The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski (2011)

Written by Oliver Benjamin and Dwayne Eutsey
Grade: D-

Bartender, I’m gonna need a Caucasian after this.


It wasn’t just a movie. It was a way of life, “the philosophical rug that really ties the universe together”. When The Big Lebowski released on March 6th, 1998, audiences were introduced to “The Dude”, a lazy, laidback main character who lived life one day at a time and somehow stumbled into a kidnapping plot because of some unfortunate carpet-pissers. Regardless, the ideals of the main character, whether it was a strict code he lived by or just how he carried himself naturally, was the start of something new, or was it? Though Dudeism and The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski speak the ways of how to live like the Dude and live at peace, the religion is looked at as a modern version of Taoism, a point not shied away from in this book. In fact, it’s referred to as the earliest form of Dudeism “before it went all weird with magic tricks and body fluids”.

After a nice introduction (In the Beginning was the Dude Way) in which we are reminded of the protagonist and the cult classic film, we talk a little bit more about the beginning of Dudeism and how The Big Lebowski is essentially the frame of reference and unofficial bible that the Dudas Priests live by. Sometimes, filmmakers help create narratives they hope will resonate with viewers, and the Cohens did so with this comedy whether it was intentional or not. Now, we’re here. With this character, the founders of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude are able to uncap what life is truly about and that’s “taking it easy, man”. The first chapter is The Dude Testament, and it finds the life lessons and integral points from the movie’s characters and how the story progresses and shows the reader how to apply them to live life in the way of the Dude. The second chapter is called Wiser Fellers than Ourselves – Dudeist History. It revolves around placing the ideas of Dudeism within a larger frame of reference and learning the heritage of the religion, where they got so many of the ideas through history and from other philosophies and teachings from religious figures and such, and how it all leads to the present day. The third chapter is Making It to Practice – Dudeist Lifestyle and Techniques. This is where the book goes about showing ways to “abide” in your everyday world, the actual practices of the religion. Of course, this includes a 12-step program for Personal Dudevolution, Dude-Jitsu (the Dudeist Art of Self-Defense), yoga advice and its importance, how to decorate one’s home to achieve the Dude’s Way, and quite a few other things.

My Thoughts:

As you may have already known, the Cohen Brothers’s The Big Lebowski started a cultural phenomenon. Since the movie came out in 1998, there has been countless sold-out midnight screenings, the annual Lebowski Fest, and the creation of a religion focused on the essence of Jeff Bridges’s The Dude. Founded by journalist and the co-author of this book in Oliver Benjamin (and Arch Dudeship Dwayne Eutsey) in 2005, the religion became known as Dudeism, and the Church of the Latter-Day Dude has continued to grow to this very day, though it’s referred to as the “World’s slowest growing religion” in the book. This is a book that celebrates the “Dude Way” and all that encompasses it, stressing the importance of taking it easy. At the same time, Benjamin and Eutsey research and take things from other religions to reference and compare, discuss historical figures and how they would respond to Dudeism, explore intricate details of the film’s screenplay to explain every aspect of the religion, and detail how to become a true “Dudeist”. At the same time, the text is light, comedic, and uses language in a way that Dude himself would admire.

Now, I’m all for writing and discussing your favorite films in different contexts because discourse and discussions about the movies that we adore is a part of what makes this all so fun. However, something about The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski doesn’t sit right with me.

The passion for the movie is welcomed and all, but at some point, when can we officially say we’ve overanalyzed something to the point where it borders on mania? Not to disparage a religion, but how is Dudeism not a parody of other organized religions? The Abide Guide is still light-hearted in tone and the message is genuine enough to appreciate when you look at the bare essentials, but the book’s existence by itself implies the authors’ attempts at legitimizing Dudeism and doing so by referencing other texts, religious beliefs, and philosophies within said religions to further prove their points and to add more substance, as if this took years of planning and extreme vetting to make sense of this outrageousness. In reality, this is one big joke and everyone who becomes a part of the religion wants to be a part of said joke. Then, when someone points out this realization, the inside joke can continue because the “Dudeist” can point to this book’s existence as to why this is a “real” religion with researched facts to support the cause. Truthfully though, if you’ve analyzed a lot of movies and have written enough about them over the years, you are aware that you can use this technique to talk about ANYTHING in any manner you see fit. You can pull from any source to prove your point no matter how outrageous, as long as it’s written in a professional manner, and you say it with enough conviction.

This is why I can’t abide with this book.

