Abiding and Nothingness:
The Two Sides of Nihilism
By Rev. Kris Harrison, Orthodox Dude
I was sitting around, drinking the sacramental White Russian the other day and as I watched the dark liqueur mix in with the light milk and clear vodka something pretty durned interesting occurred to me. As I was contemplating the whole "existence" thing, the problem a lot of us have figuring out what exactly the heck is goin’ on here, and I realized there’s a lot more to the story than I’d thought.
In the Big Lebowski, the nihilists are portrayed as a bunch of fuckin’ amateurs out to get their cut of the Big Lebowski’s money while on a beeline for self-contradiction, cutting off their own philosophical Johnson, so to speak. This is how most people view nihilism, as a philosophy of bland, whiney, nothingness bumming everyone out. However, there is also the ying to this yang, the milk to the Kahlua if you will. Meaninglessness, nothingness, and all the other fixin’s of an uncaring universe can be a canvas fit for the bright colors of the almighty Abide we Dudeists know and love.
Now what exactly am I rambling about? Dig this: nihilism is the blunt fact that within the vast expansion of the universe our actions become as trivial as squashing ants. The tragedies that have plagued history are mere footnotes in the universal dictionary. Catch my drift? Now I don’t mean to bum you out, so let’s consider the other angles. Given this fact, whether you accept it as such or not, there is the choice of falling into a deep depression, believing in "nossing" and drinking fifths of Jack Daniels until passing in a pool somewhere, or you could take a step back and laugh at the practical joke it really is. There are two ways to say "fuck it": one that helps escape unnecessary troubles and one that causes more.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because a fella by the name of Jean Paul-Sartre came up with a handle for all this, he called it Existentialism. Now, Existentialism that’s not a name anyone would go around self applying where I come from, but it has its worth. He saw the absurdity of the universe for its positives rather than the negatives. Though both are equally plausible perspectives to take, why be a bunch of reactionaries? Instead his take on the philosophy positioned the absurd as a platform for absolute freedom. Since one choice is just as valuable or invaluable as the next, why not see the world as a clean slate upon which to sketch a new outlook?
Take the Dude for example, he drifts through the world like a feather, landing from place to place, making of it what he pleases. There are surely some nihilistic/existential undertones to his philosophy of life. While those around him cling to the past, their possessions, prospects of fame, fortune, and status symbols the Dude just passes through like a stream, aware of the world’s fleeting nature.
Existentialism is quite similar to Taoist and Buddhist thought in their ability to take a step back and consider the big picture without discounting all of the details that make up the whole of it. What separates the Dude, Taoists, and Buddhists from conventional nihilists is that these Dudes still take joy in the madness, in fact they laugh right along with it. While many people stress and fret over their time here and all the ins and outs of the human condition, the Dudes of the world see them for what they really are – dust in the wind. Without looking at the big scheme of things it’s easy to be a cynic and give up on the world. However, like a Jackson Pollock painting, you can’t really appreciate the beauty unless you take a few steps back and absorb the whole thing at once.
Even in our lives, the ups and downs, in and outs, strikes and gutters all add up to be one beautiful symphony. Embracing the flux-uation, keeping things in perspective, and abiding make for a cocktail that will put more pep in your step than anything you could put on the rocks. When others raise their hands to the sky and cry "why?" simply raise your glass and intone "why not?" If there’s one thing that eastern thought drives home is that duality is essential only so long as you realize that underneath it all there is no duality. There never was any fucking duality. We’re all just tossing out ringers for ringers. It all makes for a purty good life story, but at the end of it all, there may be no literal connection. Or any connection, for that matter.
When The Dude and Walter visit the mortuary to collect Donnie’s cremains, the wall of the office is emblazoned with a line from Psalm 103: “As for man, his days are as grass.” This is another way of saying “life is short.” A less popular interpretation, one that we Dudeists fully support, is that life is all about getting high. Believe in something or believe in nossing. It don’t matter to the Dudeist. It’s ringers all the way down. Goodnight, sweet principles.
tragedy behind the comedy. when does the dude just have a good laugh with walter? serious. the
darkside of the dude.
We were chatting about Jeff Bridges a few weeks ago and some of the characters he has portrayed in his career. One thing that really stuck out to us was that Jeff Bridges, as a person, seems to be quite happy while The Dude is usually stressed out. The Dude wants to take it easy and chill out, but he’s often found doing the opposite.
Dudes, makes me recall an old favorite I have taped up on the fridge. In a Peanuts cartoon strip Lucy comes up to Snoopy, who is lying on top of his doghouse. Lucy informs Snoopy, “You are of no importance. Did you know that?” Snoopy sits up and Lucy continues, “You are only the tiniest speck in an enormous universe!” Snoopy gazes intently at Lucy for a moment and then lays back down on top of the doghouse as he thinks, “Then I might as well go back to sleep.” That’s abiding, man.
Rev Wendy says
lol loved the ringer for a ringer analogy.
OBVIOUSLY Dude is being sarcastic by saying “that must be exhausting”…it could just as well be Dude passed out on his rug after doing a J.
Notice Walter insults the Nilihists, but Dude does not.
I totally get the whole nilihist outlook…the existential view…and Dudeism..well…is the difference simply being happy and content with your utter unimportance?
Good article Dude. Far out.
I always took it that this particular TIME in Dude’s life..this whole “they’re gonna kill that poor woman” experience, caused him to be, as Walter put it “verrrry Undude”…hinting that Dude is normally, very , well, DUDE.
I think Dude chills away most of his life. Look at the end, he’s right back to fun and games with Walter at practise.
Rev Wendy says
btw, i’m totally using that turtles thing.
The Arch Dudeship says
Re: The Dude’s stress…
I think the Dude is pretty chilled out until the rug pissers come along (tumbling to the store for creamer after bowling practice, maybe), and even then he might have just shrugged it off if Walter hadn’t convinced him to go to see the millionaire Lebowski.
That, of course, sets into motion a whole series of increasingly stressed out situations along with the illusion of making a lot of money in the process. Kind of like the way a lot of us live today.
Through it all, the Dude tries to recapture his pre-rug micturation way of being (laying on the floor, soaking in the tub, talking with the chauffer about life going on, etc.), but the karmic consequences of his desire to get his rug back continually come back to disrupt these efforts.
Finally, at the end, the Dude’s chill seems to have resumed and he’s once again going with the flow of things, hanging with Walter, bowling, having a few beers, some laughs. Abiding.
Just my opinion, man.
The Arch Dudeship says
BTW: Good dudeitation, Rev. Kris.
Thanks for clarifying there Arch Dudeship. That’s what I was trying to say in a much less eloquent way. The Dude spends the bulk of the series, I mean film, in a somewhat, if not very, un-Dude state of being.
all the same, walter seems to spark a lot of agression during social situations.
Instead of seeing the Dude drifting as a feather, perhaps we should look at him as a tumbleweed ;)
c.c. keiser says
“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
Samuel Langhorne Clemens
“I do not suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it!” — Elmer Fudd