Thank You Bill Murray
I missed Groundhog Day again. February 2nd came and went while I was busy doing something else. Did the little fellow see his shadow? Will we be trapped like Bill Murray (in the eponymous movie) in the same day over and over again until we learn our lesson? Hard to know what is coming next. Impossible to know what is coming next.
Our world changes through incremental events, until it changes through radical and seemingly unexpected events. Like how the meteor caught the dinosaur party by surprise. Or how the Berlin Wall of my childhood one day was reduced to rubble. Or how Donald Trump got elected President of this disturbed country.
We can always look back and find the unnoticed patterns that seemingly led to the dramatically shifted tectonic plates of the moment. But we humans also have the capacity of creating a reasonable explanations of how two unrelated things are actually related. My computer and the giant turtles that lay their eggs on the Pacific beaches of Costa Rica.
My sociology professor in college, Phil Ennis, used to say that the universal correlation is 20%–the degree to which any two random objects determine each other is somewhat. Phil Ennis also used to write good ideas he had onto the white kitchen cabinets of his apartment with magic marker and to always watch TV without sound to better understand what was going on. He was very curious about the world. He once said to me in a tone of great urgency “The world is an interesting place and you can think.” In terms of advice from teachers, this ranks right up there with my high school band teacher, Mr. Sam Cifonelli, who once stopped the whole rehearsal to exhort to me and my alto saxophone: “Rynick, stop sucking that horn and blow it!” And Mary Risley, my Masters ceramics teacher who said: “Better to be bold and wrong, than timid and right.”
But back to this unpredictable world that may repeat itself indefinitely for the benefit of our education until we learn whatever it is we are supposed to learn. Or may veer off course in a heartbeat into a future we never could have imagined. We can’t ever know for certain. We can’t really comprehend where it all comes from and how it all fits together. We can only know what we know up to this moment. After this, the new will come with imperceptible slowness and in overwhelming landslides that change the geography even as we walk on it.
We are advised to keep updating our maps of this changing external and internal terrain. It behooves us to keep our eyes open, make lots of mistakes and to learn as we go.