This isn’t genuine and comes off as an attempt at making sense of all the time wasted it took to create the Dudeism website, ordaining people as “Dudas Priests” as if they aren’t doing it purely for the joke, getting this book published to cash-in on a niche audience, and writing further essays on the topic as if it’s not a complete waste of time. If this was fully written in a tongue-in-cheek tone, I could appreciate the effort, but The Abide Guide is quite literally written as if it’s this “jokey bible” to follow if you want to join, and it’s not worth anyone’s time. I’m a superfan of the movie too, but at some point, you have to admit that the creation of the “religion” and this book in general is just plain idiotic and a massive stretch from what the filmmakers intended. Sure, they appreciate it from a financial standpoint, and I’m sure Jeff Bridges is cool with the fact that this random character he played is considered one of the greatest in cinema’s history, but did a religion need to be created just to remind people they should lay on their carpet at least once a day and relax truly necessary? This is what it all boils down to. Even as we get deeper and deeper into The Abide Guide, it all comes back to relaxing, taking time to enjoy the essences of life, and living day by day, which is something understood and appreciated from watching The Big Lebowski a singular time. You don’t need to reach far back to convince me why Bob Marley or Bruce Lee may have been unofficial followers of the Dude Way because it’s irrelevant. We know who Dude was, and we know how he lived. If you have gotten far enough to come across this book, you are a fan of the movie. Because of this, you are very aware of the concepts of Dudeism without realizing it, mostly because it wasn’t that hard to understand in the first place. Why have we been given a book that goes well over 200 pages to reiterate what we already knew then? I have no answer for you, and the authors don’t either, as a major chunk of the content is just the repeating of these same points in different ways, points again in which we already were made aware of by watching the movie.

You don’t learn anything inherently new. The only thing you do learn is how to capitalize on a movie you really love and tricking thousands into buying into the idea you came up with for profit.

A part of the basis for the religion is that none of what they teach is something you have to adhere to. Though this can be because of legal reasons, as they continuously talk about Dude’s drug regiment and how you don’t have to necessarily follow it, a lot of the time it’s essentially said that you should do whatever works for you. It’s a very loose guidebook, so what’s stopping you from skipping 70% of the stuff because you have to go to work from 9-5 every day, something Dude never had to do because he was unemployed? What’s stopping you from not reading this book at all and just calling yourself a follower of Dudeism just because you’re a fan of the character? Nothing, and this is my point. If the Dude were real and this entire thing were in fact legitimate, and you told him directly why you’re not following certain aspects of Dudeism, he would more than likely respond with, “Hey, that’s cool man” because he wouldn’t care, and neither should you. You could say I’m taking this book too seriously, but again, the way the book is structured and the fact that it exists in general implies that they are trying to make it a thing. So, you have to look at it from this perspective as well. On the other hand, if you do indeed take it seriously, and the whole religion is based on being lackadaisical and nonchalant about its own guidelines to the point where you don’t have to follow any of it because that’s in fact “taking it easy”, then what the fuck is the point of any of this?

It’s a short read but it drags. This is because there are so many similar points made throughout and they are just dragged through different perspectives and takes to make more sense of the main idea. Additionally, it gets less and less funny too, as the jokes tend to repeat themselves because they’re all in reference to the movie and there are only so many lines worth mentioning in the two-hour runtime. I acknowledge the creativity it took to create something like this and if you’re interested, you do learn a lot about the Church of the Latter-Day Dude, as irrelevant as it all may be. Unfortunately, in doing so, you also find out how paper-thin the religion is, why it is in fact a parody not to be taken seriously, and why we should sometimes go back and appreciate movies for what they are, movies. Also, the third chapter is the only one that actually matters. The first chapter is just looking at every detail of the movie that we already know, and though the second chapter is background information to make sense of everything, it could be glossed over in a pinch, and you’d still pick up the key points if you’re paying attention. The third chapter is the only one that explains the nitty-gritty, but it takes too long to get there before we’ve lost interest.

This overanalyzed, over-researched, mildly entertaining, surprisingly boring, elongated guide is a colossal waste of time unless you are using it to reference for a college paper, you’re writing an essay under the umbrella of film studies and/or fandom, you have a child-like penchant for becoming obsessed with any movie you like and want to consume or discuss any media revolving around the subject, or you’re a regular contributor on Reddit and live to troll without breaking character purely for your own amusement. For normal people and even regular fans of the movie, it’s fun to know The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski exists, but there is nothing offered in it that makes it worthy of a read.

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