Life Advice from Zen Dude Jeff Bridges

Plorking, parenting, and the quest for perfection

“The Dude abides.” One of the most memorable lines from the Coen brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski, it sums up the vaguely Buddhist ethos of the movie. The endearing, White Russian-drinking slacker known as The Dude (Jeff Bridges) lives in the moment, and basically just… abides.

So who better to co-write a book on Buddhism with Zen master Bernie Glassman? On Thursday, Bridges and Glassman sat down for an ALOUD conversation at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. They discussed their new book, The Dude and The Zen Master, in front of 800 Big Lebowski devotees and enlightenment seekers including Shepard Fairey, Michael C. Hall, and Moby, who had braved the cold to hear the two buddies talk.

Watching Bridges chat for an hour, it was easy to see how he had nailed the character. Jeff Bridges didn’t simply play The Dude; Jeff Bridges is The Dude. He made the crowd laugh with anecdotes about his enlightening experiences and offered advice about accepting yourself and others. “We all struggle with this stuff, man,” he said. The crowd was rapt. When Glassman began softly singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” hundreds of voices joined him in an impromptu chorus.

Here’s some of what Bridges had to say on life, love, and happiness:

On “plorking” (playing while working):

Of all the things my dad taught me — it was nothing he ever said to me but I got it from observing him — what I noticed was the joy in which he approached his work, and it was really wild. It was contagious. When you’re happy, good stuff kind of manifests. He plorked big time.

On parenting

A wonderful thing my mother used to do for all her kids was called “time.” Every day she would give an hour and be totally focused and do whatever they wanted to do. There was never a sense of duty about it.

On marriage

We [My wife and I] have these primal, ancient battles, and what it distills down to is, “You don’t get it.” And I say, “That’s right, I don’t get you and you don’t get me. Isn’t it great we have something in common?” And in the end, the love just comes out.

On self acceptance:

It’s like that perfection thing, trying to be that thing you’re not. You have to feel that discomfort and not try to get rid of it. Accept that aspect and get into it. Acknowledge those feelings and let them be. You are who you are.