towards avoiding responsibility means that in some parts of the world we have, as a civilisation, potentially led ourselves into the perfect self-created cul-de-sac. We don’t really care for realising this, because that would inevitably mean having to face facts and becoming more responsible. Our collective resistance seems self-evident in that even while having the knowledge of our planet having finite, dwindling resources, we still choose to carry on as if there were no tomorrow.
“Regrettably, the alignment of data trends with the LTG [Limits to Growth] dynamics indicates that the early stages of collapse could occur within a decade, or might even be underway. This suggests, from a rational risk-based perspective, that we have squandered the past decades, and that preparing for a collapsing global system could even be more important than trying to avoid collapse.” – Graham Turner (2014)
[- Quoted from the report: Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data. Research Paper No.4 August 2014. Research Paper Series, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.]
As things stand right now, in relation to the Groundhog Day analogy, it would seem that not many of us would choose to “exit the diner”, even were we given the option to do so. Deep inside, however, most of us know very well that should we continue apace, we are very likely going to cause our own demise, collectively and individually, environmentally and spiritually. Having to face up to these truths and having to become conscious of these facts seem to be the ultimate modern-day challenges.
Just like Phil Connors, we as a collective are still very much in denial about the routes to real solutions. We continue to resist inner change which would lead to external change, because we love our comforts so much and are so set in our ways. We resist the idea of having to be more responsible – because we truly love our pleasures and we have the misguided idea that we cannot enjoy ourselves while being responsible at the same time. We resist serious introspection because that would shatter some of our treasured illusions. We hold onto these illusions because over time we have developed and settled into the habit of avoiding our consciences, as is indeed required from modern life. In a nutshell, we are holding on to an outdated paradigm, incompatible with the new one we are already entering.
Having to face our conscience at this stage would mean having to face our authentic inner selves, which we have neglected for so long. In a way, it would be similar to having to face a family member you had ignored over time, because he or she was so conscientious by nature that you thought they would spoil your fun and hold you back. So you avoided them and even “put them down” at times, only to realise later that they actually had your best interests at heart – and that this family member is, in fact, a part of your real self and not external to you.
Metaphorically-speaking, the time has come for all of us to return home, whether we are ready for it or not, and to reintegrate our rejected parts without any shame. When a person is about to start making their way home in practice, after a long absence, they start to remember where they came from and who they really were before they left. They remember the parts they wanted to leave behind and also the parts they lost inadvertently due to leaving, but would have preferred to have held on to. Those of us who are not ready to return to our true selves and remember who we originally and authentically were will have a much harder time adjusting to upcoming changes.
Facing our selves is what “going home” is all about in this context, though it is not about facing one’s self in judgement, but rather about forgiveness and reconciliation and starting to make better choices going forward.
Another analogy that could be applied here in a universal context is that of a slow-swinging pendulum. Imagine this happening over centuries of evolution and progress on the outbound swing. When the pendulum is at its furthest point, away from its centre point, it would briefly come to a standstill before swinging back again. At first it starts moving slowly, until the momentum accelerates. We are currently at this standstill point, at the furthest point away from the centre, about to be heading back. That movement has already started, but is still barely noticeable. Being so far away from our collective core explains why in many respects humanity seems to be in self-destruct mode right now.
While we were “travelling outwards”, we were facing away from the centre and our real selves. As we start swinging back and we travel inwards again, we will be facing our core naturally and we will see our real selves and everyone else’s more clearly. In other words, we are about to enter an age of introspection and transparency and its cumulative effects. That is why it so important to illuminate, process and transcend our shadow sides as much as we can in preparation. Pendulums always swing back, but the concern is that potentially some of us may have swung so far out that we are no longer able to swing back.
Let’s briefly consider this in the Mayan Calendar context. The Mayans did not refer to a pendulum swinging, but rather to a major shift occurring, and of humanity reaching its highest point of evolution in its current phase, before shifting into a new and very different paradigm; one which would involve an elevation or expansion of consciousness. We can compare this Mayan vision to the pendulum analogy by pointing out that the inbound journey of the pendulum swinging back would, considering the Mayan viewpoint, require a different type of configuration for the passengers on board as a new paradigm is entered, because the trajectory of the return journey would be different from the previous, outbound, journey.
