Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Dude Abides

The lighter side of absurdity is on display in one of our favorite movies, The Big Lebowski. We re-visit this flick today because we read about various Lebowski fests around the country. The movie has apparently become a cult hit, maybe like Star Trek or something.

Why? Well, the movie is just funny… but if you have a philosophical bent, there is another layer that will amuse you.

There are many creeds and doctrines on display, and referred to, by name, in the movie. John Goodman’s character represents Judaism and rants about Shomer Shabbos. There is Bunny, who is clearly a hedonist and there is Maude the feminist. Three villains in the film are proudly and defiantly nihilists (“We believe in nothing!” “Yeah, we believe in nothing Lebowski!”). Smokey, a sort of rattled Vietnam vet, is a pacifist while the Sheriff of Malibu is a fascist. There is a bowler with the nickname of Jesus.

And then there is Jeff Lebowksi, known as the Dude, played by Jeff Bridges. (Ever notice the copy of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness on the Dude’s nightstand?) That's the Dude on the left in the photo.

The Dude is the center of the film and he is a laid back sort of guy, tolerant, lazy, definitely lives in the moment. There is a great deal of appeal in the easy-going nature of the Dude. We would even say the Dude has an absurd streak.

As Jeff Bridges wrote “For me, the Dude has a certain type of wisdom. I like to call it the “Wisdom of Fingernails:” the wisdom that gives you the ability to make your hair and fingernails grow, your heart beat, your bowels move. These are things that we know how to do, but we don’t necessarily know how we know how to do them, yet we still do them very well. And that to me is very Dude. It’s not like he’s a know-it-all, the Dude. He’s not a guy who has figured out the way to be or anything like that, but he is comfortable with that he’s got, and, as the Stranger says [in the movie], things turn out pretty well for him.”

The signature line that sums up the Dude’s philosophy is this: “the Dude abides.” Abide means to tolerate and endure, to accept without objection. It means to get along.

As the Dude likes to say, “Take it easy, man.” I don’t know exactly why, but the movie always puts a smile on our face and puts us in a good mood, no matter how many times we've seen it. We think the Dude has it about right. The Dude abides.


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