The Big Lebowski and the Art of Loafing
I´m an ordained Dudeist Priest.
In my letter of good standing Oliver Benjamin, The Dudely Lama of Dudeism, writies:
To whom it may concern,
This letter is to certify that reverend Morten Tolboll was ordained as a Dudeist Priest on April 17, 2017 and continues to be a member in good standing of the holy order of ministers of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude.
As a minister, preacher and official representative of our worldwide faith we ask that you recognize the Reverend´s authority to preside over any religious, sacred or ceremonical ritual, including marriage, funeral services, religious counseling, christenings, and blessing or consecration ceremonies.
What is Dudeism?
Dudeism is a philosophy and lifestyle inspired by "The Dude", the protagonist of the Coen Brothers' 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Dudeism's stated primary objective is to promote a modern form of Chinese Taoism, outlined in Tao Te King by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, blended with concepts from the Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, and presented in a style as personified by the character of Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a fictional character portrayed by Jeff Bridges in the film. Dudeism has sometimes been regarded as a Parody religion, though its founder and many adherents claim to regard it seriously. March 6 is the annual sacred high holy day of Dudeism: The Day of the Dude.
Founded in 2005 by Oliver Benjamin, a journalist based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Dudeism's official organizational name is The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. An estimated 450,000 Dudeist Priests have been ordained worldwide as of May 2017 and marriages have been officiated legally by Dudeist clergy in some US states.
Although Dudeism primarily makes use of iconography and narrative from The Big Lebowski, adherents believe that the Dudeist worldview has existed since the beginnings of civilization, primarily to correct societal tendencies towards aggression and excess. They list individuals such as Lao Tzu, Epicurus, Heraclitus, Buddha, and the pre-ecclesiastical Jesus Christ as examples of "Great Dudes in History". More recent antecedents include pillars of American Transcendentalism such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman and humanists such as Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain.
The Dudeist belief system is essentially a modernized form of Taoism stripped of all of its metaphysical and medical doctrines. Dudeism advocates and encourages the practice of "going with the flow", "being cool headed", and "taking it easy" in the face of life's difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. It also aims to assuage feelings of inadequacy that arise in societies which place a heavy emphasis on achievement and personal fortune. Consequently, simple everyday pleasures like bathing, bowling, and hanging out with friends are seen as far preferable to the accumulation of wealth and the spending of money as a means to achieve happiness and spiritual fulfillment.
As a Dudeist Priest and educated philosopher I´m committed to the idea that topics of philosophical interest can be found just about anywhere. Sure, in ancient Athens and contemporary universities but also in homes and bars, on Ipods, and in movie theaters. When it comes to questions of truth, goodness, beauty, reality and meaning, frankly, it´s hard to find a time ´n a place they don´t apply.
Popular culture or pop culture is the entirety of attitudes, ideas, images, perspectives, and other phenomena within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid-20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century. Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society. The most common pop culture categories are: entertainment (movies, music, television, games), sports, news (as in people/places in news), politics, fashion/clothes, technology, and slang. Popular culture has a way of influencing an individual's attitudes towards certain topics.
To some extent, the ubiquity of philosophical considerations in life is both philosophy´s strength and its weakness. Because matters of philosophical interest are everywhere and involve pretty much everyone, it often seems as if anything goes in philosophy. It seems just as right to say to philosophers about their output what the Dude tells the Jesus: “Well, like, uh, that´s just your opinion, man.”
Yet then again, just as not everyone picks up a bowling ball is a golfer, not just anything a bunch of bums might say or do at a bowling alley can count as philosophy. Not every child who wanders into the middle of a movie can achieve that kind of thinking. But that´s what my article about The Big Lebowski, and my coming articles on other pop culture topics, intend to do, even those that might sometimes seem stupefyin´ (also remember that The Nihilists are the enemy in the film).
Still, it might seem a stretch to take seriously the idea of examining The Big Lebowski philosophically. It can look like just a lighthearted comedy, a guy movie, kind of juvenile, really, something silly and escapist. The Big Lebowski may indeed have seemed that way to moviegoers when it was first released in 1998, because it proved to be a box office disappointment. Yet when you start to think about The Big Lebowski, and over time lots a people have, more and more new shit comes to light.
