North Texas Daily

Rainn Wilson raised questions, provided possible answers

Rainn Wilson raised questions, provided possible answers

Rainn Wilson raised questions, provided possible answers
September 23
15:43 2013

Christina Ulsh / Senior Staff Writer

Rainn Wilson raised questions concerning spirituality, faith and existence when he spoke Thursday, Sept. 19 as part of UNT’s distinguished lecture series.

“Does life have a purpose? What’s the difference between avocation, like a job, and a vocation, like a calling? What will happen to me when I die? Do we have souls? Is there a god?” Rainn Wilson asked.

Rainn Wilson, most famously known for playing Dwight Schrute on the television series “The Office,” encouraged the audience to find fulfillment by asking life’s big questions.

“We are not inheritors of truth from our parents and we are not inheritors of truth from our culture,” Wilson said.

Parents pass down their beliefs to their children. Society projects what social norms and moral thought are through media. Where is the line between what an individual thinks and what outsiders force on an individual’s psyche? Exploring life’s big questions allows for the individual investigation of truth, he said.

“I believe people need to be asking these big questions. For me, the best part was him getting it out there. I feel like it’s going to enrich the community of North Texas,” English freshman Kristen Stroud said.

Soulpancake, Wilson’s social project, is the result of Wilson’s journey through faith and faithlessness. The project began as an online community and now takes form in a New York Times best-selling book.

“We wanted to do something positive on the Internet,” Wilson said. “We wanted to do something beautiful. We wanted to create something that will bring people together.”

Soulpancake.com urges its participants to ask more big questions and supports conversations that explore spirituality, philosophy and creativity.

It also has a variety of videos that serve to inspire action and rearrange perspectives. The street team connects strangers, Kid President inspires good will and The FlipSide showcases life plot twists.

At his lecture, Wilson showed a montage of a series called “My Last Days.” Each video in the series focuses on one person who is terminally ill. Each individual in the series turns what days they have left into a journey.

“These people embrace life and are cherishing every single moment because they know the clock is ticking,” Wilson said.

“My Last Days” shows viewers people who are confronting death and the lessons that can be learned from their positive reaction to a tragic situation.

“[Soulpancake is] all about digging into life’s big questions and trying to understand what makes us human, what connects us, what uplifts us,” Wilson said.

Wilson uses his fame to draw people to Soulpancake and ultimately bring people together to discuss the human experience.

“I didn’t expect that out of that guy, you know? It’s Dwight,” said Stephanie Zwinggi, who attended the lecture. “He’s trying to do something different and reach people. He’s trying to use his popularity to do something good.”

Wilson spent most of the lecture outlining his own journey through spirituality (peppered with little quippy comments that caused uproars of laughter) and said that the topic of faith is one that makes people roll their eyes and put their walls up. People automatically assume they are trying to be converted.

“Why can’t we have these discussions?” he asked.

Another goal of Soulpancake is to “de-lame-ify” spirituality. Presently, discussions of faith can be awkward and instill negativity.

“It’s not that I don’t agree with the religious part of it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Emma Galdo, another lecture attendee. “I do think that his take on religion is much more open-minded. The opposite is what usually deflects me from religion.”

Life’s big questions are what drew Wilson out of atheism. Wilson asked those in the audience to ask these questions and to find their own truth and contentment outside of what we are told and what is just material happiness.

“We live in a world that wants you to numb out. We live in a world that wants you to be cynical, jaded, to not care, to not fight for justice, to not fight for care of poor,” Wilson said. “That is not your destiny, to numb out.”

Rainn Wilson of NBC’€™s “€œThe Office” speaks at the UNT Coliseum Thursday night as part of the distinguished lecture series. Wilson discussed his book SoulPancake. -Photo by James Coreas / Contributing Photographer  

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