Actor Rainn Wilson hits the book circuit
'Office' star probes life's big questions in 'Soul Pancake'
Actor Rainn Wilson, who plays an egomaniacal paper salesman in the TV show "The Office," spoke at a packed Books Inc. on Castro Street last Thursday to pitch his new book, "Soul Pancake."
Unlike his character in the Office, Wilson displays a major interest in art, philosophy and spirituality with the new book which probes life's big questions. Part of his message is that people may not always be able to achieve happiness, but they can achieve "deep soul satisfaction," he said.
"Don't even get me started on happiness," Wilson said to the crowd at Books Inc. "Cotton candy and Disneyland, that's happy." While happiness may not always be achievable, "I do think you can achieve deep soul satisfaction."
He said he wanted the book's name to irreverently include the name of a food that would make you want to "dig in and chew on life's big questions." Because he also wanted to make a website, he looked for domain names not taken. "Spirit Taco" was in use, unfortunately. Other possibilities included "Transcendent Tapas."
Wilson's presence itself seemed to be almost enough to make the crowd laugh. One man yelled out, "Will you have dinner with me?" His answer, in an ironic tone, was: "Definitely, we're definitely meeting up after this. I'm definitely having dinner with you."
Wilson said he grew up in a "bohemian family" in 1970s Seattle who believed in the Bahai faith. His father was an abstract painter and sewer truck dispatcher who wrote science fiction in his spare time. "I'm not making this up," he said.
For a while he ditched the spiritual focus instilled in him as a child when he moved to New York after high school to become an actor, foregoing a chance to travel to India in order to attend acting school. "All I saw in religion was hypocrisy," he said. His new gods were Shakespeare, Chekov and Brecht.
Wilson said he has come to believe that "we aren't human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience," quoting Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest.
He admits his co-authors wrote much of the book. He also has help with the soulpancake.com website, where people can discuss life's big questions.
He advised readers to take it all with a grain of salt. After all, "I'm just an actor in a TV show," he said.
E-mail Daniel DeBolt at firstname.lastname@example.org