Much of what we are discussing in this series are metaphysical and spiritual concepts, prophetic even, as these themes have been alluded to for centuries in ancient scriptures and knowledge systems, as well as having been intuitively and naturally held by many great sages and traditional shamans. Should we take the time to observe and pay attention to what is truly happening around us, without distractions for a while, it would be difficult not to notice how “the metaphysical” is also absolutely in line logically and practically speaking with the real world out there. The physical world is starting to reflect the reality of the limits to expansion and growth on a planet with finite resources to an extent that has become impossible to deny. The only way to remain unaware and in denial of this reality is to indulge in distractions purposefully in order to keep reality at bay.
To explore this further in metaphysical terms, one could think of the evolutionary process as Universal Heart Breathing: outwards, inwards, outwards, inwards. Each expansion or contraction takes millennia each time. On the inhale or exhale respectively, the “atmosphere” is different, which would mean that should one happen to be present during a transition phase when evolutionary upgrades occur, you would have to adjust and adapt to the changes occurring. These “changes in the atmosphere”, which take place during the period when expansion transitions to contraction, or vice versa, are the metaphysical aspects which are so difficult for us (as) humans to fathom. The ancient Mayans were experts in this area, which is the reason why they are still so relevant today.
To imagine this more visually, consider a heart pulse on a flat-screen ECG monitor. Linearly-speaking, the trajectory of each movement is forward and progressive, away from the previous movement. At the same time the movement is either away from the centre line or towards it, which could be seen as either an expansion or contraction. Transition happens each time the movement turns around. Waves and spirals are not in fact two-dimensional, but we frequently tend to view them as such and in the above case it helps us to visualise progression, but, in fact, three-dimensionally (or more) there is much more happening on various “levels”. Again, this is where the Mayans were absolute experts. We will explore this more later on.
This brings us back to the pendulum theory. “Going home” is not a return to the old, but a progression to the new, which involves a return from the fringes to the centre, while at the same time moving forward into uncharted waters. Naturally, should one want to swing back along with the pendulum, or transition from the old trajectory to the new one, you would most likely want to prepare for it. At the end of the day(s), however, at the end of a particular age or era, regardless of all the hard work a lifetime’s worth of individuation towards personal growth and spiritual enlightenment may have brought a person, there is still simple choice involved. You would either choose to go with the new flow or not.
Apparently, on the Titanic there was a small group of people who chose to keep on partying while the ship was taking on water. They knew what was happening, yet they chose to party on. One can imagine, however, that in the last moments some souls had second thoughts and made last-minute decisions and attempts to get on-board life rafts. In the present-day context it would seem that the group partying the hardest would be the majority.
It’s hard to say how many of us are prepared for major external challenges when things really start heating up. Only time will tell, but we do not see mass resource conservation or global reduction in consumption happening pre-emptively, on a grand scale, in preparation for a major resource downturn and global rising temperatures. This must mean that most of us would rather maintain our lifestyles and cruise along with the proverbial ship for as far as it will take us, or at least until it starts hitting obstacles.
Forewarned is forearmed though. Therefore, relevant right now is for those individuals in the minority group who are paying attention to consider how they would prepare their “life rafts”. Unlike on the Titanic, which already had ready-built life rafts on board for evacuation and rescue purposes, the developed world and large parts of the developing world are cruising along full-steam with no contingency plans.
As individuals we have to prepare our own vessels; that is, if we don’t want to end up in a sink-or-swim scenario, which is where the entrenched era of globalisation and its side-effects is currently leading us. The better you prepare your life raft, the easier the transition will be. Therefore, what we should ask our selves right now is: What would these life rafts consist of? Some creative thinking would be required, because very few frameworks exist in the current mainstream to really contemplate this question.
