The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman (New York: Penguin Group, 2013. 272 pp)

Jeff Bridges is an Oscar-winning actor, performer, songwriter, and photographer. He is a co-founder of the End Hunger Network and the national spokesman for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Bernie Glassman founded Zen Peacemakers, an international order of social activists. A longtime Zen teacher, he also founded the Greyston Mandala, a network of for-profits and not-for-profits creating jobs, housing, and programs to support individuals and their families on the path to self-sufficiency.

Zen and Jeff Bridges

I’ve always loved Jeff Bridges as an actor, especially so in his famed movie The Big Lebowski. However, I’ve never really considered Bridges’ character, The Dude, to be anything of a zen master. However, Bridges and his co-author Bernie Glassman would severely disagree with me, as evidenced in their collaborative book The Dude and the Zen MasterThe Big Lebowski is evidently filled with classic Zen-isms.

“‘It’s filled with ‘em, like: The Dude abides—very Zen, man; or The Dude is not in—classic Zen; or Donny, you’re out of your element, or That rug really tied the room together. It’s loaded with them” (2).

Bridges brings his insight into the world of Zen by his experience as an actor, stating that in every day moments, we are all actors. Bridges would say that we are all actors masking our true personhood every day, which, in a sense is true.  While I don’t ascribe to the Zen perspective, Bridges and Glassman delve into some very deep topics: finding ease in the midst of chaos, being your true self, and finding grace in the midst of harder situations. Bridges and Glassman both say that being in the moment is the thing that matters the most in Zen.

The Dude Abides

“JEFF: ‘I dig the Dude, he’s very authentic. He can be angry and upset, but he’s comfortable in his skin. And in his inimitable way, he has grace. He exudes it in every relationship: an unexpected kindness, unmerited good will, giving someone a break when he doesn’t deserve it, showing up even when he has a bad attitude just because it means so much to the rest of the team. Hugging it out instead of slugging it out’” (59-60).

The thing is, though the book is incredibly weird at times, and yes, a little hippie, there’s some nuggets of wisdom here. The Dude and the Zen Master is a quick read, with some hilarious talks of both the entertainment world, zen, and life. It’s worth checking out, but perhaps don’t actively pursue it. Just remember, the Dude abides.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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