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Review: ‘Soul Boom’ by Rainn Wilson

‘The Office’ actor touts a spiritual revolution

Actor and author Rainn Wilson of the sitcom “The Office” will be in Bellingham to talk about his third book
Actor and author Rainn Wilson of the sitcom “The Office” will be in Bellingham to talk about his third book (Photo courtesy of Chris Heltai)
By Lisa Gresham CDN Contributor

Viewers of the sitcom “The Office” may wonder why the guy who played the “beet-farming, paper-selling, tangentially Amish man-baby with the giant forehead and short-sleeved mustard shirts” is writing a book about spirituality and how it can save humanity from all that threatens to overwhelm us.

Three-time Emmy nominee Rainn Wilson may be best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” but in his other roles he is no stranger to taking on big topics. Wilson is co-founder of the media company SoulPancake that hosts a docuseries about climate change, a podcast on metaphysics and an upcoming series on bliss that will air on Peacock.

“Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution,” Wilson’s third book (after “SoulPancake” and “The Bassoon King”) delves into life’s biggest questions — Why are we here? Is there a god? What does it mean to be a spiritual being? — and makes the case that a spiritual revolution may be the missing piece that will help us successfully address the challenges of climate change, racism, economic injustice and other global and societal threats.

Wilson grew up in the Baha’i faith, which he continues to practice as an adult, but the twists and turns of addiction and depression prompted him to seek out answers from other great spiritual traditions. “Soul Boom” is full of quotes from spiritual teachers ranging from Luther Standing Bear to Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Buddha to The Beatles. In his questioning years, Wilson read all of the central holy books from the world’s religions, and his familiarity with other teachings is evident.

photo  Wilson’s book makes the case that a spiritual revolution may be the missing piece that will help us successfully address the challenges of climate change, racism, economic injustice and other global and societal threats. (Image courtesy of Hachette Books)  

Pop culture references, jokey humor and an entertaining and irreverent writing style keep “Soul Boom” from feeling preachy. Wilson uses “Star Trek” and “Kung Fu” to elucidate the twofold path of any spiritual journey; “Star Trek” representing collective spiritual aspirations (world peace, embracing diversity, etc.) and “Kung Fu,” the inner spiritual journey (wisdom, morality, etc.).

In a fun exercise, quotes from “Kung Fu” and from holy texts are presented together, and it is impressively difficult to differentiate; for example, “Peace lies not in the world … but in the man who walks the path” (“Kung Fu”) and “There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind” (Buddha).

Because the Baha’i faith believes that all religions are the changeless face of the same god, and figureheads such as Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammed are all divine messengers manifesting the same god, Wilson is a natural advocate for embracing a spirituality that seeks to unite people from all religious faiths.

While anyone who is spiritually seeking would likely enjoy “Soul Boom,” Wilson seems to have written it particularly with younger generations in mind. He reports hearing three things from young people when talking to them about religion: They often say they “kind of” believe in god, they are not interested in organized religion and they shy away from anything remotely “hippy-dippy/airy fairy” (to use Wilson’s description). Wilson hopes “Soul Boom” and the broader SoulPancake community will inspire young people to take a spiritual journey and give them a place to talk about life’s biggest questions.

If you are interested in spirituality, looking for a dose of hopefulness for humanity and the future of our planet, or maybe just a Dwight Schrute fan, you’re in luck because Village Books is bringing Rainn Wilson to Mount Baker Theatre for a “Booked at the Baker” event on Friday, May 5. Tickets are $40–$60 and include a copy of “Soul Boom” (which will be released on April 25) or reserve a library copy of the book at wcls.org or bellinghampubliclibrary.org


Lisa Gresham is collection services manager for the Whatcom County Library System, whose vision is an engaged community where curiosity is cultivated, literacy flourishes, and democratic ideals thrive.

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