We were really hoping to interview Oliver Benjamin via Skype or something for our Dudeism episode, but unfortunately, that didn't work out. We were able to email him though and we've been conversing back and forth. Here's a few questions we asked Oliver and the responses he sent us.
Hope you're doing well. Here's a few other questions we've come up with.
PS - Started writing these a few days ago and just now getting back to them. Thanks for listening to our episode and the comments.
1. How long have you been a Dudeist and how did you realize you were one?
I think I've always been a dudeist, without realizing it. I used to write songs when I was twelve about fears of being domesticated by the system. At twelve! I would write stupid lyrics like "Got a little house with 2.4 kids, I never thought it would turn out like this..." I guess I always sensed that people were selling their souls for less than they were worth. After graduating college and working in graphic design for a few years I discovered the art of low-end backpacker travel, and spent the next decade hanging out on beaches and trying to write novels, which were not much better than the stupid songs I wrote when I was an adolescent. When I saw the Big Lebowski for the first time, it was as if my attitudes towards life were suddenly sanctified by this amazing character and his earnestly off-the-radar kind of lifestyle. After staring Dudeism, I've found that there are a lot of people who feel the same way.
2. What prompted you to create dudeism.com?
At first, sheer love of the movie, but as I looked deeper into it I realized that there's so much meaning in the film and that it's at least as inspiring as most of the other world philosophies out there. Living in a Buddhist country (Thailand) and studying Buddhism probably had something to do with my seeing some correlations between Buddhism and Dudeism, and, of course, the pun inherent in the name.
3. How many ordained Dudeist priests are out in the world?
Currently we've got about 15,000 names on file, though some of them are duplicate ordinations.
4. Obviously you're a big fan of TBL, are there any other cult classic movies whose communities your participate in?
Not actively. And I must admit that I rarely find such inspiration in movies. I'm much more attached to humorous/insightful TV series like Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchords, Mr. Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Reno 911, The State, Strangers with Candy, and the like. Movies are under such pressure to conform to certain conventions, such as story arc and act structure. TV series are much more creative and "outside the box" these days than films.
5. We've noticed you write and perform some music besides writing and making web sites. How else do you like to express yourself creatively?
I was in a cool band here in Thailand for a couple of years called "The Funkin Donuts". You can download our album at www.donuts.co.nr. Mostly I flex my creative muscles (and jiggle my creative flab) as a freelance travel writer. Traveling and writing about it can be one of the most inspiring and enlarging personal experiences you can do. I love it. I wish more Americans would take to the road and discover how wonderful (and safe and easy) it is to visit other countries and cultures. Maybe we'd have less problems with foreign policy.
6. Is there anything in our episode that stood out and you'd like to address?
A few things.
First off, on the question as to whether Dudeism is a religion or not, I agree that it's more of a philosophy than a religion. However, this is true of many religions nowadays as well. Unitarian Christianity, Reform Judaism, Zen Buddhism are all mostly philosophical/moral systems that don't actually say much about questions outside of the humanist realm. Nevertheless, I did write a Tao of the Dude article called "Electron Boogaloo" in which I use subatomic physics to try and prove that the universe is fundamentally Dudeist. Moreover, I don't think that it's fair that certain groups of people get preferred status as a religion just because they make claims about the great beyond that are utterly ludicrous while groups that offer practical, real-world systems of belief do not.
Which leads me to mention that the three Tao of the Dude articles on the site are only a few of the ones I've written. Every month I write a new one for The Pai Post, a small town newspaper in Thailand. To Date I have written eleven columns. I will be publishing them on a new site I plan to release soon which will be a Dudeist newspaper/blog.
As to whether Sarah Silverman is a dude, I have to say that I think you guys are taking her too literally. The whole point of her act is to make fun of the stupid things people believe. I'm sure she doesn't believe the things she says but is parodying the prejudices of others. The same way that the Coen Brothers make fun of extreme characters in The Big Lebowski, she makes fun of extreme viewpoints by taking on her role of the spoiled, racist, homophobic pretty little rich girl. You're right, though, it's hard to come up with female dudes, and I may have been stretching a bit on that one. However I think that her personal philosophy is very Libertarian (people should do what they want to do as long as they don't hurt other people) and so in keeping with Dudeism. I'd be happy to receive any suggestions for female dudes.
Also, you guys said something about getting a pdf after you register. You don't, only what's shown on the screen afterwards in html, which you're free to save to your desktop and print out again. At some point in the future I'll set up a system to get real, printed certificates through the mail.
I'm sure I have more to comment on, but I was listening to the podcast on a beach in the south of Thailand and didn't have a pen on me so I couldn't take notes. I'll have to listen to it again. Guess I should have written them with my toe, in the sand.
7. How many times did you watch The Big Lebowski before you were hooked?
One. I don't understand why it often takes other people so long. I loved it immediately. I love great dialogue. By the way, I've answered some of this stuff in my interview in the Lebowskifest guys' book "I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski." Have you seen it?
8. Members of other religions tend to get very offended at particular things. What kind of things might offend a Dudeist?
Never. It's just, like, your opinion man. That's the most holy statement in the whole film.
9. Can you really perform weddings and such after getting ordained as a Dudeist priest?
Laws vary from state to state. You have to check with your county clerk to be sure. We don't offer any advice on that matter. Last time I checked it was no problem in California.
10. Do you consider yourself a pacifist? Living in Thailand, that's much closer to 'Nam' than we are. Have you ever been there? Do/would your views on pacifism change there?
I have been to Vietnam. It's a lovely country. And talk about pacifism! When I was going for the first time back in the middle 90s, lots of fellow Americans were surprised I might go there because they imagined it was a "bad place." Which is just a terrible thing to think. We invaded the country and killed millions of its people in defense of an ideology. That's exactly the type of thing The Big Lebowski warns us about. And yet, the Vietnamese were so accepting and accommodating to me twenty years later - they harbored no ill will. The Vietnamese understand that it wasn't Americans who attacked them, but the American government.
However, I'm not really a pacifist. I believe that defense is necessary if one is directly provoked. But that danger has to be palpable and real, not distant and hypothetical. Our shenanigans in Iraq fall into the latter category, as did our invasion of Vietnam (it was, quite literally, an invasion, not a defense of an embattled South). If everyone attacked every time a distant, hypothetical danger appeared, the world would never cease being at war.
In the film, the Dude knows he can get the nihilists (who, ironically, are idealistic about their nihilism) to leave them alone if they give them some pocket change. But Walter wants to fight for his own ideology. The result? People get hurt and Donnie dies. They should have just paid the crybabies off and gotten on with the tournament. Of course, if they did that, the movie wouldn't have been as good. Yet violence is fun to watch in movies, much less so in real life.
Oh, another thing. The main reason Quincy Jones is on the dude list is because his nickname was also "The Dude." He even had a popular song about it, called "The Dude" in the 80s, I believe. Funny lyrics.
I'm sure I have more things to comment on after I listen to it again.