I had a friend over tonight and we watched my deluxe collectors edition of the 1998 film The Big Lebowski. If you weren’t aware, a quote from the movie inspired the name of this blog and my nom de plum (and also my nom de velo – to be clear, it’s an homage).
The Dude: Yeah, well. The Dude abides.Source: The Bid Lebowski
The Stranger: The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.
I had only seen it a couple of other times, but it seemed to me just about as awesome as the first time I saw it. Almost, because come on, the first time is just pretty mind-blowing. So here are some of A Dude Abikes’ thoughts about this classic movie by Ethan and Joel Coen, starring Jeff Bridges as The Dude.
The first thing I noticed I’d forgotten about the film is that it is much deeper than some convoluted crime caper. At the beginning, the theme of the west is invoked in the music, but also the voice of The Stranger. Perfectly cast and portrayed by Sam Elliot, the occasional narrator also appears in a couple of scenes. And then it dives into the story and the urban setting of Los Angeles. But it’s about more, much more: a commentary on the rich, Los Angeleno culture, nihilism, social justice, biblical vengeance, to name just a few. All with the distinctive visual stylings and storytelling panache of the Bros. Coen.
Much more knowledgeable people than I have dissected the movie. The famed and dearly departed movie critic Roger Ebert had this to say about the film:
The film is all about Jeff Lebowski’s equanimity in the face of vicissitudes. He is pounded, water-boarded, lied to and insulted. His rug is pissed on and his car set aflame. He is seduced by a woman who wants only his seed. He has a fortune dangled before his eyes, only to have it replaced by telephone books and used boxer shorts. To heal and keep himself whole he stirs himself another White Russian, has a toke, sits in a warm bath. Like the Buddha, he focuses on the big picture.Source: RogerEbert.com
The Dude may be the laziest guy in Southern California, but he’s not doing nothing. Sure, you may say bowling, arguing with his friend Walter (John Goodman’s angry Jewish veteran), drinking too many White Russians, and smoking too much wacky weed is nothing. But I think it takes effort. Then you throw in the plot of the film, and Jeffrey Lebowski has a lot to do. I think the message is clear: if you’re lucky enough to have some free time on occasion, enjoy it, and stay calm (equanimity now!). A Dude aspires to be a Slacker, after all, he lives in Austin where that seminal film was made. Besides, to quote Donal Logue as Dex in The Tao of Steve, another Eastern philosophy-inspired movie character based on a real person (kinda like Kramer from Seinfeld, too):
“Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don’t we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned?Source: IMDB
And that brings me back to a common theme of this blog: Buddhism. Now, I’m not a practicing Buddhist. At least not one with a capital B. But maybe I’m a little like Jeff Bridges who says he’s “Buddhistly bent.” I do half an hour of yoga daily, but a year of adding a half hour of meditating didn’t stick. Lately I’ve been thinking of trying to add just five minutes at the end of my asana practice. Of course bicycling can be a form of mediation; one needn’t sit cross-legged on a hard floor staring at a wall to gain insight.
So it was kismet when I stumbled across this book in the library the other day: The Dude and the Zen Master, by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. I haven’t started reading it but it looks fun. Here’s a good interview to read about the pair in Lions Roar: Buddhist Wisdom for Modern Times. A quote;
Paraphrasing Buddhist teacher and author Pema Chödrön about the lineage of teachers, Bridges says that “when you pay homage to these cats, whom people could think of as very flawed,” you’re paying homage to that side of yourself as well, accepting the full package of who you are. Like all of us, they started out as confused, mixed-up people, and yet—by never giving up on themselves—they ultimately discovered their own genuine quality, their buddhanature.Ibid.
So is The Dude a Buddhist? Maybe. And if so, “So what?” you may be asking. Well, if you’re still here on earth you may be a little like me, still trying to figure some things out. Whatever life throws at us — a flat tire, a saddle sore, a broken bicycle frame, or something more serious like the end of a friendship, a sick pet, the death of a person, a presidency that has upended political culture and global relationships, poverty, racism, climate destruction, war — we humans endure and sure put each other and the planet through a lot of bad stuff.
We also can be giving, nice, creative, brilliant and resilient. We can learn and practice patience with ourselves and others. In our thoughts, words and deeds, we can strive to help, inspire, teach, care for and love others — and ourselves. We can take many small actions to make our world a bit better. Like pick up a shovel and plant a tree or tend a garden. Maybe you’re in a position to adopt a pet from a shelter. Give up our car for a bike one day a week (or go car-less for 14 years like me). Ask (or demand) our elected representatives fix some damn potholes in the bike lanes and build more sidewalks, house the homeless, and more. Take a walk and introduce ourselves to our new neighbors. Even become a Dudeist priest (or priestess) at Dudeism.com, like one of my new roommates is and I may too.
Or perhaps have a friend over to watch a movie, have a chat, some laughs, and some ice cream. I’d recommend The Big Lebowski if you haven’t seen it at all or lately. It’s a reminder that if The Dude abides, maybe we can abide a little, too. From the article, citing the book, maybe someone reading this can pass it on to the folks in Washington, DC:
According to Merriam-Webster, “to abide” means “to wait, to endure without yielding, to bear patiently, to accept without objection”. “That is no easy feat, especially in a culture that is success-driven, instant-gratification-oriented, and impatient, like ours,” Bridges says in The Dude and the Zen Master. “True abiding is a spiritual gift that requires great mastery. The moral of the story, for me, is: be kind.”Ibid.
And for some fantastic news, actor / director John Turturro has premiered his spin-off movie, The Jesus Rolls in Italy. While it’s not a sequel and the Dude, Walter, Donny, Maude et al. will not be in it, the film will be coming to American theaters in 2020.
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