After daring to defy death, the mighty king Sisyphus was condemned to forever roll a large boulder endlessly up a hill by Zeus. Everytime that Sisyphus had felt as if he was about to finally get the boulder successfully to the top of the hill, the boulder would suddenly roll all the way back down, and Sisyphus would have to start all over again.
However, the most interesting part about this punishment is his sheer willingness to partake in it. Sisyphus is not bound in chains or anything else of the like. He simply continues to push the boulder up the hill for all of eternity. His motives have been a question to many. Perhaps he is so blinded by his own hubris, that every time he reaches the top of the mountain, he truly thinks to himself “this is it! This is how I will outsmart Zeus!” or something to that extent. Perhaps, as absurdist philosopher Albert Camus suggests in his 1943 essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he feels some sort of absurd victory in his descent based on rebellion. Perhaps it’s something different all together! This is where he comes in. This almost mythical figure.
This is where “The Dude” comes in.
The protagonist of the 1998 classic “The Big Lebowski,” as the narrator of the film describes him, is “the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.” The film follows Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski as he gets mistaken for affluent millionaire Jeffery Lebowski (Or the titular “Big Lebowski,” as the credits call him). This pulls The Dude into a whirlwind of a mystery involving a nihilist, a kidnapped wife, and a soiled rug. However, as Roger Ebert stated in his review of the film, “‘The Big Lebowski’ is about an attitude, not a story.” It’s an attitude that inspired an entire religion.
Dudeism, the religion in question, was officially founded in 2005 by the current Dudely Lama, and former travel journalist Oliver Benjamin. I say officially, because many take this to be something of a “non-official” religion. However, thanks to the good ol’ first amendment, it is most definitely “official.” It serves as a sort of modern update to Taoism and the 19th-century American transcendentalist movement. They keep a list of “Great Dudes” throughout history, including Jeff Bridges, who plays The Dude in “The Big Lebowski,” Author of “Slaughterhouse Five,” Kurt Vonnegut, and Jesus Christ, who is, as they describe, a “bearded prophet of the meek and early archetype of the 1960s hippie.” Their motto? “Just take it easy, man.”
I found myself, much like many other Americans, quite stressed out about the happenings of the world around me. So, out of this, and a little bit of boredom, I decided to try it out. However, I knew that if I was going to get into this, I wasn’t just going to dip my toes in to see if the water’s warm. I was gonna dive head first into this.
This is basically my long-winded way of saying that I have become ordained as a priest of The Church of The Latter-Day Dude.
With my newfound position as a minister of the religion, I figured it to be obvious to give the film another viewing.
It is, of course, still incredibly good. The movie is an outstanding ensemble piece, as most of the works by the Coen brothers tend to be. The performances by the aforementioned Great Dude, Jeff Bridges, is equal parts hilarious and incredibly genuine. John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, who play The Dude’s friends Walter Sobchak, a veteran of the vietnam war, and Theodore Donald “Donnie” Kerabatsos, a man who is often ignored in conversation, respectively. The countless number of other performers in this film are amazing as well, namely Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, Peter Stormare, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
The film can very simply be described in one sentence. The Dude tries to keep cool in an uncool world. Personally, I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that things are currently “uncool.” So, how does one figure out how to keep cool? That’s easy. You don’t.
“Do or do not, there is no try” are the words of Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back,” and I believe that they are extremely applicable to this situation. The Dude never “tries” to take it easy. He simply does. He doesn’t take time out of his life to chill out, as chilling out is his natural way of being.
I have become ordained as a priest of The Church of The Latter-Day Dude.Jeremy Davis
He spends his days going about simple routines like hanging out with his friends at the bowling alley, candle-lit baths, and listening to his favorite song, Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me.” Much like Henry David Thoreau, who found solace in the simplicity of living by the Walden pond, The Dude finds solace in the simplicity of just living his day-to-day life.
The film contains a lot of characters that are seemingly stuck in the past, such as The Big Lebowski himself, who is stuck in his past achievements, or Walter, who is stuck in both the Vietnam war, and his past marriage, or the narrating cowboy of the film, who is… well… a cowboy. Even The Dude is somewhat guilty of this, being stuck to the hippie movement of the 1960s. However, it is The Dude’s “hippie” mentality that ultimately separates him from everyone else in his life. His ability to live life from day-to-day, with no lasting concerns from yesterday, or any anxieties about tomorrow. Being surrounded by those who are stuck in their past, and ultimately worried for their future, The Dude’s philosophies are what make him “the man for his time and place.”
So, in all, why does Sisyphus continue to roll that boulder up the hill? It’s because Sisyphus, somehow, on one of his many ascents or descents, was able to find a peaceful routine in his punishment. Although it always ends in disappointment, he ultimately no longer minds. Instead of trying to overcome his life, he began to let his life just happen to him. To put it simply, he learned how to just abide, man.