Obviously, the film confronts issues of sex, violence, and death. The action of the film is initiated by the escapades of a nymphomaniacal porn actress, an assault, rug peeing, and an apparent kidnapping. Donny dies. Maude conceives. Children are threatened with castration. Guns are drawn on old friends. Cars are burned. Cocktails are drugged. Money and rugs are stolen. Marmots are nearly drowned. That´s enough by itself to lead an ethicist to put down the Thai stick and crack open to Plato.
Of course, there´s more. In the twin Lebowskis, one finds the legacies of both leftist hippies (still quoting Lenin, or is it Lennon?) and Barry Goldwater´s minions, still locked in struggle. There´s class war between unemployed bums and capitalist achievers, too. Then there´s the Dude´s pacifism and Walter´s Vietnam warrior ethic. There´s Walter´s inflexible certainty and the Dude´s laid-back…well…Dudeness. There´s religion in Jesus and Moses, as well as gestures toward things Eastern. Even the twelfth-century Jewish philosopher from Islamic Andalusia, Maimonides (aka Rambam) makes a brief appearance.
Stalking across the terrain of the film, too, is European nihilism. Important currents of recent philosophy have focused on the threat (or the absurdity) of modern nihilism in modern culture, which also I´m taken quite seriously with my concept of The Matrix Conspiracy (based on another popular movie, which also will be central in The Pop Culture Files). The Matrix conspiracy is in my interpretation that mix of postmodern intellectualism (relativism, subjectivism, and eventually nihilism), management theory, self-help and New Age, which together constitute a global spreading ideology, where Western capitalism and Chinese communism in all likelihood will melt together in a fascistic Matrix Hybrid.
Perhaps most compelling of all, however, is simply the Dude and the way he “abides”. Somehow, this silly, unemployed, developmentally arrested, pot-addled loser captures our imaginations. Perhaps it´s his stoic reaction to being attacked in his own home and having his head shoved down a toilet. Perhaps it´s his simple, nonmaterialistic lifestyle. Perhaps it´s his wit, his passion for bowling, his solidarity with his friends, or just his utterly convincing goodwill.
The Dude spends an inordinate amount of time engaged in carious leisure activities. Are such forms of recreation a waste of time? Everyone needs a break from work, responsibility, and even other people. As Aristotle observed, shared leisure activity is often the glue that bonds friends together. Indeed, the philosopher Josef Pieper went so far as to claim that leisure is “the basis of culture.”
Pieper based his theory on – you guessed it – Aristotle, who said, “Happiness seems to be found in leisure; for we deny ourselves leisure so that we can be at leisure.” Basically, we´re all working for the weekend. Pieper, though, had a specific notion of leisure in mind; not just any old form of rest and relaxation is beneficial for us. Pieper agreed with Aristotle that we must strive to flourish in our nature as “rational animals.” Hence, leisure is most properly that time preserved from the work a day world to spend cultivating our intellectual tastes. Pieper, picking up a line from another Aristotelian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), said that the right sorts of leisure activities – those involving intellectual contemplation – can even make us more like God: “’Because of the leisure of contemplation’ the Scripture says of the Divine Wisdom itself that ‘it plays all the time, plays throughout the world.’”
Unfortunately for the Dude, his preferred leisure activities don´t involve much that would strike us as God-like. This doesn´t mean that we can´t learn something from his example, though. His personal philosophy of simple “abiding” is something in which, along with the Stranger, we should take comfort. From the viewpoint of society (today infected with the virus of The Matrix Conspiracy), represented in the form of the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the Dude is a bum, and “the bums will always lose!” Many philosophers and other intellectuals have also been, and sometimes still are, accused of being bums in the sense of being useless to society – often forgetting that the democracy and the human rights they live by, are created by philosophers – for any philosophy majors out there, recall the look on your parents´ face when you told them what you were spending their hard-earned college savings to study. Aquinas, though – in an admittedly self-serving statement – asserted that it is “necessary for the perfection of the human community, that there be persons who devote themselves to the [use-less] life of contemplation.” The problem with society, as Mill has noted, is that we get so caught up in making a living – working to make money so we can have shelter, food, and green nail polish – that we forget to live. The Dude abides, the Dude lives.
