Penn State Harrisburg

Rainn Wilson: actor, philosopher, nerd

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson

Actor Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight on the award winning show “The Office,” set a few things straight when he visited Penn State Harrisburg November 15. He admitted that, like Dwight, he is a bit nerdy. And, for those who have read his book, he really does have an Aunt Wendy who smoked a pipe and inspired him to do the same.

Photoset:  Rainn Wilson presents SoulPancake

Part stand-up comedy act, part philosophical discussion, Wilson’s performance focused on his project SoulPancake. Wilson co-created SoulPancake in 2008 with two friends out of their desire to create a space where “people from all walks of life could discuss and question what it means to be human—a place to wrestle with the spiritual, philosophical, and creative journey that is life.”

But before getting into serious topics, Wilson told the audience to get out their cellphones. “Feast your eyes, Instagram,” he said, prancing around the stage mimicking a model on the runway.

“When I started getting well known for ‘The Office,’ I wanted to do something really cool on the web,” Wilson said. “That’s how SoulPancake was born. It quickly morphed into a social media networking site to bring people together to discuss life’s big questions . . . the basic human questions that make us who we are.”

SoulPancake now spans multiple distribution channels – web, print, video – and also encourages social consciousness and service to community. SoulPancake recently teamed with MTV to present “Life Continued: Defeating Depression,” a documentary about young people overcoming mental health conditions.

What can technology never replace? What can you do to make the world a little less screwed up? What is love? These are among the host of life’s questions that SoulPancake asks.

“SoulPancake is an extension of who I am and it sums up a lot of what I believe in,” Wilson said. So what did Wilson hope students would take away from his presentation? “That life is a long rich journey, but you really have to engage with it,” he said.

One other big question from the evening’s presentation – why the name SoulPancake? Wilson said they wanted an irreverent name, since their goal was do “de-lamify” spirituality, and they liked the idea of food, because they were cooking up something new. Plus, Spirit Taco and Transcendental Tapas were already taken, he said.