While reading, the Old Man suggests playing this in the background:
I grew up in an extremely religious family. My late father was a Southern Baptist pastor and Mom was the quintessential pastor’s wife. Everything we did revolved around the church. We said grace before every meal regardless of how public the setting. We had family devotions at breakfast every morning. Our bookshelves were lined with religious tomes following whatever the currently popular philosophies might be. I even went to a denominationally-controlled university, though they were nowhere near as closed-minded then as they are now.
Once upon a time, because I thought it was the right thing to do, I even considered becoming a pastor myself. Fortunately, for the sake of the world, that never happened. However, I do know a thing or two about writing a sermon and how a church operates. There are some benefits to my upbringing that have reasonable applications for the secular world in which I now reside.
Every non-commercial website has its own religious element(s) to it, and even some commercial websites follow some of the same paths. They have a basic philosophy behind their existence that someone feels needs to be shared. They have an underlying hope of changing the world for the better, though the definition of “better” varies tremendously. We also see in most website the desire to gather a strong social following that will help spread their message. The Internet is, in effect, a massive collection of would-be religious teachings all clamoring for attention.
With this new website, we are acknowledging that religious element and using it as a platform from which we leap into who-knows-what. A large following is desired, perhaps targeted even, but what we don’t want is a feeling of forced liturgy, any demand for adherence to a creed, or insistence that one follow any commandments. Being an Old Man, I’ve tried all those things and they all left me uptight with an angry outlook on the world and impossibly high blood pressure. Why would I want to pass any of that onto someone else?
Enter the Church of the Latter-Day Dude, or Dudeism as it is more commonly called. Dudeism pulls together the unifying philosophies from a host of ancient religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, Sufism to Taoism, Hindu to Islam, and just about every other little mind-altering -ism out there. The basic premise is that no one really knows what the fuck they’re doing on the spiritual side of things, so do your own thing, explore your own life, and let everyone else do the same. Chill. Abide.
Dudeism is based on the Coen brother’s movie The Big Lebowski. Dudeists quote that movie ad nauseum as we attempt to make sense of the ups and downs and ins and outs and burgers and enchiladas of the world. We look at the life of Jeff Lebowski as being a metaphor for our own existence, our own troubles, and our own relationships with Walters and Donnies and Maudes and Nihilists and your regular every-day assholes. We find in the Dude’s casualness a means for surviving the chaos, the disappointment, the loss, without losing our minds and wanting to blow out someone’s brains.
There’s a reasonably strong connection between Dudeism and Buddhism in that neither are necessarily deity-centric religions. There are some other connections, too, but that’s not where I want to focus this morning. Rather, I want to start from my own background, the stuff I know, and see if I can help you make the journey from there to here without losing our fucking minds in the process.
First, a couple of things you should know. Dudeism isn’t especially academic in its vocabulary. We say “fuck” a lot. “Shit” comes in handy rather often as well. If you don’t like that then, well, that’s like, just your opinion, man. (That was a movie reference. Learn it.)
Second, and this is very important, when we say Dude, we mean that in the most genderless fashion possible. There’s been plenty of discussion about the use of the word Dudette and it was generally decided that it was more condescending than not and just really doesn’t flow well. There are girl dudes and boy dudes and gay dudes and lesbian dudes and bi dudes and trans dudes and gender neutral dudes and in the end, we’re all just dudes, ya’ know? There’s no reason to make a big deal about it. You just be yourself.
There have been a number of significant dudes throughout history. From Lao Tzu to Snoopy, Quincy Jones to the Buddha, there have been a lot of dudes who laid down some really chill vibes, even if their followers don’t always seem them that way.
One of those dudes was Jesus, the dude from roughly 30 AD or so who about a billion people consider the son of God. While much of his life and teachings have been bastardized by people who see the dude as a mechanism for power and profit, he really did have some chill things to say when you strip away all the misunderstanding and mistranslations.
Take, for example, his so-called “Sermon on the Mount.” This is one of those instances where the fucking King James chapter and verse mess just gets in the way. Strip away the bullshit and Jesus’ disciple dude Matthew sets up a scenario that’s rather familiar to some of us.
Jesus and the guys have been trolling for a while, doing their gig stuff, growing the crowds, raising their social status. No matter where they went, man, there were people following wanting Jesus to do stuff.
“Heal my ingrown toe, Jesus!”
“Turn this sludge into a cocktail, Jesus!”
“Untangle my tassels, Jesus!”
People were, like, everywhere, man. So, they’re on their way to yet another town and before they even get there Jesus sees the crowds gathering. It’s like a thunderstorm on the horizon. Jesus is like, “Man, I need a break from this shit,” and he diverts over to a nice, quiet mountain, just him and the gang, you know, where they can sit and chat for a while.
And there, away from the crowd, Jesus lays some basic concepts on the dudes for how life can be better by just being chill. We know them today as the Beatitudes. Chances are you’ve heard of them. They go something like this:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Take away the mistranslation (which is pretty heavy) and the differences between first-century Aramaic and 21st-century vernacular, and what Jesus was putting down is rather chill: Be humble. Bad shit happens. When shit does happen to you, get the fuck over it. Don’t an asshole. Play nice. Don’t start fights.