My suggestion would be that, practically-speaking, our “vessels” should contain internal and external elements. We should probably first consider what the inner container of our vessels should consist of, because what is inside is reflected on the outside and when creative, positive ideas are put into practice they usually manifest practically. These inner containers would usually hold our value systems, our ethics, our ideals, our hopes, our beliefs and our positive visions for the future.
We should then consider the external elements of our vessels. The first of these should be our physical, human bodies, our personal biological containers, which need to be preserved in order to facilitate holding the inner containers in a balanced way. In addition, our immediate personal external environments need to be conducive for our physical bodies to be in good balance and to allow the inner containers to develop in a balanced way. All of these elements together would comprise our “life rafts”. Should we discard our inner or spiritual containers, however, or fail to develop them, we would have no vision for the future and not much of a concern for it, and we would only care for our immediate personal environments, but not much beyond them.
Before we continue, let’s recap again on how and why we find ourselves in this predicament, as previously discussed in prior instalments. In the long run, a combination of too many physical comforts and comfort zones, material conveniences and the lack of external challenges, combined with the “will to pleasure” (Freud), has led to the infantilising of many modern-day societies, which enhances our will to avoiding responsibility, which we are already inherently predisposed to. To a large extent this has occurred due to the wilful dismantling of inner structures and navigation systems, such as value systems, ethics, spiritual practices, morals and intuition, in the belief that they would cause us self-sabotage by restricting our own potential unlimited material and physical freedoms. Put another way, we have neglected our spiritual containers and have allowed them to fade away to make way for our “ego retainers” to show us the way. Some parts of society and some societies are more affected than others, depending on how many traditions or cultural values and or reference points they have maintained.
Even in a dystopia scenario, a person with a strong spiritual core stands a good chance of making better choices and decisions during challenging times. Furthermore, when lacking conscious religiosity or spirituality, people who tend to care about others and have a humane and empathic disposition, essentially still act in a conscientious and therefore wise(r) and more mature way. What is in your heart is not dependent on any ideology or dogma. Having said that, religion does also contain various values compatible and motivational for being humane – and if not misinterpreted, can provide very solid guidance. In that respect, religion cannot simply be written off completely either, as is the growing trend currently. This was well-explored in the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, based on the experiences he had in concentration camps during the Second World War.
Looking at this from a Jungian perspective, one could say that the collective “inner trickster” has tricked the collective self into self-sabotage, by getting the majority to believe that responsibility is not required in the modern world and that we can do everything on our own, without being part of a whole; that we are disconnected from each other and everything else and that we have no responsibilities towards anyone or our environment – the ecosystem which supports us. That is why we are “stuffing our faces with cake”. The idea that we can live boundary-less and have it all, without giving anything in return, is widely embraced.
However, considering the results of the report by Graham Turner quoted above, it would seem that we are likely to be brought down to earth quite soon – without being able to have our cake and eating it after all. This reality check is going to require some introspection, which should be a good starting point for the process of preparing our vessels for the symbolic journey back home. Regardless, we will increasingly be met with external challenges head-on in the future. Questioning how we got here and reviewing our trajectory thus far may help us to think about how we might untangle ourselves from the mess we got our selves into, internally and externally, and to adjust our approach.
It is worth reflecting upon the fact that our modern way of thinking goes hand in hand with the suppression of conscience. As a result, the following symptoms can now be observed in society: moral relativity; ambiguity; not distinguishing between right and wrong; having limited reference points; suffering from apathy and indecisiveness, lethargy and procrastination; and so on. Inertia seems to be prevalent everywhere.
This disposition is arrived at by default when we don’t make an effort to manage our lifestyles in terms of what we expose ourselves to, or what we are exposed to. Media and entertainment no longer hold much quality, structure or guidance, especially in terms of strengthening conscience, but we are consuming it in increasingly larger volumes – by choice. It is hard therefore to develop or maintain value systems automatically, without a concerted effort to do so. In the meantime, individualism and consumerism provide the illusion of individual independence and empowerment. This false autonomy, which plays to our egos and which our egos play to in return, has replaced organic, authentic personal autonomy, which would usually have set a person apart from the crowd and which would under normal circumstances have developed through natural and purposeful individuation.
