Bill Murray Philosopher / Humanist?
by Ron Steelman
I never thought of Bill Murray as a philosopher. I simply viewed him as an actor, a top notch, one-of-a-kind, always surprising clown, who can morph into a serious character on a dime. I greatly admire his acting skills, particularly his later work. What a screwball! He has evolved into a highly regarded actor, one able to create rich characters that reveal many layers of their humanity. He loves to never do what you’d expect of him, both on screen and in real life. I believe that’s what makes him unique
. . .and funny.
As my wife read aloud an article about Mr. Murray in the Sunday, December 2nd Arts section of the New York Times, we chuckled, cackled, and guffawed. A portion of it included an interview with Bill, which was revelatory. My take is that aspects of his personal philosophy seem very Humanist-like. Now I understand how he employs this worldview in his acting. In fact, it’s this sense of reality that makes him so funny and such a great success.
Is he really a humanist? I don’t know. I doubt if you could ever get a straight answer out of him. He’s a master at avoiding direct answers to questions. I do know he’s a lapsed Catholic who is reported to have said, “Religion is the worst enemy of mankind. No single war in the history of humanity has killed as many people as religion has.” Therefore, I think he is now somewhat post-theological (I’ll correct this if he calls to complain). In the Times article his philosophy reveals a gentle compassion towards others, and a belief in hope. Compassion and hope are two of the three pillars of Humanism: reason, compassion, and hope. Well, that’s two out of three anyway. We’ll leave the discussion of his view of “reason” till he calls to explain.
After reading the excerpt from the Times article, please watch the YouTube video below. As usual, Murray’s plan is to never do what you’d expect of him, while sprinkling a little compassion into his interpersonal communication skills.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
With Bill Murray, Just Take the Trip
Published: November 28, 2012
…”Q. That seems to be a philosophy you apply not only to your work but to your entire life.
A. Well, I’ve made some mistakes in that area too. The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.”
(describing his authentic self.)
A. …”I spoke about the first time I went to Wrigley Field in Chicago, and I was a big Cubs fan, and I watched all the games on TV, but when I grew up, TV was in black and white. So when I was 7 years old, I was taken to my first Cubs games, and my brother Brian said, “Wait, Billy,” and he put his hands over my eyes, and he walked me up the stairs. And then he took his hands away. [He begins to get choked up.] And there was Wrigley Field, in green. There was this beautiful grass and this beautiful ivy. I’d only seen it in black and white. It was like I was a blind man made to see. It was something.”
…”Q. There seems to be so much serendipity in your life. Are you actively cultivating these moments or just hoping that they come to you?
A. Well, you have to hope that they happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, “Oops,” and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering.”
Q. Are there days where you wake up and think: “Nothing good has come to me in a little while. I’d better prime the pump”?
A. Well, who hasn’t woken up thinking, “God, nothing good has come to me in a while,” right? When I feel like I’m stuck, I do something — not like I’m Mother Teresa or anything, but there’s someone that’s forgotten about in your life, all the time. Someone that could use an “Attaboy” or a “How you doin’ out there.” It’s that sort of scene, that remembering that we die alone. We’re born alone. We do need each other. It’s lonely to really effectively live your life, and anyone you can get help from or give help to, that’s part of your obligation.”
…”Q. Did you ever think that the lessons you first learned on the stage of an improv comedy theater in Chicago would pay off later in life?
A. It pays off in your life when you’re in an elevator and people are uncomfortable. You can just say, “That’s a beautiful scarf.” It’s just thinking about making someone else feel comfortable. You don’t worry about yourself, because we’re vibrating together. If I can make yours just a little bit groovier, it’ll affect me. It comes back, somehow.”
YouTube: Bill Murray on David Letterman
This clip demonstrates some of Bill Murray’s wacky philosophy:
A couple of online comments about Bill Murray on this Letterman appearance:
“This guy is just charm incarnate. The sweetest, funniest man on earth. You can feel the shyness too, which is just like the cherry on the cake”
“This world is going to collapse in on itself when this man dies…”
Some of Steelman’s favorite Bill Murray films:
- Moonrise Kingdom
- Get Low
- The Darjeeling Limited
- Lost In Translation
- Groundhog Day
- What About Bob
- Hyde Park On The Hudson (soon to be released. . .I’m sure I’ll love him as FDR)
Bill Murray as FDR – by Nicola Dove/Focus Features
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