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Rainn Wilson Shares Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution

Rainn Wilson Shares Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution

Rainn Wilson discusses the transformative power of religion and spirituality in his book "Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution."


5 min read

April 24, 2023

Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on "The Office," highlights the spiritual solutions that are needed for the world’s most pressing problems in his new book "Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution." 

In this interview, Rainn discusses his inspiration for the book, the rising deaths of despair, and the transformative power of religion and spirituality to transform ourselves and our world. 

Radiance Talley: Hi Rainn, I enjoyed reading your book! "Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution" is an interesting title. How did you come up with it?

Rainn Wilson: Picking a title is a strange and funny process. I needed something accessible, fun, and memorable. Also, the title needed to have a punch to it. Spirituality, generally as a topic and as a word, has an overly precious, sentimental, gooey sheen to it and needs to be countered with some harder-hitting words.

Radiance: What inspired you to write "Soul Boom"?

Rainn: I wanted to provoke a conversation about spirituality, to reinspire thinking about the topic, especially among young folk that might have written it off as either new age hooey or something connected to crusty religions that have zero bearing on their life. 

And, truly, I want to start a revolution. We’ve tried building a society around the worst qualities of humanity. It’s not working. Let’s build a world based on cooperation, trust, and an almost impossibly radiating loving-kindness.

Radiance: In your book, you describe the many afflictions that humanity is suffering from, including the mental health epidemic. Can you share some of the sobering statistics about these “deaths of despair,” and how and why you believe mental illness has increased dramatically amongst young adults over the past decade?

Rainn: I won’t share the statistics here. There are too many to list. This “pandemic” is killing our youth and needs to be addressed with every resource our society can muster. 

There are countless reasons why the mental health epidemic is so virulent and destructive – addictive social media, environmental anxiety, disunity in our fractured society, loneliness, increased materialism, and increased accessibility of drugs and porn. 

But one issue that really isn’t addressed is the collapse of collective worship and service that comes from the community that religion gives us. The fact is that folks with religion are doing better. They’re happier, live longer, and have greater resilience. This isn’t really discussed in the media. 

Not to mention the meaning, purpose, and greater meaning that pursuing a higher, overarching love can give a person. 

Radiance: I was especially moved by your account of your friend who was dying of cancer and the wise advice he gave to you. Although he was fearful, you wrote that he had a joy that you had “never seen from him before.” He told you, “You’ve got to cut through the static. None of it matters—see your life with as much clarity as you can.” Can you give examples of this “static” and how we can cut through it in our day-to-day lives?

Rainn: One of the many enormous topics I tackle in Soul Boom is death — one of my all-time favorite areas of exploration. 

Death is the ultimate framing device, perspective-giver, and inspiration. I don’t view it as a dark or depressing topic in the slightest. As we ponder our mortality, the light of being alive increases its radiance, Radiance.  (See what I did there?)

One of the high points of my life was producing the show “My Last Days” for SoulPancake. Created by Justin Baldoni, the show was a series of portraits of those in their last days and what we could learn about life from those facing death. It moves one to tears and sharpens the reality of the preciousness of life.

My friend David, the person you were referring to, passed away a couple of years ago. I’ll never forget his plea to those of us oblivious to the miraculousness of life, one day at a time. CUT THROUGH THE STATIC! 

What is the static? The unimportant. The emails, the bills, the appointments, the envy and comparisons, the resentments, the traffic. The anxiety.

Savor what is holy and true — what gives us the ultimate heart connection.

Radiance: Throughout the book, you are incredibly honest about your suffering, setbacks, and shortcomings. Why is it important for more people to be honest about their journey of trauma and healing?

Rainn: Fortunately, more and more people ARE coming forward with their struggles. Perhaps the most important thing for someone who is dealing with depression, anxiety, and loneliness is to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

Radiance: How did the Baha’i Faith help you cope and heal from your anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts?

Rainn: When I turn my heart’s attention toward my spiritual reality and toward the goal of that reality which is service to others, I am relieved of the burden and tension of my constantly unsatisfied ego. The Dukha, as the Buddha would call it in Sanskrit. 

The Baha’i Faith has given me a framework for personal growth and a tangible way to make an impact in the world. Plus it’s true. So there’s that.

Radiance: In your book, you suggest that people should “spend less time thinking of this creative force [God] as a what and more like a how”? Can you share about that?

Rainn: God is my other favorite topic — one that I address in my chapter, “The Notorious G.O.D.” 

For far too long we’ve thought of God as an anthropomorphized deity, looking down on us. Stop it. Don’t do that. Enough.

There is an all-encompassing, unknowable creative essence coursing through the veins of the universe. This power is far closer, I believe, to a VERB than to a guy on a cloud. 

Do God. Be God-ish. Love. Serve. Laugh. Build. Savor the sacred. Connect people. Repeat.

Radiance: There is a growing movement of young people identifying as spiritual, but not religious. How do you see religion and spirituality intersecting? What role can they both play in individual and societal transformations?

Rainn: You don’t need a specific faith to harness the powers latent in the wisdom tools that have been given to us by the world’s great spiritual teachers.

In many ways, as Western man has jettisoned religion, we have thrown the spiritual baby out with the religious bathwater. 

We are spiritual beings having a human experience in these wackadoodle Homo Sapiens bodies for ninety or so years. Dig into that reality and the transcendence that comes with it!

Radiance: As someone who has gone through a spiritual transformation, what advice do you have for readers who are just embarking on their quest towards enlightenment and haven’t found what they’re looking for yet?

Rainn: Get curious about the spiritual path. Get curious about God and the soul and the meaning of life. Get passionate about making a difference. A real, lasting soul-centered difference. 

Also, have hope. Nurture it in yourself and in others. It is our most precious and ever-vanishing resource. Without it, we have nothing.

Radiance: What do you hope readers will take away from "Soul Boom" and how do you see it contributing to the larger conversation about spirituality and social change?

Rainn: The problems in the world are not political. They can’t ultimately be solved by legislation or resolutions. We need a wholesale reconstruction of social frameworks based on spiritual concepts. Spirituality and faith can be the most powerful force for social change there is. Set aside the eye-rolling and skepticism and join in the Soul Boom revolution!

Radiance: If you enjoyed this Q&A as much as I did, you will want to read Rainn’s latest book, "Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution." Order it here and be a part of the conversation! You can also follow @SoulBoom on social media.

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