Truth be told, Pieper and his intellectual forebearers wouldn´t hold up the Dude as an exemplar of virtue. The fact that the Coen brothers start the film with the song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” is perfectly apt.
The Dude´s preferred form of leisure is rooted in laziness – as the Stranger describes him, he´s “quite possible the laziest in Los Angeles County, which could put him in the running for laziest worldwide.”
Tumbling Tumbleweeds by Sons of the Pioneers
Like the Dude, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-271 BCE) was a misunderstood man with an image problem. Because he recommended that his followers steer clear of lives of political and financial ambition, he was commonly thought to advocate a life of idleness and lazing about. Because he taught that pleasure was the proper goal of good life, Epicurus and his colleagues were dismissed as decadent sensualists. Because he occasionally wrote about food and drink, his philosophy has been characterized as one of wanton indulgence and gluttony. Even today, the term “epicure” is popularly associated with the pleasures of fine food and wine. Add to this the fact that Epicurus, breaking with ancient Greek custom, welcomed nontraditional students – women, servants, and prostitutes – to his school of philosophy, and we can see why Epicureanism was associated with sexual license and rumours of debauchery.
Clearly, Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski has an image problem and an approach to life that is easily misunderstood. When the Big Lebowski notices his visiting namesake´s comfortable, casual attire, he pointedly asks the Dude, “Are you employed, sir?”
Lebowski: You don´t go out looking for a job dressed like that, do ya? On a weekday?
Dude: Is this a – what day is this?
After a heated exchange, and on the Dude´s departure, Mr. Lebowski shouts after him:
Lebowski: My advice is, do what your parents did! Get a job, sir! The bums will always lose – do you hear me, Lebowski? THE BUMS WILL ALWAYS…
But is the Dude really a “bum?” The thug who urinates on his rug thinks so, calling the Dude a “deadbeat” and saying he looks like a “fucking loser.” For his part, the Malibu police chief accuses the Dude of being a “deadbeat.” And, as we saw, even the film´s cowboy narrator (who seems to genuinely like the Dude and his posture in life) characterizes him as a lazy man.
But, not only are the life philosophies of the Dude and Epicurus similarly maligned and misunderstood, but the deceptively simple philosophy of Epicurus offers us a different perspective on the life posture and priorities of the Dude.
That being invisible to the culture of self-help – that being unregarded, ignored, devalued, is in a culture of self-assertion a curse. I have myself experienced that in a rather special way, namely in connection with my awakening of kundalini, which throwed me out in a spiritual crisis, years of investigating this crisis, university-studies in philosophy, and the slow development of my teaching Meditation as an Art of Life - and then that, again and again, being unregarded, ignored, and devalued by my surroundings - made me think of my own life as being befelled by a curse. First it was the devaluation of the kundalini-experiences I have had. But after I had got my education in philosophy, it was this education in itself that was being devaluated.
Let me therefore sum this article up by describing how the whole thing has influenced my own life:
Today I travel around in the world as a Philosophical Globetrotter, Life Artist and Idler.
I campaign against the work ethic and promote liberty, autonomy and responsibility; in reality: the fine art of doing nothing. In this I take an anarchic approach to the everyday barriers that come between us and our dreams.
So, today I´m in for spiritual anarchism, civil disobedience, and the right to be an idler.
I hold a MA in philosophy (University of Southern Denmark 1996-2001) and a minor in psychology (Aalborg University 2002-2005).
I have practised yoga and meditation since 1985, and during this period I have developed the concept of Meditation as an Art of Life. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 I have published this teaching in three books: Meditation as an Art of Life – a basic reader (2008), Dream Yoga (2009), and A Portrait of a Lifeartist (2010).
The development of this teaching is connected with my experience of a spiritual crisis (see my articles Spiritual crises as the cause of paranormal phenomena and The Awakening of Kundalini). Therefore the teaching also has some critical things to say about certain areas of spiritual environments and theories, simply because they – due to my experiences - are misleading and dangerous, many times directly wrong. This applies especially to New Age and the self-help industry.
When I in 2005 began to promote my teaching on the internet I, to my astonishment, experienced that their ruled some kind of spiritual censorship created by self-helpers and New Agers – not organized – but created by individuals who share the same ideas.
