“What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?
Is it being prepared to do the right thing - regardless of the cost? Isn’t that what makes a man?”
— Jeffrey Lebowski
(the other Lebowski; the “millionaire”)
...that, and a pair of testicles.
Oh, how the binary of me (or of The Dude, who is also me, who is also you, who is also we, as we are, indeed, altogether) - you don’t need any of that to be a man (or, rather, a Dude). All you need is a solid sense of self and a desire to not get tangled up in other people’s nonsense. I say a desire because, as a human being on Planet Earth, getting tangled up in other people’s nonsense is one of the only guarantees you’ll ever get in life aside from death (they say taxes, too, but I don’t exactly think Freeway Rick ever sat down and filled out a W-2).
Please allow me a moment to explain where I am going with this. I recently finished reading Voltaire’s seminal work of satire Candide and was moved enough by what it had to say philosophically that I found myself typing a little thinkpiece on it while sitting in the passenger seat of my mother’s MDX. I was on my way to serve at a meditation center in Kaufman, TX (no relation), where my father, and his father before him, had previously gone to sit for ten days in complete silence, something that I wish far more people had the ability to do. But, you know, time.
Where was I going with this?
Growing up, I never really had a lot of opinions on the different movies I used to watch. I would generally just consume them and either remember them fairly objectively or forget about them entirely. Forrest Gump, however, was one movie that did not fall into either of those categories. I fucking hated that movie. To this day, I still can’t stand it. Aside from the movie Independence Day, I can’t think of a film that fills me with as much anger as that awful piece of nostalgia porn made for baby boomers who weren’t cool enough to be hippies.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, I was asked to write a follow-up piece to that little ditty I wrote while sitting pretty as my mom drove us past Gun Barrel City, and, as a dude who generally errs on the side of abiding, I was totally gung-ho...until I read a bit further. As soon as I saw that I was being asked to connect poor ol’ Candide to that dull, unlikeable twat, I instantly fell into de la Rocha mode. It wasn’t going to happen.
Shit - what was I going to do? I didn’t want to leave my man hanging, so I simply shot him back a terse “might have to give that one a rewatch” (I’d rather gurgle turtle cum for an hour) in order to buy myself some time. Luckily for me, I already had an alibi - I was getting ready to fly my ass over to the U.K. for some further learning, which meant loads of packing and even more loads of frivolous paperwork (even now, despite my ass being firmly planted in a desk chair at the Sheraton Hotel in London, I still have several phone calls to make in order to square away my residence here, which I really hope gets taken care of properly because I’d hate to have to take a baton to the face from one of those chaps with the funny hats).
As the space between me reading that email and this exact moment right now decreased in size, I inched toward the conclusion that there is a far better cinematic comparison for Candide out there, and it happens to be a character from a film that I have no need to rewatch since I pretty much live it every day of my life. I am speaking, of course, about The Dude.
Now, in order to understand why what I’m doing here isn’t a cop-out but rather a work of true genius, you’ll need a bit of context (since I am likely under the correct assumption that you have not seen The Big Lebowski upwards of two hundred times). You see, The Dude (or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, which I’m sure you can tell I certainly ain’t) wasn’t always the even-keeled, Kahlua-moustached inspiration to us all that he eased into being by the early nineties. He was, at one point, quite the rabble-rouser. He claims to have been one of the Seattle Seven (along with “six other guys”), otherwise known as the Seattle Liberation Front. These poor saps were so fed up with the U.S. government’s barbarous behavior in former French Indochina that they ended up storming a courthouse and getting themselves charged with “conspiracy to incite a riot” (which should indicate to you that they must have all been white because such a charge does not exist for black people, who are simply murdered instead). Furthermore, he goes on to mention that he was one of the authors of the Port Huron Statement (the original version, not the compromised second draft), a highly prominent manifesto of American leftism. One doesn’t get handed the pen for something like that without putting in some serious work behind the scenes.
Not exactly a lightweight - far from it, in fact. What happened, then? Well, like all of us, the world kept chipping away at his idealism until the only desire of his that remained was to take it easy and tend to his own affairs. Candide underwent a similar change - in the beginning, full of vim and vigor about the world; in the end, convinced it was useless to bother doing anything except taking care of his garden. The garden here is sort of an extended metaphor for just doing what you’ve got to do. Not veering too far away from the little nook you’ve carved out for yourself. Living in the world, and dealing with all of the people in it, without getting too sentimental about any of it. It’s all a madhouse, anyhow. That’s the lesson The Dude had to learn, that’s the lesson Candide had to learn, that’s the lesson Alice had to learn, that’s the lesson I had to learn, and that’s the lesson you’ll have to learn if you haven’t already. But I have a feeling you have.
I like to think that Candide would have slowly grown into The Dude, with the overly-cynical Martin and the earnest Cacambo as his Walter and Donnie, respectively. Pangloss, of course, would have been The Big L himself - in the end, exposed for the fraudster he truly was. Fuckin’ goldbricker.