November 5th, 2010
11:56 AM ET
Editor's Note: From CNN's Eric Marrapodi
Rainn Wilson wants you to destroy his new book.
The actor's "Soulpancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions" came out on Tuesday.
"The book almost shouldn't be called a book. It should be like a workbook. It's an interactive thing that you carry with you. It encourages you to destroy it, almost. Draw on the pages. Write on it," Wilson said as he headed in for an early morning shoot for NBC's hit sitcom "The Office."
The book grew out of the website Soulpancake.com, of which Wilson is one of the proprietors.
"We're trying to create a community of people searching. They're searching along life's path. Back when we started it, it was pre-Facebook, it was in the Myspace days. Social networking was about hooking up, not connecting on a more meaningful level," he said.
The site got its start in part because of Dwight Schrute, the fictional Scranton, Pennsylvania, paper salesman/beet farmer/bed and breakfast proprietor/landlord who Wilson plays on the show. As Dwight became a bankable and beloved character, Wilson wanted to capitalize on his fame and do something meaningful.
"I wanted to do something positive on the internet, especially for young fans of 'The Office.' I wanted to start a site that I would have really liked as a college-age kid."
Both the website and the book are designed to wrestle with life's big questions, but in a forum that Wilson says is "a civil place. We can find what unifies us as well. It's what we wanted. It's paying off."
All too often, people talk at you online and on television, Wilson says. For Soulpancake, he wanted to shift the paradigm.
"There's very little listening online. If you're dealing with life's big questions, there's no answer. There's no answer to 'Do we have free will?' It creates this universal quality."
The actor says he also addresses in his book how his "journey as an artist went hand-in-hand with my spiritual journey. I came to see they're one in the same thing."
"The act of creating is the same as the act of worshiping," he explains.
Wilson discussed his personal faith as a practitioner of Baha'i in an article for CNN.com and told the Religion Newswriters Association Conference in September that while he is open about his faith, he doesn't see himself as a spokesman for it.
"One thing I'm most proud of on the site and in the book is the way we've linked creativity and spirituality," he said. "We wanted it to be something you carry around in your backpack or have on the back of your toilet. This book wants you to have the book and a pencil in hand. It challenges you."
The large-format paperback is filled with art, photos, and interactive illustrations. It has micro-chapters that drop life's big questions like bombs and provide no answers but challenge the reader to dig deeper, such as 'What is the interplay between fate and freewill?' 'What do you worship?' 'What's the purpose of art?'
In the introduction, Wilson says he and co-creators Devon Gundry and Joshua Homnick wanted to give the book a name that could, "de-lame-ify spirituality, and we didn't want a name that was all precious and New Age-y."
The actor says the group also has bigger plans beyond the website and book. Imagine CBS's "60 Minutes" with Wilson playing the role of Mike Wallace.
"We want to do like a news magazine show that's fun and irreverent that has to do with spirituality and creativity."
He says they're in talks with the new Oprah Winfrey Network to do web content and eventually a show, something that will likely start online and be in the style of a newsmagazine - "One that's off the wall and a little edgy even for the Oprah network. It might almost work as interstitial, like little five-minute challenges and film feature-ets."
Wilson has one year left on his contract to play the role of Dwight Schrute on "The Office," and with Steve Carell leaving at the end of the season, it could mean changes at Dunder Mifflin.
"I get paid really handsomely to do the most ridiculous things on God's green earth and work with the greatest group of people," Wilson says. "It's pretty scary. 'The Office' has one of the greatest and deepest ensembles in TV history. You could have an entire episode about any of the characters. I'm still plugging for the Creed episode. I think it could work but you always run that risk of out wearing your welcome."
Wilson says he is not worried about transitioning later in his career as an actor or being pegged as Dwight. He has three films coming out in the next few years and plans to keep acting for as long as he can.
His death wish: "I hope to keep acting until I'm 90 and keel over onstage. That's what I want to be known for. Maybe I'll be playing Dwight onstage in an off-Broadway special reunion show. I'll be playing Grandpa Schrute when I'm 90. And I'll die onstage."
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.