Rather tough to argue with logic like that. Other people might impose a messiah complex on him, but Jesus was a chill dude. He understood what it means to abide. People keep trying to turn him into this hard-line asshole that thought he was better than everyone else, but really, like so many others, he wanted us to be cool to one another and learn to flow with life.
So it is with a lot of those religious-type dudes that people equate with deity. Over the centuries, we’ve made them out to be a lot more uptight than they actually were. The great dudes in history tended to shrug at life more than trying to make simple things difficult.
Go for the simple solution. Damn, man, I have trouble doing that. The fiance laughs at me when I reach for paper napkins to blot a spill when there was a towel sitting right there. We have gotten too accustomed to making our own lives more difficult than they need to be.
I’m struck by the words of Lao Tzu in the Tao te Ching:
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
Think about for a second, dude. Kinda obvious, isn’t it? Empty versus full? Of course, it is going to be easier to carry. The point is that we’re too anxious to fill our vessels and make our lives more difficult than they need to be. We take more than we need. We buy more clothes than our closets can hold or our bodies can wear. We throw out tons of food because we fix or order more than we can eat. We have become accustomed to excess when a more simple approach would make our lives easier.
Why do we make our lives difficult? We exhaust ourselves to the point of destroying our health and for what? To drive a prettier car? To date a more glamorous person? To rattle around like a loose pea in a bigger house?
Alex Pang, who I think is a dude whether he knows it or not, wrote this book: Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. Alex has done the sciencey research and has come to the conclusion that the majority of us are working too fucking much. We are not cavemen who have to go out and hunt dinner then skin the damn thing and figure out which parts taste good. We do our best work when we work less.
Case in point: Charles Darwin, you know, that Origin of the Species dude, Would work for two 90-minute periods in the morning, and then toss in one more hour somewhere later in the day.
Thomas Jefferson? That dude didn’t get around to writing a damn thing until after 5 in the afternoon. Man, talk about chill. Once he started, he only went a couple of hours then checked out for the day.
More than just a couple of anecdotes, though, decades of study by Alex and other dudes like Anders Ericsson and Marshall Sahlins show us that even hunter-gatherers are most efficient working only three to five hours a day.
Break it down: this non-stop workaholic attitude we’ve gotten ourselves into is just stupid, man. We need to chill in a big way.
Going back to the Tao te Ching, we find this gem of advice:
Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear. Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.
Translation: Chill, dude. The more you try to make things happen, the more you keep them from happening on their own.
Which brings us to the question of the day: How do we know whether we’re sufficiently chill? We are so accustomed to this hectic lifestyle that we have difficulty knowing exactly how to abide and abiding is a big part of what the Old Man talks about.
Jesus had his Beatitudes. I’ve created something more contemporary that we’re going to call the Chillatitudes. Gather around, pop open a fresh cold one and consider what I have to say:
Chill are those dudes who are themselves and only themselves and don’t fake shit for they shall be the most real dudes, man.
Chill are the dudes who have their shit together and don’t mess with anyone else’s shit, for they shall be chill, man.
Chill are the dudes who flow with the river, neither rocking the boat nor paddling up stream, for they shall sail most smoothly, man.
Chill are the dudes who let no transgression stand and fight for the rights of others, for they shall avoid nihilism, man.
Chill are the dudes who puff and pass without harshing the buzz of another, for they shall be given snacks, man.
Chill are the dudes who share fine drinks with others, for they shall always be surrounded by friends, man.
Chill are the dudes who are comfortable in their own nakedness, for they shall no the power of form, man.
Chill are the dudes who set boundaries for themselves and respect the boundaries of others, for they shall know real peace, man.
Chill are the dudes immersed in the arts for they shall know true beauty, man.
Chill are the dudes whose path is not straight but wander wherever life takes them, for they shall know fullness, man.
Chill are the dudes whose most common response is “fuck it,” for they shall avoid unnecessary drama in their lives, man.
You see, the thing about Dudeism is not about being a lazy bum, as some people tend to misinterpret the movement.We do things; we just have to have a good reason for doing them. If there’s not a good reason for doing, then fuck it. Let it go.
I can’t sit here and tell you which of the things in your life need doing and which don’t. You have to discern that for yourself. That’s part of learning to just be you. Worry less about what you think people expect from you and focus your energy more on doing the things that really matter. Stop trying to cram every conceivable minute of your day with stuff and only work when you can actually be productive.
Dudes, let me tell you, when we get to the end of our paths there is no prize for showing up the most exhausted. The quality of our lives are most often defined by our experiences, those incredible moments in our lives that are so cool we remember them even when our minds put themselves out to pasture.
Hopefully, these words help you as you find your path and travel. Let loose and go with the flow, dudes.
And may everyone abide.
And now we pass the hat: