Bill Murray has really been helping me a lot these days.
To be clear, not *in person* or anything like that. Simply the idea of him. The lesson of him. His sheer existence on this planet, really. (Though, now that I think about it, a life-size cardboard cutout of Bill Murray near my desk would probably do me several worlds of good. Instead of just the one.)
I was reminded of the Weird and Wondrous Perfection of Bill Murray again this week, when John and I decided to check out The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man on Netflix. The documentary shares Bill-Murray-spontaneous-encounter stories from all sorts of normal, non-famous humans, and it’s delightful.
Really, you should just watch the documentary. But — by way of encouraging you to watch it — I’ll reinforce a couple of the Key Takeaways that mean Bill is again my welcome and reassuring companion as I navigate the highly complex world surrounding me here in this year labeled 2019:
Lesson #1: It doesn’t matter.
To make full sense of this one, you should probably just watch the dang documentary already. But the overall idea is that, whether something seems bad or good on its face, we can’t know that it’s so. A supposedly very bad thing can lead to some supposedly very good things, and vice versa. Thus — oh, just to give any example at all off the top of my head — world leaders who seem to be ruining everything? They aren’t necessarily the worst things that have ever happened to this world.
This lesson doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. It only means we should temper that care with an understanding that life goes on, and we don’t know yet where everything’s going to lead. And with that in mind:
Lesson #2: Make the best of what’s around.
Bill seemingly YES ANDs the world, and eternally. Whatever the world gives him, he makes the best of it.
So he’s a superstar who can’t go anywhere unrecognized? He embraces it for what it is: an open invitation to join any party, conversation, or situation. As Bill Murray Stories unequivocally shows, Bill’s willingness to jump right in with his unique brand of YES-AND — doing your sinkful of dishes, singing with the band at your house party, adding a marvelous accessory to your engagement photo, becoming your new best friend for the night at your local watering hole — adds nothing but light, humor, joy, and welcome levity to the lives he momentarily touches.
YES AND is the foundation for improv comedy. (The documentary explains this, too.) It means that, if someone tells you you’re an exterminator, you’re an exterminator — you embrace their suggestion and add to it. You never say no.
That’s what Bill elects to do in so many of these spontaneous interactions: He embraces whatever’s happening and figures out how he can add to it. And isn’t that a pretty nice way to come at things in general?
I know I’m greatly oversimplifying. But I don’t care. It’s helpful to me as I do my best to embrace an ultra-confusing world inside which my own life can also be a helluva challenge. Maybe it’ll be helpful to you, too.
Anyway I really enjoyed the documentary. It gave solid form to several things I’ve long suspected about who Bill is and how he rolls. And it was an excellent, well-timed reminder that the world is a far nicer place:
If we can remember to laugh at it
If we can remember that many of these seeming the-sky-is-falling-in things won’t really matter in the long term
If we can remember to do our best to embrace what surrounds us, saying YES instead of NO and adding to it in the best way we know
I can’t close this post without explaining that Bill has already been helping me for decades. I’ve long loved him. I’ve long wished I could have him around to remind me how to be, and how to laugh. Thus:
Welcome to Bill’s B&B
For the past couple of decades, I’ve pitched my idea for “Bill’s Bed & Breakfast” to countless friends and family members. Picture themed guest rooms based on Bill Murray movies: The Caddyshack room has a stuffed beaver on the bed and golf-course turf for carpeting. The Ghostbusters room is pretend-haunted, adorned with green-hued lighting, and comes complete with a mini-Zuul inside the mini-fridge. The Groundhog Day room has groundhogs popping out of the dresser drawers and an alarm clock to match Bill’s from the movie. The otherwise spartan Lost in Translation room has its own mini karaoke studio in a soundproof booth and a complimentary bottle of Suntory whiskey.
Of course, in the combination breakfast room and cocktail area, Bill would have his own chair optimally located in the middle of the action. Anyone could sit in it, but with the caveat that — in the miraculous event Bill his-own-self showed up — they’d have to give it up to him.
I could go on and on with all the things I’ve imagined for Bill’s inevitably wonderful B&B. I bet you’d come to stay, wouldn’t you? I do make excellent eggs.
To be clear, I wouldn’t formally invite Bill. I’d just make sure he knew about it, and knew he was welcome to drop by anytime. You know: no pressure, keep things spontaneous, because that’s utterly how Bill rolls.
Sadly, I’ve still not opened Bill’s B&B. I got a husband and a stepson instead, and that’s better. But I do still dream of it, as I’m certain it would feel right at home somewhere in Colorado or northern New Mexico. So please don’t steal my idea. (Well, unless I can help you make it? And I get my own chair, too.)
If, when I finally open Bill’s B&B, Bill’s gone from this world, that’s okay, too. He’s still welcome. I mean, wouldn’t he make one helluva Ghost of Christmas Present? I can easily picture him in the big green robe with that massive wreath on his head, eternally smirking and telling bewildered guests as they brush their teeth, “They’re never going to believe you.” If our afterlives can be at all self-directed, I bet he’d be into it.
Bill Murray, you’re welcome in my world now and forever. Thanks for hanging with me. Thanks for hanging with all of us.