April 11, 2020

"GOOD KNOWIN' HE'S OUT THERE" (profanity alert)

An Esoteric Take on The Big Lebowski (Guido Mina di Sospiro, April 2020, New English Review)
At the very end of the film the narrator, a cowboy with a strong southern drawl played by Sam Elliot, meets the Dude again at the usual bowling alley. The whole adventure, or misadventure, it now seems, has been a case of much ado about nothing, with two major exceptions: Donny's death, tragically, and the news that "there's a little Lebowski on the way." The Dude doesn't even know this, and probably will never be told, nor will he ever inquire: by now, we know the character well enough. But he's back in fine spirits, preparing for the bowling tournament finals, serene and smiling. That is the true nature of the Dude. The narrator says: "Take it easy, Dude--I know that you will." And the Dude replies, "Yeah, man. Well, you know, the Dude abides."
And that is that: the Dude abides. In the face of adversity and the virulence of the whole world the Dude, of all people, is level-headed, tolerant, and consistently non-violent. He never punches back; the concept of revenge doesn't seem to inhabit his mind. What is more, he seems implicitly to make allowances for a lot of overaggressive people, out there, who will act like very hostile lunatics. "It's good knowin' he's out there, the Dude, takin' her easy for all us sinners," finally comments the narrator after the Dude has left.
There are many pacifists in the world--until their patience is severely tested, or their rights blatantly usurped. There are also people persuaded that peace is the natural state for mankind. It's a beautiful idea that unfortunately doesn't correspond to reality. Even Buddhism allows for "the lesser evil" to avert "a greater evil." History reads like a tragic litany of wanton aggression and invasion. Peace seems to be the exception, war the rule. The ancient Roman playwright Plautus summarized human nature with "Homo homini lupus"--man wolf to the man. Too many beings on this planet thrive on the death of others, from microbes to predators. To presume that mankind is a brotherhood of, say, angels, is misguided. Even trees kill one another in a type of chemical warfare called allelopathy. In his youth, the Dude tried to change the world, with a manifesto, no less, occupying Berkley, and so on. Eventually he realized that it was hopeless. But that didn't make him become bitter, or angry, or revengeful. Nor does he lead by example, as the cliché would go. He doesn't do, he is. Even when provoked, he harms no one. He cares little about money and is, in essence, a sensible, honest man with the kind of patience and tolerance that belongs to the spiritually gifted. He doesn't preach; now in the wisdom of his maturity, he never would; he just abides. With more people like him, the world would improve markedly.

Posted by at April 11, 2020 9:41 AM