The presence of these people on the internet is enormous. And everytime someone is promoting spiritual issues (and also often scientific issues) you will have them on your comments area and on your email.
My “problem” was that I introduced the concept of Philosophical counseling. Philosophy is in the eyes of these people, in some weird way, banned in spirituality – it is somehow a terrible thing (probably due to the use of critical thinking – explanation follows).
And they didn´t want to go into discussions about it, they didn´t want to argue for their disagreement (argumentation is negative in their point of view). Instead they tried to silence me through mumbo-jumbo and condescension. So where philosophy tries to investigate, restructure and change thought distortions, these people are directly using thought distortions in order to get on in the world (see my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions).
In the start I closed down a couple of websites, blogs and forums, simply because I was unprepared for the enormous degree of attacks.
But also in the real world I began to meet these people everywhere. I discovered that their theories are introduced in schools, continuing education and on workingplaces; yes, that they even are on the top of EUs project on lifelong learning and education. I also discovered the connection with postmodern intellectualism and different kinds of reductionisms practiced on the Universities. Furthermore, I discovered the connection with consumer capitalism, advertising industry and the entertainment industry.
Though many of the theories disagree in between there is a red thread going through them all: subjectivism, relativism, and direct nihilism - the indifference to truth, and the following distortion of spirituality, philosophy and science.
I realized that what I have met is a new kind of Sophists. The relationship between the Sophists (teachers of rhetoric) and Socrates (the philosopher) is the central issue in the whole of Plato´s work.
In lack of a better term I have decided to call the whole of this circus the Matrix Conspiracy. And I call the agents of this conspiracy The Matrix Sophists. The Matrix Sophists are a common term for the tens of thousands of consultants, coaches, practitioners, identity-experts, therapists, sexologists, educators, teachers, social workers, spin doctors, psychotherapists and psychologists, who all share the ideas of The Matrix Conspiracy; that is: some kind of mix between postmodern intellectualism, management theory, self-help and New Age.
In my first book Meditation as an art of life – a basic reader I presented what I call the four philosophical hindrances and openings in towards the Source (see my article The Four Philosophical Hindrances and Openings). I presented them in order to show what I think characterizes the spiritual practice as it exists in all the traditional wisdomtraditions. Ever since I have become increasingly puzzled over, how The Matrix Conspiracy - which claims to work in accordance with spirituality - is turning this upside down.
The paradox is that while The Matrix Sophists are claiming to create the authentic, autonomous, resource-filled and competent human being, at the same time is doing the exact opposite: it is making people dependent of therapist, coaches, others ideas and ideals; making them modeling and imitating so-called successful people, etc., etc.
The Matrix Conspiracy, and its belonging therapeutic techniques, thereby exposes the paradox, that the more resource-filled a human being is conceived to be, the more it has to be supported therapeutically. The more self-actualizing a human being becomes, the more it is in need of help to actualize itself. And the more responsibility a human being is said to have for its own life, the more this same human being, basically, is considered as a victim, as non-authentic, and therefore as powerless.
That means that if you don´t share their ideas, and even are critical, you are considered as a non-authentic, powerless victim. That is one of the reasons why they think they don´t have to argue with you but instead are trying to silence you through mumbo-jumbo and condescension. I have especially met this attitude in relation with 1) my kundalini-experiences, 2) my education, 3) when I tried to take an education as a health care assistant, 4) in my time as unemployed, and 5) from friends and family.
I will describe these points in short. With the words of my professor David Favrholdt, then we here speak about a movement, which conclusions are so rabid and stark raving stupid, that I hardly can give an account of them without immediately becoming accused of having distorted them. I can only say that I haven´t distorted anything, but due to the limitation of this article I can only here give a short example of the essence of the stupidity involved. If you want to get the full picture, just read my books and articles as such.
The points are:
1) My kundalini-experiences
When my kundalini-experiences had the aspect of The Dark Night of the Soul I tried to seek help from other spiritual people. The problem is that when you try to seek spirituality, for example on the internet, you will eventually meet New Agers or Self-helpers. Not surprisingly they had no clue about what I was experiencing, but as coaches and therapists (self-proclaimed spiritual teachers), they acted as if they knew everything. The message to me was that the crisis was due to my negative thoughts, and that the crisis would disappear if I from my vocabulary removed all the negative words connected with the crisis.
