The other day I had the pleasure of stumbling upon a documentary that perfectly fit what I was in the mood for. I didn’t want to commit a ton of time, I didn’t feel like investing too deeply in any tough topics, and I wanted to watch something new and fresh. Enter The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man (Netflix).
This documentary ticked all my boxes listed above as well as being on an incredible topic – the infamous Bill Murray. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 30-plus years, Bill Murray is a comedian, actor, writer/producer and more. That “more” is the subject of this documentary. For me and many of my peers, he was in half the movies I saw at Jewish summer camp, USY, NFTY. Even most Israelis I know are familiar with Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Meatballs, and tons of other ones. So much so that I grew up thinking he was Jewish!
Murray is something of a freestanding urban legend unto himself. While this documentary follows his exploits in Charleston, S.C., we here in the Twin Cities know something of this legend ourselves, as Bill Murray has famously been a part owner of the Saint Paul Saints.
The film follows the documentarian on a quest to find out if these urban legends about Murray are true. The filmmaker confides that he is also seeking his own personal Bill Murray story, but I won’t spoil that part. In fact, I won’t spoil any of the Bill Murray stories (although a cursory search on Askjeeves or Altavista will do just that). Instead, I’d like to focus on what I took away from the film.
This movie reminded me of just why Bill Murray, and people like him, do what they do. Bill likes to mess with people – inserting himself into the everyday lives of everyday people. He shows up at weddings, birthdays, softball games, and everything in between. He doesn’t take over those situations but instead finds his place in the room and with the group. He is a true empathizer – and a model for anyone who works with people (which is everyone – especially those of us working and involved in the Jewish ecosystem here in town). While Murray has this effect partly because of his fame, it is the very fact that he appears appreciative of the accolades, but focused on being present in the moment that allows him to be so transcendent.
The film talks about how Murray’s gift is to “wake up” people from their complacency in life, and be present, appreciative, and open to saying “yes” to the moment. The film posits that this is due to Murray’s own origins in improv, where “yes, and…” is the name of the game – always accepting another person’s suggestion and building off of it.
While Murray has perfected this art, we all have it in us to give the same gift – really seeing people and helping wake them up from their sleepwalking. Murray seems to make it more of a mission, than a gift, and maybe that’s the best lesson of all: Let’s do our best to wake each other up. This was my final takeaway – That we can implement these ideas in our daily lives, in our synagogues, and especially in our boardrooms. Let’s shake things up! Go watch the movie and let me know if you feel the same.