Groundhog Day follow-up lesson, 2024 www.EFLsuccess.com
“There’s nothing new” isn’t a new idea:
This discussion works great after watching “Groundhog Day” but it can also be used without the film.
In the movie “Groundhog Day,” weatherman Phil Conners had to re-live the same day over and over again. At first, it was fun, and Phil tried many ways to be happy. But soon Phil ran out of worthwhile things to do, so he felt that life was meaningless. If you sometimes feel that way, you are not alone. The idea that “nothing is new” is not a new idea, as a famous king wrote the same thing 3000 years ago!
One of my instructors at The Ohio State University had us read that 3000-year-old text. I think of this “ancient wisdom” whenever I see “Groundhog Day,” because many of the ideas presented are similar. The writer was Israel’s King Solomon, known as “the wisest man who ever lived.” His insightful text is called “Ecclesiastes” or “传道书” in the Bible (and you can find the Bible for free, online, in many languages at http://www.biblegateway.com/). Like Phil in this movie, Solomon looked for satisfaction in sex, money, control, learning, building, and observing humanity. We don’t get a deep understanding of Phil’s conclusions in the film, but I think he and Solomon might even agree about several conclusions.
Here are a few passages from the Contemporary English Version of Solomon’s ancient essay, including one of the most famous poems in the Bible. Like this movie, the beginning is rather depressing, but it is worth reading to the end! If you are not familiar with the “little numbers” in a Bible (e.g., “Ecc 1:2-4), they were added centuries ago to make it easier to find or cite a passage. I’ll include the “little numbers” below in case you want to see the context of a particular passage in the Bible.
When you finish reading it, look at the discussion questions and then talk about them with a small group.
- Ecc 1:2-4 Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all—nothing makes sense! What is there to show for all of our hard work here on this earth? People come, and people go, but still the world never changes.
- Ecc 1:8-9 All of life is far more boring than words could ever say. Our eyes and our ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear. Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun.
- Ecc 1:18 The more you know, the more you hurt; the more you understand, the more you suffer.
- Ecc 2:2-11 Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do? I did some great things. I built houses and planted vineyards. I had flower gardens and orchards full of fruit trees. I owned slaves. I had more sheep and goats than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem. Foreign rulers brought me silver, gold, and precious treasures. Men and women sang for me, and I had many wives who gave me great pleasure. I was the most famous person who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and I was very wise. I got whatever I wanted and did whatever made me happy. But most of all, I enjoyed my work. Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work, and it was simply chasing the wind. Nothing on earth is worth the trouble.
- Ecc 2:20-21 I thought about all my hard work, and I felt depressed. When we use our wisdom, knowledge, and skill to get what we own, why do we have to leave it to someone who didn’t work for it? This is senseless and wrong.
- Ecc 3:1-8 Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.
- There is a time for birth and death, planting and reaping,
- for killing and healing, destroying and building,
- for crying and laughing, weeping and dancing,
- for throwing stones and gathering stones, embracing and parting.
- There is a time for finding and losing, keeping and giving,
- for tearing and sewing, listening and speaking.
- There is also a time for love and hate, for war and peace.
Pause to think and talk: Why do you think the “blue section” above is one of the most famous poems in the Bible? What additional lines would you add? [e.g., “a time to _____ and a time to ______(contrasting idea)”]
If you have time, find a YouTube video of a #1 hit song in 1965 by Seeger and the Byrds: “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Why do you think this song became an American classic? https://youtu.be/pKP4cfU28vM?si=oF6Z8Lm_4lnXrvst or https://youtu.be/w4qINY8KYpM?si=k2uU8D01bb3EzOtu (with Forest Gump clips, many from the 1960s).
- Ecc 3:12-14 I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, because God’s gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed. God has done all this, so that we will worship him.
- Ecc 4:9-12 You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. If you sleep alone, you won’t have anyone to keep you warm on a cold night. Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, “A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break.”
- Ecc 5:10-12 If you love money and wealth, you will never be satisfied with what you have. This doesn’t make sense either. The more you have, the more everyone expects from you. Your money won’t do you any good—others will just spend it for you. If you have to work hard for a living, you can rest well at night, even if you don’t have much to eat. But if you are rich, you can’t even sleep.
- Ecc 7:1 A good reputation at the time of death is better than loving care at the time of birth.
- Ecc 7:7-12 Corruption makes fools of sensible people, and bribes can ruin you. Something completed is better than something just begun; patience is better than too much pride. Only fools get angry quickly and hold a grudge. It isn’t wise to ask, “Why is everything worse than it used to be?” Having wisdom is better than an inheritance. Wisdom will protect you just like money; knowledge with good sense will lead you to life.
- Ecc 8:6-9 Life is hard, but there is a time and a place for everything, though no one can tell the future. We cannot control the wind or determine the day of our death. There is no escape in time of war, and no one can hide behind evil. I noticed all this and thought seriously about what goes on in the world. Why does one person have the power to hurt another?
- Ecc 9:7-10 Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or knows anything.
- Ecc 11:1-6 Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded. Share what you have with seven or eight others, because you never know when disaster may strike. Rain clouds always bring rain; trees always stay wherever they fall. If you worry about the weather and don’t plant seeds, you won’t harvest a crop. Plant your seeds early in the morning and keep working in the field until dark. Who knows? Your work might pay off, and your seeds might produce.
- Ecc 11:9-10 Be cheerful and enjoy life while you are young! Do what you want and find pleasure in what you see. But don’t forget that God will judge you for everything you do. Rid yourself of all worry and pain, because the wonderful moments of youth quickly disappear.
- Ecc 12:1 Keep your Creator in mind while you are young!
- Ecc 12:13-14 Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about. God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.
- Q1: After thinking for a few moments, talk to your partner about Solomon’s essay; each of you should point out something (1) surprising, and then (2) very practical.
- Q2: Solomon despaired when he thought that life is “meaningless” in spite of his vast wisdom, wealth and relationships. What gives your life meaning? Ten years from now, do you think you will give a different answer? If so, tell us about it.
- Q3: Re-read the last two items (from Ecc 12). In the end, King Solomon seems to find value in the things he had been taught about God (his father, King David, was known for his close relationship with God). To you, “who is God”? How would you describe God? Why do you believe what you believe about God (i.e., did this understanding come from parents, teachers, friends, or where)? To what extent does your understanding of who God is affect where you find “meaning” today?
- Q4: If you could ask God for one gift (anything you wanted), what would it be? [To see what Solomon asked for, read 1 Kings 3:5-14.]
- If you still have time, work with a partner or small group to create a skit, showing Phil and Rita one year after the film ends.
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