In the relatively recent past, not more than 25 or 30 years ago, there used to be a strong expectation, a demand even, from society for an individual to develop responsibly as part of becoming a fully-fledged, mature member of their community – and by extension, the wider society. In addition, in previous generations, life used to be much harder for people in general, which motivated personal growth and natural progress towards maturity. There certainly used to be fewer conveniences and entertainment systems to distract and occupy every single free moment of one’s time. Too much “frivolousness” used to be frowned upon and even actively discouraged, whereas it is actively encouraged nowadays.
Even further back, in more traditional times and societies, there used to be milestones and stages of life and an expectation to transition from the one to the other, such as coming of age cultural rituals and certain roles which had to be filled and fulfilled during each stage of the life journey. In this way individuals progressed to maturity systematically. Apparently, today we can be who we want to be, how we want to be, whenever we want to be so. Apparently, as long as we live in the moment and for the moment, everything else will fall into place more or less automatically and take care of itself.
Without discernment, the very popular idea of attempting to be fully in the present moment at all times could potentially detract from adequately planning for the future. Also, it remains important to not lose sight of the past and to preserve our reference points, which are crucial for reflection, contemplation and rumination. They assist in knowing who you are now, where you have come from originally and where you are going to.
In order to progress consciously, we need to remain aware and conscious of past, present and future. Being present in the moment authentically and in a balanced manner means being able to comfortably consider all three at the same time, while not obsessing too much about any of the three time elements, with natural emphasis being on the present. Exceptions, of course, would be when we are engaged in activities specifically related to one of the three time elements. Meditation is based in the present moment. Planning for your future relates to focusing on the future. Using your life or work experience relates to the past – and so on.
Being in the moment is sometimes inadvertently conflated with compulsively living for the moment – to “get it all in”. Living for the moment produces strong natural feelings and sensations of pleasure and enjoyment in the moment – whether or not those moments would in fact be healthy or constructive in the long run. Living for the moment can therefore easily develop into a form of escapism when the sensations of pleasure and enjoyment are pursued again and again, while actively avoiding any moments of discomfort or pain.
As resistant as we may be to the idea, we also need to be able to be fully present in the not-so-pleasurable moments when we experience discomforts and challenges. All moments have value and it is especially during difficult times and challenging times that we achieve personal growth. This is part and parcel of life and also of the individuation process.
“There is no birth of consciousness without pain,” – Carl Jung.
When an environment allows the ego to develop to such an extent that it becomes the all-consuming be-all-and-end-all for each individual, amazing illusions are cultivated as a result. When there is no longer an emphasis on developing or maintaining the true self, the tendency to seek out and consume empty pleasures may well end up being more than enough for many, as long as there are enough entertainment systems available to consume. A search for genuine meaning in life then eventually fades. This culminates in the ubiquitous mediocrity we see all around us today. Mediocrity has no spirit or vision. Mediocrity is an empty vessel.
In Groundhog Day, a film made in 1993, there were no portable electronic “devices of mass distraction” such as Smartphones, Tablets, laptops and the like. In the early ’90s, personal entertainment systems were limited to the popular Sony Walkman and of course television. Home computers had limited processing power and the internet was more or less still in its infancy. Due to the advantage of free time, Phil Connors still stood a good chance of developing his true inner self further, and he was prompted to do so eventually, through sheer boredom and frustration. The point being that in the present day we consume 10 to 20 times as much electronically-delivered content as 10 or 15 years ago (if not more), and much of it low quality. This situation is unprecedented in the history of humanity, yet we have no real mechanisms in place for managing it. Of course, logically-speaking, just as each and every person is responsible for their own eating habits, they are also responsible for how they consume media and entertainment. Human beings need space for self-development and with our free time being taken up by a plethora of distractions, self-development languishes. This might explain the infantile and immature actions we witness by “grown-ups” on the internet, a very recent phenomenon.
