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Rainn Wilson: Destroy my book
November 5th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

Rainn Wilson: Destroy my book

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."

Soulpancake the new book by Rainn Wilson

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.

A page from the new Soulpancake book

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."

A page from the new Soulpancake book

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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- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baha'i • Books • California • Culture & Science • Faith Now • TV • United States

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. readsthenews

    So...book burning time or what?

    November 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  2. Reality

    How to become a Sikh:

    "You have to be truly devoted to the religion in order to become a Sikh. Mostly you need to understand the religion. You then drink "amrit", holy water, and then you start wearing the 5 Kakars which are Kes (hair... non cut) Kanga (a comb placed in your hair and then covered with a turban) (Kachera) a knee length under garment, Kara( a steel bracelet) Kirpan ( its a sort of a small sword but not used in a harmful way its just a religious showing) ."

    Apparently, bald guys need not apply :)

    November 7, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  3. Adoptee

    If Brangelina is so fired up to improve the world let it start with the next adoption. Buy American!

    November 6, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  4. nonesuch

    I would bet that most of those commenting here have read very few books of any depth in the past.....oh, decade, let's say. From the posts I see, most of you can't even figure out whether it is "its" or "it's".

    Go back to sleep. No one will notice.

    November 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  5. kjcube

    So what exactly is written in the book?... I'm supposed to buy it for firewood? What exactly is the point of it as opposed to the website (other than the firewood/destruction thing)?

    November 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  6. opi

    First of all it is dumb to be fighting about something that will never have an end. Second how many of us would love to do something that can help/change the world but can`t because maybe we don`t have the money or access to helping/changing the world. Who cares if its helping someone spiritually or by building a home in africa as long as it is done. Celebrities have the upper hand in helping bedcause they have the money, access, and the recogition. So lets not fight people. Even if "Dwight Shubert" jusst helps one college student by his book then maybe he has made one better person in this messed up world. =)

    November 6, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  7. I'm not falling for it!!!!

    Get off this blog, you stupid F@*#ing Terrorist!

    November 6, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  8. Reality

    Rainn is a follower of the Great Babs.

    And what is wrong with being a Baha'ist??

    To wit:
    "The top ten reasons why you should become a (Haifan) Baha'i.

    10. No no-oky!! No way, no how!

    9: No bo-oze! No, you might be having fun and you wouldn't want that.

    8: No politics. No, you wouldn't want to involve yourself in a good, healthy way that might actually improve the lives
    of the people in your community.

    7: Suffering. Yes, suffering. No Baha'i gathering is complete without the friends recounting how they have suffered for their faith.

    6: Silly Christians go to church. There, through outmoded 'rituals' usually held by a 'clergymen' which Baha'is don't have, they often find themselves enriched and revitalized.

    Some even think they have communed with their God. If only they knew that if they were Baha'is they could go to a 19 day Feasts, a dreary, boring business meeting usually punctuated by some personal arguments. Some go on all night.

    5: Ridvan meetings: YES THEY DO GO ON ALL NIGHT. WE WILL GET SOMEONE TO BECOME THE TREASURER WHETHER THEY LIKE OR NOT, DAMNIT!

    4: You get to do all sorts of things you don't want to do, like be the treasurer and spend the next year haranging the friends for money.

    3: LSA Meetings. They are held at least once a week, they last for several hours.

    2: You get hit up for money, you get hit up for money. The new world order needs money, your money, it's an honor to
    bankrupt yourself for the Faith.

    1: You'll never have to bother your silly little brain by thinking again! All that hard brainwork had been done for you by the great "Babs"."

    http://www.geocities.com/baahith/Topten.html

    November 6, 2010 at 12:05 am |
    • magpie92

      as a practioner of the Baha'i Faith, I take a lot of offense to "reality" speaking about something that he clearly does not know anything about. He might want to inform himself about the REALITY of the Baha'i faith before he speaks about being Baha'ist....LOL. at least get your terminology right and your facts straight PRIOR to insulting my religion.

      November 29, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • check this

      Get a grip 'Reality'.
      I have friends who are Baha'is and all like all of people who live with the courage of their convictions (religious or not), I find their open-mindedness and fairness really refreshing. As I understand it, their main belief is in the unity of all people from all backgrounds, cultures and religions- and I can't fault that. You sound like you have an axe to grind... perhaps put it down and seek some better way of resolving your disparaging concerns!!

      December 7, 2010 at 1:29 am |
    • Re: Reality

      To all those who read Reality's post – let's all use our minds and consider this with clarity, reason, and intelligence.

      A Bahai (Rainn Wilson) is using his public exposure to better the world and promote unity and concord. Maybe you hate his book. Maybe you find Rainn boring. That's fine. No problem. But he's giving it a good, honest try.

      An anti-Bahai (Reality) is using his public exposure to spread close-mindedness, hatred, and falsehood (which is apparent to anyone who investigates any of the claims Reality has made above).

      "By their fruits ye shall know them." Consider these two fruits with fairness.

