Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters
Groundhogs, Integral Ecology, and the Meaning of Life
Every year, my family hosts a celebration that emphasizes hope, freedom from depression, and a love of Creation. This celebration is so intense and widespread that there is not a soul who has known my family for a full year who doesn’t know of it. Most calendars name this holiday on February second Groundhog Day. We have erroneously called it “Groundhog’s Day” since we began celebrating it over 15 years ago, which is likely a Freudian slip to show that the day belongs to the rodents, not to us. Many people are surprised when they step into my house in the month of January, as they find a groundhog flag, a dozen groundhog plushies, Bible verses about hope hung on the walls, live plants with twinkle lights, and hundreds of cupcakes and cookies decorated to look like groundhogs. Often, the movie Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993) will be playing on the TV. This is not simply because the movie is about groundhogs, but because it represents many of the values my family celebrates: overcoming the depression of a selfish lifestyle, embracing our creative leanings, and finding worth and pleasure in doing good for others. February second reminds us that by abandoning ideals of egoistic hedonism and embracing a life of virtue, we will not only see our own lives grow richer and more joyful, but the social and ecological world around us will flourish as well.
At the beginning of the movie Groundhog Day, the main character Phil Connors views everything and everyone around him as a means to an end, that end being pleasure…It’s easy to condemn Phil because we can easily see the negative consequences of his vices, but many of us demonstrate the same attitude toward the environment as Phil does toward Punxsutawney in a way that’s more difficult to see. It’s easier to be gluttonous when we consider overconsumption a part of the American dream; it’s easier to be arrogant when technology has given us the confidence to believe we’re invincible to climate change (despite the warnings of 97% of climate scientists); it’s easier to be greedy in our extraction of public resources when the prosperity gospel has woven its way into our culture to glorify the rich; it’s easier to be apathetic to the plight of exploited communities when we have never visited them and we are living comfortable lives ourselves. These vices are all consequences of egoistic hedonism, or self-centered pleasure seeking…
Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.