Similar to how the overconsumption of unhealthy food can contaminate one’s physical body, the same happens with the psyche with excessive and compulsive consumption of tabloid news, mindless entertainment and narcissism-inducing celebrity and social media, as well as compulsive social networking. It’s just that the effects are invisible to the naked eye as opposed to food, but binge-consumption of anything will eventually lead to negative effects one way or the other. If we hope to journey out of this morass, we would need to start thinking about decontaminating and cleansing our vessels.
Human minds and souls need a reasonable amount of quality “nutrition” to remain balanced and healthy, and these are usually received in the form of authentic positive messages. That means that it is a natural psychological human need to derive something deeply nurturing from the sources of what we consume, because that is the primary reason we consume in the first place. For example, from time to time there needs to be “a moral of the story” angle to a book we are reading, or we hope to be inspired to something positive in some of the films we see. This is how we get non-religious spiritual or moral sustenance from what we consume intellectually, so whether we are religious or spiritual or not, we still need this kind of input in order to be balanced, healthy humans. Should we wish to have enough life-affirming sustenance for our symbolic return journey, we would need to start “filling up our vessels” again.
Beyond just consumption management, we also need to think about how we could become more responsible citizens in the context of looming limited resources, over and above what is required from us by modern society – which at this stage is not very much, apart from paying our taxes and being good consumers. Most likely, the majority of people would logically come to the conclusion that first of all, the basics should be to preserve and cultivate the positive aspects of being human and humane, and that we need to clearly identify what those aspects are. Furthermore, that this would be an antidote to the soulless dystopia-utopia we are saddled with due to not having been more discerning with our choices as a collective over time.
It is critical to understand that humanity is in transition right now. To illustrate this, let’s use an analogy of two streams flowing together at the same time. One is wide and polluted and slowing down. The other is narrow and clear and increasingly coming on-stream. The fish in the wide, polluted stream have lost their color and are lackluster and tired due to contamination. They are finding it harder and harder to make headway through the murk. Some of them have forgotten where they have come from and where they are going. The narrow and clear stream is flowing within the wide and polluted stream. The fish in the clear part of the stream have decontaminated themselves and have regained their colour and vibrancy.
They have remembered where they came from and they know where they are going to, so they keep to the narrow, fast-moving, clear stream part of the stream. They are excited, appreciative and relieved about having chosen the clear stream and having rejuvenated their sense of direction. The narrow stream has a purposeful direction. It is flowing back home. The wide polluted stream’s destination is unknown. Up ahead, the two streams will diverge. It is best to choose well with which flow we are going to go. Once the streams have diverged, it would likely become increasingly difficult to “jump stream”.
We may also want to think about which intrinsic values we can rejuvenate or develop further, to carry us through this transition period and onward into the future. Which of them would be most important or valuable or absolutely essential in the new paradigm? On a practical level, another step would be to create a list of approaches for purposeful living, as the current environment doesn’t necessitate it, and we know that the near future almost certainly will. We should also consider how we will be powering our vessels. From various sources, including the Mayans, we know that strong, heart-centred power of the universal and unconditional kind is highly recommended, keeping in mind that we are still in the old paradigm while entering the new one, so protection mechanisms should always remain in place.
Fortunately, there are many excellent sources to help us remember some of “the basics”. These include many books and films from the distant and not-so-distant past, and some from the present too. One such film is Groundhog Day, with very fresh and clear reference points for what a transition to some of the intrinsic human qualities might look like, had they remained dormant or under-developed in a person.
We will explore that in detail next time. We can learn a lot from Phil’s character and what he experienced in Groundhog Day. Readers are encouraged to review the film in the meantime.
© 2015. All Rights Reserved. Gypsycafe.org
This is Part 7 in a series.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Interpretations of Jungian and Mayan concepts are the author’s and are used to motivate certain philosophical arguments within the context of this essay. J.J. Montagnier writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching.
Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data. Research Paper No.4 August 2014. Research Paper Series, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.
Book: Man’s search for Meaning: Vikor E. Frankl. (1946)
Film: Groundhog Day: by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin. (1993)