What if a movie could become a religion ? Well guess what : it happened with The Big Lebowski (1998), the legendary movie by the Coen brothers. Despite being a box-office disaster, the motion picture inspired two different types of fandom : the Lebowski Fest, existing since 2002, and the Dudeist religion, created in 2005. On one hand, you have regular fans, beer drinkers who likes to gather and watch the movie over and over again, on the other hand, a real religion with priests, sacred scriptures and even, a Dudely Lama, always wearing his legendary bath robe, black glasses and long hair, like the very first Dude, the main character of The Big Lebowski that Dudeist worshippers have to take as a role model. Well, sort off.
Created by Oliver Benjamin, journalist and a Lebowski enthusiast, Dudeist are supposed to get inspired by the Dude and to meditate over his most famous quote such as “Going with the flow”, “Taking it easy” ou “The Dude Abides”. But is Dudeism a real religion ? From Discordianism to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti, mock-religions always have loved turning religion against itself, parodying dogma in a typical dadaist gesture. However, Dudeism is not like them, even if it seems to parody mormons with his complete name : The Church of the Latter Day-Dude.
The Tryangle has had the honor to interview the Dudely Lama itself, Oliver Benjamin, who’s taking it easy in Thailand.
What is dudeism ?
Dudeism is a modern incarnation of an ancient philosophy that has existed in the shadows of mainstream ideology from the dawn of civilization. Throughout history the mainstream culture has been one of hard work, conforming, goals of material and status rewards, and often promises of an afterlife. Dudeism is an alternative view that is interested in “making this life significant” and figuring out how to live in harmony with each other and nature and to achieve a realistic, pragmatic worldview. Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism all started off Dudeist and were then co-opted by the powers that be into things completely the opposite of the original intentions.
Who are you and why did you decide to create you very own religion ?
I’m just a guy who worked as a graphic designer and freelance writer who traveled and studied a lot because I was looking for a worldview that would satisfy me. I found really good stuff out there but either it was too fascist and dogmatic or too fluffy and new-age-ish. So I figured, why not order from the menu ala carte and create my own religion with the things that made sense to me. I’m really happy to see I wasn’t alone – thousands of people all over the world were looking for a similar worldview but it wasn’t available, or it was hidden underneath centuries of dogma. And so they’ve come to Dudeism to help me build this thing.
Does the Dude really exist ?
The Dude exists in the sense that “The Dude” can also mean “The Dudeness.” The character of the Dude is obviously just a mythic icon or vehicle with which we can better understand Dudeness. The same can be said of Jesus or the Buddha or Krishna or any other fictitious religious character (or semi-fictitious. Of those three only the Buddha left any actual historical words to us.)
How can I become a Dude ?
By determining to bring Dudeness into your life and to realize that you are not your stuff or what people think about you. “The Dude” in you is your creamy center, your careful beverage. It’s your amazing gift of being alive and your ability to be comfortable in any situation if you just stop kicking your own ass and punching yourself in the face.
Are there Dudeist… priests ? 160,000 Ordained Dudeist Priests all over the world. Maybe 170,000. I have to check the database. And prophets ? No, we are a non-prophet religion (will this pun work in French?). We are not concerned with prophecy, only the here and now. Which is sort of a new agey thing to say, and I think a bit misleading. We also try to promote creativeness and independence so next month is important too. But we’re not trying to tell anyone what to do with their lives or what will happen in the future, only try to help them enjoy the whole wild ride a bit more and not worry so much.
What are your philosophical references ?
There are too many to mention them all, but probably the most important are Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu (Taoism), Epicurus, American Transcendentalism, Pragmatism, and certain modern aspects of psychological theory like Evolutionary Psychology. We’re anti-idealist, not big fans of postmodernism, and of course we really dislike fascists of any kind. But I’m generalizing. Dudeism is an open source religion so we don’t define too strictly what we believe and don’t believe. It’s like the Zen adage about the finger pointing to the moon. Shit changes, man. People change. Religions should adapt as well.
Do you feel close to Discordianism or even the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster ?
They are cool, but very different from us. Mainly they are parodies of the structure and beliefs of traditional religions. We sometimes joke around with the conventions of other religions but in contrast we are trying to identify what is good in the human religious impulse and clean away all the garbage and dangerous stuff.
Do the Coen Brothers know of the dudeism movement, and were they aware of the religious implication of there film ?
Yes, they commented once on Dudeism. When asked what they thought of the fact that there is a religion based on their film, they said “We’re as surprised as you are.” Jeff Bridges has had similarly laconic remarks, saying he’s “flabbergasted” by it but that he also digs it.
Do you think the Dude can save the world ?
The “whole durn human comedy” has been a mess since we left Africa and will surely continue to be. We’re not designed to live like this. But the individual can come to realize that there are ways that we can create little tropical paradises in our minds if we just learn how to do it, and to study the way other great Dudes in History have done it.
All photos copyright to #dudeism #oliver benjamin.