Originally published at the Big Lebowski Store, now offline
1. Interview with Oliver Benjamin
TBLS: How’s life in Thailand?
DL: You know me, I can’t complain. It’s pretty hard to complain about life in Thailand, though sometimes I still do. No where is perfect. But for me, Thailand comes pretty close. I really like hot weather and spicy food. Thai people smile a lot and nothing is better for the soul than to see people smiling. The expat culture is really great as well – very Dudeish. In fact no one cares that I started Dudeism because they’re already de facto converted.
TBLS: Are you employed, Sir?
DL: I’ve had a lot of easygoing jobs over the years – graphic designer, copywriter, travel writer. But my current job as leader of an international religious movement is my favorite. Not sure what I’ll do next. I’m hoping to become a rock star at some point but I understand that can be quite stressful.
TBLS: Do you plan to write any more specifically about Dudeism? More Tao of the Dude? Holy Shit II?
DL: I’m working on a few things, but at some point I hope to expand the Dudeist philosophy beyond Lebowksi to appeal to those sad heathens who don’t dig or understand the movie. I’m sympathizing here.
TBLS: Okay here comes a curveball: It has to do with a different Coen Brothers film, “A Serious Man”. The opening frame is a text from the medieval French Talmudist Rashi: “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you”. I believe this line properly belongs in The Big Lebowski, NOT in Serious Man. Agree?
DL: I think most of the Coen brothers movies have elements of this philosophy in it. Am I wrong?
TBLS: About how many Dudeist priests have you ordained?
DL: About 350,000 worldwide. Proud we are of all of them.
TBLS: The Day of the Dude is March 6, correct? When is Take It Easyster, Indudependence Day and Kerabotsmas?
DL: Take it Easyster and Indudependence Day are at the same time as their standard counterparts (American Independence Day, that is). But Kerabotsmas is December 13, which coincidentally happens to be Steve Buscemi’s birthday.
TBLS: How many weddings have you officiated at? Can you take a guess at how many Dudeist weddings there have been?
DL: I personally have not performed many, largely because few people in Thailand care about Dudeism. I’ve done four. As far as total number, I really have no idea. Something more than a shitload but less than a fuckload.
TBLS: Absolut or Stoli in the White Russian?
DL: I don’t buy into the mystique of vodka branding. So long as vodka is distilled three times, it’s all pretty much the same stuff. Perfect vodka is supposed to have no taste. So basically, it’s water that makes you walk funny.
TBLS: The presidential election is a shit show but weed is legal in two states. Is America becoming more Dude, or less?
DL: I think it’s four, five if you count Washington D.C. And 21 others have made steps to legalize it. I don’t really want to get started on politics as it’s not my role to get involved in that stuff. So I’ll hold my tongue. However, suffice to say that I’m sick of all the aggression out there. I hope that once this election season passes we can all just take it easy man.
2. Interview with Gary Silvia
The Big Lebowski Store was fortunate to sit down with Gary Silvia, the dude who helps out at Dudeism.com and the Dudespaper. Gary updated us on the state of Dudeism and the Dudeist priesthood. Gary is also a first-rate glass engraver. Check out his stuff at The Limber Mind.
TBLS – What’s your definition of Dudeism?
GS – The quick answer is Humanism, in a bathrobe while carrying a White Russian. In my opinion, Dudeism is a humanistic philosophy rooted in Taoist/Buddhist concepts.
TBLS – Tell us about Oliver Benjamin: When did he start the Church of the Latter Day Dude? Is he involved today? Is he still in Thailand?
GS – Oliver started the Church of Latter-Day Dude in 2005. Oliver (Olly) remains very involved to this day, even though by design Dudeism is an open source philosophy it still needs some minders to keep its early years on track. Most times Olly can be found in Thailand, however he tends to travel around a lot, so he could be anywhere at this moment.
TBLS – How many Dudeist priests are there? How many ordinations do you do (per month, per year)?
GS- There are over 350,000 Dudeist priests around the globe, and that number is increasing exponentially. At this time, we get nearly 10,000 ordinations per month. An estimated 100,000 people are becoming Dudeist priest per year currently.
TBLS – How does one become a Dudeist priest?
GS – The ordination process is simple, and relies on the honor system, one simply needs to sign up and take an affirmation. We feel that anyone capable of thinking about what their place in the universe means, is qualified to be a Dudeist priest. We also feel that only those who are truly interested in Dudeist philosophy will be attracted to Dudeism in the first place.
TBLS – Can a Dudeist priest perform marriages? If you have any stories, tell us about priests serving in official capacities.
GS – This is one aspect we are particularly interested in. Yes Dudeists perform weddings all the time now, there are only a few US states that have any issues with this, and we are working to expand Dudeists performing weddings worldwide. We see officiating weddings as the good works we can do for society. With more people looking for a secular wedding, but one with meaning, we see Dudeism taking a greater role in this function.
TBLS – Were you at Lebowskifest this past July 8-9? What kind of presence does the church have at these festivals?
GS – We are certain there were Dudeists at Lebowskifest, and proud we are of all of them. However, there was no official church presence there this year. We do like to turn up at festivals, but the Dudeists who are out there abiding are doing a great job as it is representing the essense of Dudeist philosophy.
TBLS – Do you “prescribe” the movie to the uninitiated?
GS – Yes, however I usually tell people it takes viewing the movie more than once to truly “get it.”
TBLS – Your favorite line or scene?
GS – For me my favorite scene is when the Dude crashes into a dumpster, it literally mirrors an experience I had once. It was that scene to prompt my wife to ask if they had followed me around to come up with the movie.
TBLS – What’s your own life’s philosophy?
GS – I try to follow the Four Fold Path from Buddhism, that and the Bodhisattva Vows from Zen Buddhism. I am admittedly not so good at the “Right Speech” part. Basically I try to enjoy the life I was given, celebrate the joy others find in their lives, and work (is that a four letter word?) toward increasing the chance of others to find joy in their lives.