Plenty has been said about The Big Lebowski. I think a lot of the movie’s charm lies in its well-developed characters who give this masterpiece a distinctly different meaning to everyone who views it. For me, it’s all about, “Fuck it.” I contend one of the major tenants of the film is Walter Sobchak’s slight progression.
Everyone loves The Dude. It can be difficult to articulate why. We are envious of his tattered, simple, yet fulfilling life. The dichotomy of The Dude is his sublime ability to ignore material desires while wholly immersed in the mind-fuck level of western capitalism that is Los Angeles. If you think on it long enough, what The Dude sacrificed for peace of mind wasn’t worth the bother, to begin with.
The Dude famously utters, “Fuck it.” to the Big Lebowski while addressing a grievance over the sullying of an excellent rug. This elicited a vague angry response about Korea, the loss of his legs, cultural revolution, and bums. Like most simple men, The Big Lebowski sees a world divided into discrete categories of which he is conveniently a member of the superior, an achiever.
Walter’s aggression is ultimately about his fear. As a result, Walter tries to control everything. Hell, he’s the owner of, “Sobchak Security”. At the conclusion of the film, Walter hasn’t confronted the root cause of his fear, which is obviously the Vietnam War. However, I contend he has grown. This can be observed in two scenes; the failed attempt to exchange the ringer for Bunny Lebowski and the scattering of Donny’s ashes. On both occasions he simply states, “Fuck it. Let’s go bowling.” That shows an awareness of the incidental nature of the universe. For The Dude, everything is temporal and impermanent. See, The Dude has gone beyond, “fuck it” to acceptance. He’s simply riding the wave.
The question for those of us who wish we could be more like The Dude is, “What makes this kind of life remotely possible?” I would contend Western culture’s obsession with being exemplary is overrated and unhealthy. We consume media that inundates our minds with images and stories of venture capitalists, tech bros, and CEO’s grasping the proverbial brass ring. While those people are real, you’re probably not one of them, nor will you be. And you know what? That’s okay.
What’s not okay is the manner in which these ideas contort our own behavior. We idolize The Dude because he has washed his hands of it and can’t be controlled. The sacrifice is realizing an average life is just fine. Being extraordinary comes with the weight of expectation and public judgement. What’s worse is wishing to be extraordinary while being incapable. This gifts one with a lifetime of self-loathing as you tell yourself you won’t be happy until you’re like the people on television.
I suppose the key is to want less and be willing to say, “Fuck it. Let’s go bowling.”
Rob Creekmore: I write books no one likes. I wanted to be Kurt Vonnegut when I grew up. Due to being overly-aware, I’m unwillingly becoming more and more like Hunter S. Thompson daily. I was also a special education teacher for twelve years.