      December 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  9. Iqbal khan

    A very informative book, "What Jesus Really Say" many lectures and articles download for free...
    http://www.islamhouse.com/p/193556

    November 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
    • Reality

      Ahh, the con man khan, still trying to deflect us away from the horror and terror of Islam as noted by the latest bombings of mosques in Pakistan by Muslims conned by some imam at a competing mosque!!!

      November 6, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  10. Frogist

    I'm kinda loving that idea for a book. I think people need an open-ended, non-judgemental way to examine what they really think and how they see themselves. Artists find a deeper part of themselves when they create. It is a difficult thing to explain to someone else and the rhetoric sounds a lot like an experience of faith. It is a deeply personal act of introspection. The idea of communion with that mysterious part of the self which some call the soul, through art, music, writing, performance is not a new idea. But I think it is very unfamiliar to the average person on a day-to-day level. If you ask anyone if they are creative or artistic, they will almost inevitably say no without even thinking about it. But more often than not, they are creative but just don't recognize it in themselves because they never bothered to examine it. The same goes for personal beliefs. Being artistic or creative, like the book asks, makes you be introspective and try to define your beliefs but in a more approachable, though slightly unfamiliar way.
    BTW I really like the illustrations too.
    And I've never actually been to his site, but I sure am curious now. A place that encourages listening and deep discussion?! Online?!!! I am so there.

    Also seems like some people commenting here could really benefit from this book.

    November 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      BTW I totally work with a guy who is so very Dwight... it's scary!

      November 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  11. reality required

    Rainn+Wilson=boring+pretentious

    November 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  12. Hey, Rainn

    Did you make a buck on it? Good for you. Of course you know that some folks will buy it, read it, and destroy it, and others will try to destroy it without ever bothering to read it. But that's life, right?

    November 5, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  13. jason

    when people feel what 'think' is right and other peoples expression is 'wrong' maybe it might be time to reexamine your limited beliefs of yourself and the world. also the fearful minds are the ones in history who burned people at the stake b/c they had matches. open your minds fearful ones!

    November 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  14. Pixi

    I think it's a great artistic idea to sell a book intent on having you look at in life in a different way I did something similar to this in high school and it really can open your eyes to things you take for granted

    November 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  15. Kimberly

    P.S. At least Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt actually go out and try to make the world a better place...not just sit at home writing about it. Actions speak louder than words!

    November 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • 2Step

      I think teaching people to think in a more open-minded way is just as important as building a house in Africa. I also believe you are down playing the role authors have in this country.

      November 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Not everyone is rich like Branjelina. Some people can't do anything more than write. I know Rainn has to make about one percent of what Brad and Janet (I mean, Angelina) make. I'm a writer. Do you have a problem with writers? Because while Branjelina are off doing work by themselves people like Rainn are moving many more people to do something good and worthwhile with their lives.

      Yes, this is the real capnjammer, and yes, I really am defending a book about faith.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Be Quiet

      What do Angelina and Brad have to do with this? Nothing! STFU Kimberly.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • Tanya

      Doesn't Rainn Wilson have a charity that he works on in Haiti? I really thought I read that after the earthquake.

      November 7, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  16. Kimberly

    I'll second that motion; LOOKS STUPID AND SOUNDS STUPID! Maybe he should have burned the manuscript himself before having it published!!!

    November 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • 2Step

      You seem very passionate about this...did that book hurt you?

      November 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • ditto

      Yes, it killed her dog by papercut.

      November 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  17. ashley

    Pardon me magetron...you seem to be a dude...wow

    November 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  18. ashley

    To the girl that thinks this book looks stupid...go get a life. if you have something againt rainn or his work why did you waste your time reading the article? you are what is wrong with the world today

    November 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Man, some people just can't allow for anyone to have an opinion that opposes their own.

      FACT: Rainn Wilson is an actor on television that a lot of people like, myself included.
      FACT: Saying Rainn is great and beyond criticism is opinion, not fact.
      FACT: Everyone is ent-itled to their own opinions.
      FACT: Telling people they shouldn't bother reading something just because they don't agree with it is segregation, and that's a bad thing.

      Bears.
      Beets.
      Battle-star Gala-ctica.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • honestanon

      @ capnjammer

      "Man, some people just can't allow for anyone to have an opinion that opposes their own."

      Ok, I just stopped laughing. This coming from you, of all people! How does that saying go? Oh yeah.. Pot Meet Kettle!
      You'd do well to remember your own words the next time you work yourself into a froth against "believers" of any particular religion...

      God forgive me.. I couldn't pass it up. Would you?
      FACT: Too many lulz... Thanks.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Don't start this here. Between you and I, only one of us bases his understanding of the world on opinions instead of facts, and those opinions have hurt countless people throughout history and still continue to do so.

      November 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  19. markus

    Love the idea of this book. Open forum to discuss in a non exclusive way. Just ordered it.

    November 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  20. Megatron

    Wow, so CNN is using faith blog for advertisements now. PS. The book looks stupid.

    November 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
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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.