Babies are born Dudeist. Consider their preference for dairy beverages, lack of muscle tone, their disjointed sense of time…When they are little Dudeists, it makes it easy for us to be Dudeist as well. We lay around, smile often, and limit conversation to the most basic body functions.
Then all of a sudden, babies turn into little nihilists, and just as suddenly they become reactionary Big Lebowskis rather than the Dudes we all were born as. You can recognize them by their white knuckled grip on an oat soda. Strong men also cry…strong men also cry….At times like this it is helpful to turn to the book of Duderonomy and ask ourselves, WWJD? What would Jeffrey do?
"Look, Jeffrey, I don’t want a partner. In fact, I don’t want the father to be someone I have to see socially or who will have any interest in raising the child himself." When Maude made the assumption that The Dude would be disinterested in raising his child she misunderstood the important difference between Dudeism and nihilism, which by the way, is exhausting. The Coen brothers give us ample evidence that The Dude would make a patient and engaged father. His "family", Walter and Donnie represent archetypes of children at their most challenging developmental stages and together they squabble like siblings with an intense rivalry.
While The Dude may not "have a job" or "maintain good hygiene" he embodies many of the values that make an excellent dad.
- Unconditional acceptance: Donnie is an over eager, innocent, and repetitive six year old. The Dude recognizes his emotional vulnerability and is fiercely protective. The Dude may not be able to pay his rent on time, but he has plenty of unconditional love and acceptance to give to Monty’s awkward interpretive dance performance. As parents, we have all sat through performances much more cringeworthy than Monty’s "dance cycle".
- Patience: Developmentally, Walter is a teenager, stubborn, dogmatic, and emotionally needy. The Dude knows when to be firm with Walter and when to indulge him. Walter has a violent temper and an uncompromising devotion to the rules of bowling and his own interpretation of religious law. Sound like any teenagers in your life?
- Perseverance, or not: The Dude knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. He draws a line in the sand against unchecked aggression, but when it comes to pretty much everything else, is willing to abide. If you are a parent, picking your fights is pretty much the most important skill you will ever practice. Plans change, your Pixies CD gets scratched, a dad needs to know when to jump into a street brawl with nihilists and when to put on some sunglasses and say "fuck it".
- Mindfulness: When The Dude takes you bowling, he doesn’t let himself be distracted by a ringing phone. Even if it’s an irate millionaire on the other end. We could all be more dude-like in turning off the electronic distractions that pull us away from time with loved ones. This topic was covered definitively by David Masciotra here.
So next time you find your inner reactionary battling your little nihlists, wishing for an oat soda and offering a silent prayer to St. Da Fino’s Shrine to Our Special Lady, take a deep breath and ask yourself, WWJD? We may never know what kind of a dad The Dude turned out to be, but as parents, we can learn from his outlook on life and aspire to abide.
This column will probably appear monthly or, you know, whenever man. I will examine fatherhood through the lens of a Dudeist minister. You can reach me here to leave a question or comment. Until next time, the dad abides.