“The moments of déjà vu were coming more frequently, now. Moments would stutter and hiccup and falter and repeat. Sometimes whole mornings would repeat. Once I lost a day. Time seemed to be breaking down entirely.”
–Neil Gaiman, “Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders”
Today is Groundhog Day—a type of weather-divining, mid-sized rodent-type holiday generally celebrated in North America. Like many such “secular” holidays, it roots can be found in Ye Olde Christianity and then of course Pagan ritual. So it should be no surprise that Groundhog’s Day is pretty much syncretized with Candlemas (the presentation of the baby Christ to the Temple) and Imbolic (the feast of the Goddess Brigid/Saint Brigid).
Basically, it is an occasion (again: in the North) marking the “onset” of Springtime. This might sound like a delusional fantasy to those caught up in the latest Polar Vortex—but the idea is that the germinating seeds are under all the snow, and that “soon” we will have a glorious “rebirth” of the bounty of nature and fertility.
How soon that rebirth will fully take place is the purpose of Groundhog Day—if the groundhog emerges from his hole and doesn’t see his shadow (which seems to have been the general consensus today), spring-like weather will be coming soon.
The 1993 movie Groundhog Day is perhaps related to the deeper meaning of the holiday only in the sense of recognizing universal cycles of life. The holiday is dependent on a more or less dependable cycle of nature; in the movie, the protagonist is “trapped” within a cycle, doomed to repeat the same day countless times. It’s definitely a case of déjà vu—or, as the late great comedian George Carlin once referred to it, vooja-dey.
And so I tend to “celebrate” Groundhog Day in the sense of the movie…reflecting on all the dumb things I’ve done that have kept me treading along the same (or: similar) path over and over and over and over again. I call this phenomenon being caught up in “re-cycles”—though it’s hardly a new concept, and the Buddhists had a pretty big handle on it.
Interestingly, while shooting Groundhog Day actor Bill Murray was going through difficult marital problems—which inevitably spilled over to the filming itself. In addition to displaying erratic behavior, Murray also insisted the movie undergo rewrites to lend it a more “contemplative” quality. The result—other than the now-classic film Groundhog Day—was a feud with director Harold Ramis which led to them not speaking to each other for almost 20 years. (I explore the concept of re-cycles within the filmography of Bill Murray here.)
How do we get off this Wheel of Dharma? For the answer, we might move from Buddhism to Hinduism, and regard the advice from the Bhagavad Gita:
“From food, the beings are born; from rain, food is produced; rain proceeds from sacrifice (yagnya); yagnya arises out of action; know that from Brahma, action proceeds; Brahma is born of Brahman, the eternal Paramatman. The one who does not follow the wheel thus revolving, leads a sinful, vain life, rejoicing in the senses.”
And so once again: we come back to the primal wisdom of the Harvest, of the crops and the Sun and weather. Perhaps it all comes back to these most basic of elements.
Today I would briefly like to touch upon the symbolism of two currently (“currently”) popular memes. And I know exactly what you might be thinking:
But I do feel it’s worthwhile to analyze these memes every once in a while, as they are some of the most effective delivery-systems of Meaning for the Collective at the moment.
The first is Big Chungus: an obese version of Bugs Bunny, often paired with a videogame context. The original cartoon from which Big Chungus is derived is 1941’s “Wabbit Twouble,” in which Bugs improbably “inflates” in weight to make fun of Elmer Fudd:
From there, it was Photoshopped onto a PS4 cartridge:
And then by December of 2018 it just exploded as a meme—seemingly, for a time, omnipresent on various message boards.
Of course, Big Chungus immediately brings to mind the symbolism of the “Big Rabbit”—the man-sized Pooka of Celtic mythology, brought into the modern era in such figures as the namesake of the 1950 film Harvey as well as Frank from 1999’s Donnie Darko.
Beyond the traditional rabbit meanings of fertility & Springtime, the Pooka resonates death/resurrection and the Trickster aspect (which Bugs Bunny himself embodies). Like the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland & like Frank, this creature will take you on a journey beyond time & space.
We can contemplate the more cosmic aspects of the terrible Big Chungus in Surreal Entertainment’s 3D animation of the meme, in which the rabbit eats the entire world:
The other meme—which has seemed to recently take the place of Big Chungus—is “Shaggy’s Power,” a.k.a. “Shaggy God.” In this one, that affable slightly stoop-shouldered character from Scooby-Doo is given God-like powers.
While operating as a meme from as early as last year, it only really took off in like January 2019 as the result of “Shaggy” actor Matthew Lillard retweeting it. (Which is basically…the real-life archetype “approving” the meme; highly-powerful!)
Now, if Big Chungus is the mystical Pooka, what is “Shaggy’s Power” about?
Shaggy is none other than the “second coming” of that most famous and powerful of ALL affable hippies…Jesus Christ.
So is it any wonder that immediately preceding the height of the meme we had a Photoshop parody of Shaggy as John Wick?
John Wick played by cinematic “Jesus” Keanu Reeves…Shaggy as a far more relatable Neo-Messiah.
A clue to you all: the Neo-Messiah is bound to look and even act far more like Shaggy than Keanu Reeves, for the reasons I’ve explored in the first part of this post.
Have a good Saturday, and remember: if you meet the Shaggy-God on the road, give him an impossibly tall sandwich!