Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.
And now? Big Questions.
On Monday, Rainn Wilson came to speak at Hall Auditorium about “life’s big questions.” Tickets to the event sold out within a couple of hours.
While Wilson is mainly known for his work as Dwight Schrute in the popular television show The Office (U.S.), he spent the lecture discussing his work as a founder of the popular media and entertainment company SoulPancake.
“Essentially, we just wanted to make the world a better place and decided to do it through digital media content,” said Wilson. “I really had a calling to make a change in the world, and we want to instill joy in people.”
Wilson came up with the company when discussing with colleagues how to change the world for the better; the name came from GoDaddy.com.
“We were all in Andy Grammer’s apartment, thinking of existential terms and then random food,” said Wilson. “And we checked on GoDaddy, and Spirit Taco was taken, so we went with SoulPancake.”
SoulPancake works to promote positive and thought-provoking content. Wilson and co-founders Joshua Homnick and Devon Gundry started the platform in 2008, and it has already gathered over 10 million loyal followers across various platforms. SoulPancake was recently bought by the Oscar-winning entertainment and media company Participant Media.
The company aims to “target the optimistic millennial,” according to its website, by creating content that addresses questions like what it means to be human. Some of SoulPancake’s most popular content includes Kid President, Kitten Therapy and a series of videos for the Super Soul Sunday Program for the OWN network.
Wilson has written two books. The latest, titled “The Bassoon King,” details how he came to be the person he is today, while his first book, “Chewing on Life’s Big Questions,” was published in 2010 and addresses much of the same content as Monday’s lecture.
“We’re going to go a little bit deeper into life’s big questions than you thought,” said Wilson. “Also, that’s what she said.”
Wilson addressed plenty of life-altering “conversation killers,” as he called them — questions such as: What happens when we die? How do we truly become happy? What separates us as human beings from other mammals? Is God real?
“I mean, if I’m just a monkey with a big brain and a Tesla, then what does this all mean?” said Wilson. “Also, I have a Tesla, in case you didn’t catch that.”
Many of Wilson’s answers have come through his Bahá’í faith, first introduced to him by his parents. Founded in 1863, Bahá’í sees all religions as connected under one entity, and focuses on discussing the questions of the universe, rather than seeking the answers.
“What I have found is that as I have lived my life for the questions, the answers have slowly become more clear,” Wilson said. “I have also seen SoulPancake become more a part of the answers, and more a part of myself as well.”
It was through discussing these “questions” that Wilson made it through some of the difficult parts of his life, especially in regards to his relationship with his own spirituality.
“I had a beautiful girlfriend, a career as a working actor and a kickass van, and I was still unsatisfied,” Wilson said. “So, I decided to go on a spiritual quest.”
Wilson began studying the religions of the world and reading as much as he could find. It was through this, he claims, that he was able to regain his own spiritual happiness and learn more about the science of what exactly causes joy.
“Joy itself is a rebellion,” said Wilson. “It is so easy in today’s world to be cynical, but it is an open act of revolution to be open about your own inner joy.”
Today, SoulPancake strives to allow people a platform to both share and experience their own joy, with over one billion views for their video content alone. And as the company grows, Wilson has a clear vision for where he wants it to go.
“We have moved, not just through the internet, but as a species as a whole, towards self-actualization,” said Wilson. “And I hope, with this, that SoulPancake can be used as a tool for good.”