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Wilson ponders life’s wonders

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

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From TV to film and from acting to directing, Rainn Wilson has ventured into yet another medium: literature.

Wilson — best known as Dwight Schrute in “The Office” — is the author of “SoulPancake,” a New York Times best-seller, released in October, designed to “chew on life’s big questions, stimulate the brain, spark the soul, and figure out what it means to be human.”

The book is based on Wilson’s website, SoulPancake.com, which features a message board for users to post and discuss similar questions as those featured in the book.

“I think that a lot of people in our culture don’t really peek into life’s big questions,” Wilson said in a conference call last month.

Wilson’s inspiration for “SoulPancake” stemmed from an early interest in philosophy, art, literature and spirituality. However, he isn’t fond of the way it was taught.

“Philosophy classes in college are boring, let’s face it,” Wilson said. “They’re really dry and they have no bearing on real life whatsoever. It’s just a bunch of pointless intellectual arguments.”

Designed to be interactive, the book includes exercises that ask readers to list things, such as what they would chop off their little toe for, non-physical traits that turn them on and questions they hate not having the answer to.

“SoulPancake” also features art from more than 100 artists. Wilson and co-creator Devon Gundry said they scoured the Internet for art that fit the questions posed on the book, and artists that haven’t been discovered.

“Having a book filled with art and bright, vibrant color and interactivity is what we’re about, so we couldn’t really have a book that was just have dry text,” Wilson said. “No one wants to read just text.”

The book also assigns readers chores, such as the “reverse pickpocket,” where readers are asked to place money in a stranger’s pocket.

The process of designing the book, choosing what questions and chores to include, was time consuming for Wilson and Gundry. More than 40,000 questions posed on the website were considered for inclusion and divided into categories such as “The Brain & The Soul,” “Experiences & Emotions” and “God & Religion.”

“We took every question that had ever been asked on the site and we put it in a document and we started shaping that into categories,” Gundry said. “And we tried to figure out where they fit and we figured out nine categories that would pretty much fit every question that we’d ever seen on the site, then we deleted all of them and then we started brainstorming all of the topics under all those categories.”

Though Gundry said the surplus of questions leaves room for “about 10,000 more books,” Wilson expects readers of the first “SoulPancake” to take away a new perception on life.

“Hopefully by engaging in life’s big questions and looking at the intersection of philosophy, creativity and spirituality and all the different facets of it … you’ll probably have a renewed perspective on what is to be a human being,” Wilson said.

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