2) My education
I have again and again been confronted with the claim that my education in philosophy (and psychology) is outdated; that I am caught in an old way of thinking which does that I am closed-minded. And precisely because most New Agers and self-helpers not are particularly qualified in philosophy (or any other higher education), then they claim that this is a significant condition for contributing to the development of new ways of thinking in philosophy; that is: contrary to me they are much more open-minded; or said in another way: they understand philosophy much better.
Such statements are typical in the New Age environment. Normally they are directed towards educated scientists though. In order to explain where they have got such strange ideas from I will here (just one example among many) quote John Grinder, who is one of the founders of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) (The other founder is Richard Bandler):
My memories about what we thought at the time of discovery (with respect to the classic code we developed – that is, the years 1973 through 1978) are that we were quite explicit that we were out to overthrow a paradigm and that, for example, I, for one, found it very useful to plan this campaign using in part as a guide the exellent work of Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in which he detailed some of the conditions in the midst of paradigm shifts. For example, I believe it was very useful that neither one of us were qualified in the field we first went after – psychology and in particular, it´s therapeutic application; this being one of the conditions which Kuhn identified in his historical study of paradigm shifts. Who knows what Bandler was thinking?
The only thing Grinder here is demonstrating is that he doesn´t understand Thomas Kuhn (precisely because he is not qualified in philosophy). Kuhn did not promote the notion that not being particularly qualified in a scientific field is a significant condition for contributing to the development of a new paradigm in science. Furthermore, Kuhn did not provide a model or blueprint for creating paradigm shifts! His is an historical work, described what he believed to have occured in the history of science. He made no claim that anything similar happens in philosophy and he certainly did not imply that anything NLP did, or is doing, constitutes a paradigm shift (read more about the inspiration from Kuhn in my article Constructivism: the postmodern intellectualism behind New Age and the self-help industry).
In my article The Sokal Hoax you can find other examples of this way of attacking science and other highly educated people. In my article Quantum mysticism and its web of lies I give an example of how the New Age guru Deepak Chopra is using this way of “argumentation”.
Read more about NLP in my article Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT))
3) when I tried to take an education as a health care assistant
After I had finished my psychology studies in 2005, I tried to take an education as a health care assistant because there in this area were plenty of jobs. I had to stop it though, because a great deal of the theoretical part directly is based on the self-help industry. On the fixed curriculum were for example NLP and Nonviolent Communication; that is: in order to take the education you are forced to work with these theories, and you are being examined in them. Moreover I experienced to be bullied in the classes when I asked critical questions; that is: mumbo-jumbo and condescension.
4) in my time as unemployed
When you are unemployed in Denmark you have to attend so-called activation-courses (note: you are forced to, or else you loose your money). Most of them are runned by the self-help industry. I have attended quite a few. I will just mention one of them. It was a so-called job-seeking course. Most of the participants were under 30. Some of them were newly educated graduates, a couple of engineers, and a graphic designer. Others had simply lost their jobs.
The slogan of the course was that “From scratch we build up human beings as a wholeness.” Notice here the obvious view of the participants as scratch; that is: they were considered as non-authentic, powerless victims (also the participants who had had jobs for years).
The course had five parts:
a) A test of personality. Besides that the test in my case was completely wrong, then let me just mention the central issue: the attractive personality. In order to explain what the attractive personality is the consultant kept on using the same example, which she thought was quite obvious: namely that people with boyfriends/girlfriends had attractive personalities, while people without boyfriends/girlfriends had unattractive personalities (one of the participants found this a bit strange since she had just lost a boyfriend who had got killed in a car accident) – read more about personality typing in my article Personality typing is a refined system of prejudice.
b) How to give a handshake
c) How to smile
d) How to use a telephone. Here we learned how to ring up, say hello and goodbye
e) How to use the internet. Here we learned how to switch on the computer, go on the internet, search on google, and as the most advanced part: how to open an email account on google (Gmail).
