In December my wife bought home some Venus Flytraps, apparently they are popular Christmas gifts in central Ohio. It was amazing to me. I had never seen one before, now we had two of them. It seemed to be a widely held belief that the whole point of buying these plants was to let them die and then repeat the process next year. The Jim Carrol band version of gardening; “Plant’s Who Died” My wife had different ideas.
She researched the best way to nurse them through their dormant season, keep them damp, but not wet. When the time came she knew how to replant them in bigger pots, using “poor soil” we had to buy online, and plastic planters, clay and terracotta would leech too many minerals in the soil. Finally, a layer of mossy growth was added to the top to keep the moisture in. They have thrived, sitting on the patio eating flies, ants, spiders and anything else foolish enough to tempt fate.
It was such a successful adventure my wife decided to branch out, she bought a tomato plant, one of her co-workers (the science teacher from the high school) gave her a pepper plant he had started hydroponically.
She goes out every morning, waters her flowers, spreads a little cayenne pepper around the tomato to keep the ground squirrels at bay, and talks to the plants. For the first time in years we’re going to have tomatoes. More than anything, though, it gives her peace, tranquility. She is a different person when she walks in the door than when she walked out. It is beautiful to see. Zen and the art of plant maintenance.
It had such a profound effect on her I needed my own Zen. I don’t have the patience to garden, or fish, or meditate, or rake sand into pleasing patterns in a mini garden. All of which would probably be ideal for me, I’m an anxious, nervous, sweaty, shaky mess. I’ve never really been comfortable for long, and my mind whirs and clicks through various social and vocational doomsday scenarios leaving me exhausted and paranoid.
I found an ad to become an ordained minister in the church of Dudeism. It is based on the peaceful, if unflattering character of a stoned, white Russian drinking bowler, Jeff Lebowski, played by Jeff Bridges. It was such a good movie, and I needed something, I jumped right in.
I’m not religious, but I’m also not “not religious” if you get my drift, so I’m always a little hesitant to join in anything that might be seen as defaming people’s beliefs. Why take chances? Live and let worship, that’s my motto.
It didn’t cost anything, there were no tests, and it doesn’t even require any proof of identification or dudeness. I just gave them my name, and a few other details, and they sent me a certificate verifying my ordination.
It wasn’t life altering, and I didn’t reach a state of true understanding, but the Dude was cool. We should all try to be a little more like the Dude. He approached life with a healthy, or unhealthy, singular focus. He was the archetype of humanity with all its strengths and all failures, petty desires and noble virtues. He was happy bowling and hanging out with a few friends, his ties ran deep and his real power came from his relationships.
When the other Jeff Lebowski (not the dude) told him, “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski, The bums lost,” he was unfazed. He knew, as well as I, the revolution was still going, and the bums may have been losing, but they hadn’t lost yet. With a casual flair, a little untruth and some help from one of the servants he stole a rug and kept moving.
No amount of adversity stopped him. He lost his car, a friend, was hit in the face with a coffee mug. His house was broken into, and ransacked. He never strayed. He was a cross between James Bond and Bugs Bunny. He never lost his cool.
In 1760 J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, a French man living in New York asked; “What then is this new man, this American.” He was thinking, as so many were at the time of the boundless promise of the untamed, enormous continent and the rugged immigrants who came to carve out a living. He was thinking of the limitless possibilities. Considering how little progress we’ve made on discrimination, gender bias, religious freedom, all of the truly big questions we haven’t found an answer to, he would be happy, I’m sure, knowing that even today, “The dude abides.”
This post is republished on Medium.