Ideological overconfidence is a trojan horse for entitlement

I re-watched “The Big Lebowski”. I have watched this movie many times, but like all great films, you often find yourself appreciating new things with each re-watch. Usually these are simply small, but interesting details that simply slipped by your attention previously, but in this case it was a broad theme that smacked me in the face as if I stepped on a rake. The Dude is the Buddha.

Spoilers, both narrative and spiritual, are ahead

Let me back up. For those unfamiliar with the film, there are four parties relevant to this story. Jeffrey Lebowski (old rich guy), three nameless German nihilists, Walter Sobchak, and The Dude. Jeffrey Lebowski’s trophy wife, Bunny, runs off to Vegas unannounced. Hi-jinks ensue.

The Nihilists falsely claim to have kidnapped her and demand ransom. Jeffrey wants Bunny to go away so he can better hang on to the money she is frittering away, so he fills a briefcase with deadweight and gives it to the Dude to deliver in the hopes the kidnappers will be angered and make his problem go away. Walter becomes privy to this exchange and swaps out “a ringer for a ringer”, hoping to keep the ransom money for himself. A perfect triangle of scams.

All three scamming parties are driven by selfish entitlement and all three rationalize it behind blustery, paper thin philosophies. The Nihislists believe in a chaotic universe absent responsibility, morality, or ethics. They simply want a thing so they try to take it. Jeffrey Lebowski casually gives in to his own avarice and greed to push Bunny out, rationalized by the belief that he has earned his wealth through “achievement”. Walter Sobchak wants to take the money because he has been wronged by fate and society, an unloved Veteran whose reactionary ethos assures him that he has earned anything he subsequently takes through past valor. Over the course of the film all three rationalizations are found to be more or less fabricated, their philosophical fascades disintegrating as soon as the objects of their desire prove out of reach.

Only the Dude remains whole and unblemished. His innocence isn’t shielded by superior philosophy, morality, or intelligence. He remains above the destruction and greed simply because of his lack of desire. A burned out hippie of nearly zero consequence, his lines are the only reliable words spoken throughout the story simply because he doesn’t want anything more than to go bowling and, if possible, recover a lost rug. It is the emptiness of The Dude that preserves his soul.

Too much unbending confidence in your own philosophy often betrays a far starker reality. You don’t just want something, you want a reason that you deserve it.

Anyway. Go a little easier on each other. Make yourself a White Russian tonight. Take a moment to reflect on my remedial cinema film analysis and how sure you really are. About any of this.

One thought on “Ideological overconfidence is a trojan horse for entitlement

  1. Pedro David Bonilla December 5, 2022 / 9:40 am

    I never got through this movie but it is an interesting analysis. I would say it sounds more like the nihilists are sick types if I reading Nietzsche correctly though Nietzsche apparently thought that Buddha had a related sick type. I would keep what in my estimation is the best part of both types and modify them a bit. I don’t think being morally pure is some sort of metaphysical state but more of way to live in peace with my fellow humans while being able to be at ease with this immense wealth relative to our ancestors that we all have. I think Marcus Aurelius had it right strict standards for oneself knowing that others are outside of your control.


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