The course lasted one month, so you can figure out how many days were spend on each of these parts. In the start of the course we learned how to shout in chorus: “waauuw!”. This we did several times each day. We had to do it each time one of the consultants had made an “obvious” conclusion.
5) from friends and family
In my first three books you can see my starting critique of all this. But since the main issue of the books is my spiritual teaching, the critique is rather sporadic and unsystematic. As you can see in the descriptions of the books, I had actually also decided that this critique should be the final critique. But after 2010 I experienced how The Matrix Conspiracy increasingly was creeping into all aspects of my life.
Especially because I also began to meet it in friends and family, I decided to write two books on The Matrix Conspiracy (The Matrix Conspiracy - part 1 and 2), which are dedicated the revelation of what I seriously see as the most dangerous ideology on Earth. But it is also connected with the re-introduction of philosophical counseling and my teaching.
My book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions is a follow-up book to the first three books on my teaching. It is also a reference book to the two books on the Matrix Conspiracy. In this way it is a kind of bridge between my teaching and the two Matrix Conspiracy books. These six books can be seen as preparation for my seventh book Sûnyatâ Sutras.
As I have said before then it was actually my education in philosophy that taught me how to think clearly, and which was a main reason for, that I at all got out of my spiritual crisis. And that is also the reason why I again and again emphasize the importance of philosophy in a spiritual practice.
As far as I can see, then anyone, who is going to start a spiritual practice, ought to take some academical classes in philosophy. Though the spiritual practice not is intellectual when it is going beyond all concepts and ideas, then it must begin with the training of critical thinking, and here an intellectual and academical study in philosophy is crucial. And besides, this is not something new in spirituality. The monks, in, for instance Tibetan Buddhism, are going through up to ten years of studies in philosophy. The same is the case in the philosophical schools of India.
And, by the way, many of my philosophy-teachers on the university are actually some of the most spiritual humans I have ever met, and who have been the inspiring sources behind most of what I write in my books.
But the experiences with, again and again, being devaluated, without fully knowing what was going on, caused that I went into periods with periodical alcohol-abuse which I found justification for in the works of the Beatwriters, who also were the first kinds of dropouts I felt inspired by. I could also suddenly explode in extreme anger, where I insulted a lot of people, often in my nearest family. All this of course didn´t made my situation better, and just confirmed people in the belief, that I was totally helpless, and in need of treatment.
I had to go into what was going on. It was necessary for me to investigate this enormous market alongside with the development of an art of life, or a teaching about how to live in this society. And today, where I have entered into my critical "Matrix Conspiracy Phase" I´m beginning to laugh of the implicated stupidity of this ideology, and I´m glad to report, that a lot of comedians also have discovered the comical side of all this.
Anyway, to understand and be free from self-assertion, and to do something, which you really love to do – regardless what it is, how small or how little remarkable it is – awakens a spirit of greatness, which never is seeking others´ approval or reward, and which do a thing for its own sake, and therefore possesses strength and ability not to lie under for mediocre influences.
Here is that being invisible to the culture directly a blessing – that being unregarded, ignored, and devalued, can be an impetus to take another route: the quiet way, the gentle, steady, behind-the-scenes path. This is the invisible way of empowerment, the slow path of alchemy. Soul work takes time. This meant I intentionally had to make time, especially in our increasingly hyperactive, extroverted secular culture.
My own discovery of this was what finally turned my crisis into a healing and transformative spiritual practice. Instead of seeing my life as befelled by a curse, I began, deeply inspired by Karen Blixen, to realize that this might be God´s plan with me. I could begin to see the dreaming tracks and songlines in the artwork of my life (see my article The philosophy of Karen Blixen).
The question I had to ask, involved as I was in exploring extraordinary phenomena devalued by mainstream consciousness, was whether the burden of being disregarded by noninitiates is truly greater than the burden of trying to convince them that I had an experience that, at least by implication, made me somehow “special”. So, actually quite a long time before I discovered The Big Lebowski, I began to adopt an Epicurean way of life.
Since Epicurus is so important for Dudeism, I will tell a bit more about him. Contrary to most other Hellenistic philosophers, Epicurus was Athenian citizen. His place of birth was however on the island Samos by the seaside of Asia Minor, and on this, and on the other, cultural seen, rich islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, Epicurus came in contact with Philosophical traditions, that hardly was alive in Athens; especially the thoughts of the great philosopher of nature, Democritus.
