Rainn Wilson talks ‘SoulPancake’ and life journeys

Rainn Wilson presented self-affirming challenges to Washburn students encouraging them to discover their own personal identities during his lecture.

Katie Wade

Rainn Wilson, famed actor and co-creator of “SoulPancake,” spoke on campus Thursday, Sept. 24, at White Concert Hall as a part of the Lecture Series, an annual partnership event between Washburn Student Government Association and Campus Activities Board.

Though Wilson is most well-known for his role as Dwight Schrute on NBC’s “The Office,” his acting credits include “Six Feet Under,” “Cooties,” and most recently, “Backstrom.”

Wilson spoke specifically to students about his creative media production company SoulPancake and the book “SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions.” As a whole, SoulPancake is described as a place where individuals can interact and investigate questions about what it means to be human.

“At SoulPancake, we create content that is all about how people matter,” Wilson said. “It has human stories and human images. We deal with death, life, love, connection, pain, sadness, beauty and people coming together. Storytelling is crucial and stories about the human experience remind us how precious life is.”

Wilson said that SoulPancake is a reflection of himself and the culmination of his own life’s journey.

“I really believe that everyone on this planet is on a journey,” Wilson said. “I view this journey as a spiritual journey. I view it as an artistic journey. It really is my firm belief that everyone is an artist of some kind. Everyone is making something beautiful out of their lives, creating something in service to others and becoming a masterful craftsman in what they’re creating.”

Wilson provided a bit of background to his life growing up in the Baha’i faith. He also described his journey of becoming an actor from his high school theatre days to his college years as a bohemian in New York City. It was also during this time that he investigated his own individuality and personal ideas about spirituality.

He conveyed two key ideas of his Baha’i faith that helped to define his personal mission and the mission of SoulPancake: an independent investigation of truth and the connection between art and faith.

“The other aspect of this, which I think is so crucial for you guys on your journey of independent investigation of truth, is to not just accept the truth of the culture that we live in,” Wilson said. “We have to be very much open-hearted skeptics on our journey to challenge what our culture is telling us … We must also look at the systems that are at work in our contemporary culture … and we need to come to our own decisions about who we are as human beings and spiritual beings.”

SoulPancake itself is intended to be a place for discussion of these questions about humanity, spirituality and philosophy. Its content acts as a catalyst for thought-provoking introspection.

“We don’t have any answers at SoulPancake, we only have questions,” Wilson said. “We don’t have any agenda about, ‘You should think this.’ Our only agenda is, ‘You should ask questions. You should live in the questions.’ And we wanted to make beautiful uplifting content that could bring people together and I saw that making this beautiful uplifting content was an act of devotion.”

The company also has a YouTube channel where it has created and shared series such as “Kid President,” “My Last Days” and “Have a Little Faith,” reaching millions of viewers around the world. The company also has partnered with organizations to create campaigns and fundraisers for causes such as osteosarcoma research and literacy in Haiti.

“We were able to create a media company that aspired to do something better than to just entertain,” Wilson said.

Wilson left the audience with encouragement to continue asking big questions about life, investigating truth individually and striving for the greatness that exists inside.

“I ask you all at this phase, this really crucial phase in your life when you’re young and filled with hope and there is a world in a great deal of pain and a great deal of disunity, to look for ways to make sure that you are on a spiritual journey to find the truth for yourselves and to consider yourselves an artist – every one of you, even if you’re an engineering major, it doesn’t matter. You’re an artist and you’ve been given this beautiful canvas called your life.”