Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution by Rainn Wilson
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 is no stranger to taking on big topics. Wilson is cofounder 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.
Pop culture references, jokesy 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 like Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammed 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 that 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 Mt. Baker Theater for a “Booked at the Baker” event on Friday, May 5th. Tickets include a copy of Soul Boom (which will be released on April 25th) 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.
(Originally published in Cascadia Daily News, Monday, April 24, 2023.)