Epicurus left Samos after having stepped his philosophical child-shoes on the island, and established as philosopher on the island Lesbos. However, he was banished from the island because of his viewpoints. In 307 he travelled to Athens with the mental ballast, that he was Athenian citizen; this meant that he, contrary to the other philosophical schools, had the right to own land in Athens itself.
Epicurus established one of two central schools in Athens. It was in constant sharp opposition to the Stoics. I will not go deeper into the philosophical opposites, just mention, that philosophy of nature was central in Epicurus, whilst the Stoics had a concept of a god, which in them was the central. But both are common in the view of philosophy should be viewed as an art of life.
The school of Epicurus was called The Garden, and since then the concept ”to cultivate your garden” has in European way of thinking been synonymous with living a life retired from the world´s ups and downs, to give up all ambitions about social status. This is a completely central aspect in my own way of life.
Epicurus had a real garden, a kitchen garden with vegetables, and to that he retired, and lived of own productions. It was an attempt to avoid the bindings of the world, just like the Stoics, but in quite another way. The Stoics were radically extroverted, and went into Athen´s central buildings, where they, among the cloisters, forced themselves speech access to the citizens, whereas Epicurus retired, and avoided all kind of – also political – debate. As he said: “Live in secret!”
Note, that avoiding debate doesn´t mean not to lead a critical dialogue in philosophical sense. Epicurus wrote critical texts, and his way of life is in itself a deeply critical attitude.
In his garden he realized his own life-ideal: together with friends and pupils to live a life in silent peace and joy, in peace to cultivate his garden and his needs, afar from the world´s noise and political quarrel. As mentioned, it was a kind of philosophical commune, which stood open for all sections of population and for both sexes, and where the master with his friends practiced, what they taught. The teaching of Epicurus is in other words a way of life, a teaching, which puts undisturbed happiness and refined pleasure up as the supreme good.
This Epicurean attitude became a central inspiration for my own life, my teaching, my kind of philosophical counseling and cafés, which now also include The Pop Culture Files.
It is a passive way of meditation, a non-acting, receptive receiving, relaxed, enjoying, easy laid-back holyday-like kind of awareness, as when you listen to the birds or the breeze in the trees.
So today I live like a kind of philosophical mendicant friar, in poverty, chastity and obedience to some philosophical principles. I began to ask people the question: What philosophy of life would you choose if money was no object?
As the man who quit money, Daniel Suelo, says: “Wild Nature, outside commercial civilization, runs on gift economy: ´freely give, freely receive.´ Thus it is balanced. Commercial civilization runs on consciousness of credit and debt; thus it is imbalanced. What nation can even balance its own budget or environment? Gift Economy is Faith, Grace, Love - the core message of every religion. The proof is inside you: Wild Nature is your True Nature, crucified by commercial civilization.”
Following this philosophy of gift economy (freely give, freely receive) all my services (including philosophical counseling and cafés) are free of charge. All my articles and books are available in free PDF Versions. Links can be found on my blog and on my website.
Both the three basic books on my teaching, the follow-up book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions, and the two books on The Matrix Conspiracy, as well as the book Sûnyatâ Sutras, can in this way be seen as a kind of free internet library for people, who want to go into a deeper study of my teaching. The philosophy behind my teaching is namely the central foundation for my critique of The Matrix Conspiracy.
So, I earn my living from what people give me (the “freely give, freely receive,” philosophy) and what the society can offer in form of social security benefit (which I see in the light of a kind of “Robin Hood-philosophy”). This is sometimes not very popular, but as I have mentioned, sometimes you have to be a kind of spiritual anarchist, a philosophical rebel, if you want to live in accordance with your calling in life. And not so different from how monks and nuns, or artists, always have lived.
Krishnamurti said, that it would be wise to retire in the age of 40 or 45, or even younger. Not in order to enjoy the fruits of what the world can offer, or what you have gathered of wordly things, but retire in order to find yourself, to think and feel deeply, to meditate and discover reality; because then you would actually be able to help the world in quite another way, because you not are identified with it. An insider in society is namely an outsider in relation to life itself, while an outsider in relation to society, is an insider in life itself (see my article The philosophy of Krishnamurti - here you can also find his entire teachings as free downloads).
So now I have retired from the world´s noise and political quarrels – especially the work ethic. In the period 1985-1989 I worked as a gentlemen´s outfitter in Harrods in London. It was here the spiritual process began. Thereafter I went through the spiritual crisis, and have taken an education in philosophy.
Now it is time to go deep into the teaching I have developed during this period. People might get angry, and call me an idler. And they are correct. With the words of the life-philosopher and idler, Lin Yutang (one of the great Dudes in history), I call myself an apostle of loafing (see his book The Importance of Living). But people have to remember, that I am not anymore contributing to the world´s noise and political quarrels, and therefore not to conflict, violence and war. On the contrary I try to help people to get out of this confusion. I do this by offering free philosophical counseling and cafés. Mostly this happens in Rold Forest, Denmark, which is the place I have retired to, and where I live as a simple pilgrim. But it also happens when I´m traveling.
I also offer free philosophical counseling and cafés in the virtual world Second Life (read my article Me and my Avatar) as well as on Skype. Besides this my writings could be filed under what I call The Peter Pan Project - an experiment connected with all of the above-mentioned (read more about my services here).
So, as an apostle of the philosophy of loafing, I am actually working quite hard. My art of living is an idle philosophy born of an idle life. And if my life raises the suspicion of lolling, then look at my actions. I am trying to help people, and are favouring a person who would react freely and incalculably to external circumstances, pitting their individual liberty against the process of society: the little man eluding the clutches of the traffic warden.
And look at what the wisdom the art of loafing has given us. Chinese literary tradition is rife with the jottings of non-achievers – the cultured vagabond, the scholar recluse, the Taoist wanderer. Already in 500BC, the sage Lao Tzu recommended that one should “never be the first in the world”. Only he who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual, runs the Taoist adage. The importance of living is peopled with educated dropouts – for instance poets such as Su Tungpo and Tao Yüanming; Su, who sang about “the clear breeze over the river and the clear moon over the mountains”, and Tao, who sang about “the hen, which rested in the top of a mulberry tree”.
So, after having followed the Beatwriters´ way of living, then the Chinese kinds of dropouts have become the new great source of inspiration in my life.
Like Lin Yutang I actually see the art of loafing as democratic in its nature. But, as Walt Whitman is pointing out in his Democratic Vistas – it is the ideal of free men and women in the Now, not the ideal of the democratic progress or improvement (today Consumer Capitalism and the growth fanatism of the self-help industry) - just look at Laurence Sterne on his “sensitive journey”, or at Wordsworth and Coleridge, wandering on foot through Europe, with a great sence of beauty in their hearts, but with a very few money.
The philosophical refined pleasure in the art of loafing is something, which costs much less than the lust for luxury. The only thing the pleasure of loafing requires is a creative emptiness, a life enjoyed as it is lived. Play without reason; travel to see nothing; a perfectly useless afternoon spent in a perfectly useless manner – these are the kind of activities that redeem the art of living from the business of living, which also Henry David Thoreau has shown in his Walden, where he describes his life in the woods, retired from the world´s ups and downs.
Look at nature! All nature loafs, while Man alone works for a living!
No, I have retired to Rold Forest, where I participate in the joys of conversation on a moonlit night; to be in the middle of a joyful gathering of happy friends, like in Wang Hsichih´s immortal little essay The Orchid Pavilion.
Only in such an art of life the magic of philosophical counseling and cafés can begin.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a 1974 nonfiction narrative book by American author Annie Dillard. Told from a first-person point of view, the book details an unnamed narrator's explorations near her home, and various contemplations on nature and life. The title of the book suggests a pilgrimage, and yet the narrator does not stray far from her home near the creek: the journey is metaphysical. The same was the case with Henry David Thoreau, and the same is the case with my pilgrimage in Rold Forest.
The Pop Culture files
The Matrix Conspiracy
The Hermeneutics of Suspicion (the Thought Police of the Self-help Industry) and Why I am an Apostile of Loafing
The Hero´s Journey
Links to Idlers