Discover more from The Enthusiast by Brad Montague
A Conversation with Rainn Wilson
Can art + faith + humor be friends?
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There is a small note next to the trackpad on my laptop.
Thank you for my life.
Over the years, some version of this has consistently appeared at my workspace, crammed into my wallet, or scribbled in the beginnings of a notebook. It’s a reminder to begin (and continue) the day in gratitude. Five words that remind me to respond to whatever might come my way with gratitude. It’s a habit I picked up from Rainn Wilson.
Like much of Earth’s population, I too am a fan of The Office. So it came as a massive shock to me when Dwight Schrute, Assistant (to the) Regional Manager reached out about working together. It was 2012 and he, along with some truly brilliant friends, had just launched Soulpancake. They were looking to create space on the internet for people to discuss “life’s big questions” and - best of all - they wanted to do it playfully and artfully. I was all in.
I quickly discovered he was so much more than Dwight Schrute.
There are many layers to Rainn Wilson. He is an artist. He is an activist. He is a man of deep faith. He is a goofball. He is a fierce friend. There is much more to this human than the characters he’s played on screens. Yet, on more than one occassion, I’ve been with him when someone from across a parking lot or coffee shop will shout: “Yo Dwight!”
I once asked him about it. His response was revealing. He shared that in the early days of the show it did bug him. He is a highly-skilled actor, after all. His work comes from a place of great depth. He is a highly sought after professional who has done remarkable studies in character for countless films and series. Still, this guy is yelling: “Yo Dwight!”
What changed for him? Gratitude. He’d gotten to be part of something that was meaningful to someone. Instead of allowing any bitterness to creep in or weird ego stuff to steal the joy of the moment, gratitude became the frame through which he saw each interaction.
At one moment in the frenzy of dealing with viral YouTube shenanigans, I nearly shut down. The pressure cooker of comments and feedback and decisions were pushing me to a boiling point. I was quickly losing the joy our entire project started from. Complaining to Rainn about it all, I expected him to join in.
Instead he responded: “We get to do this. Can you believe it?!”
We get to do this.
Rainn’s latest book (Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution ) and new documentary series (The Geography of Bliss) continue threads woven throughout his previous work. He continues to seek answers about life and purpose; faith and art; existence and meaning — and does so with great candor and humor.
My own work comes from a place of deep faith. The Kid President pep talk began as a prayer. Working with Rainn and the Soulpancake crew pushed me to lean into this. We were allowed to disagree with one another. We were invited to ask questions. Together we could create with what Albert Einstein called a “holy curiosity”. It led to a place where the silly and sacred could commune. A place where a kid can be president, ballpits become confessionals, and an awkward creator like me can find family.
Henri Nouwen once said: “Life is just a little opportunity for you during a few years to say to God: ‘I love you, too.’ Maybe that’s what I’ve been trying to say all along. With each word I write, presentation I give, or thing I make —it’s all an attempt to say: I love you, too.
Thank you for my life.
Click below to hear my conversation with Rainn Wilson:
Want to read further? Here are two of my favorite books that explore the intersection of faith and the creative process: Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle Art and Faith: A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura
I also wanted to share this with you:
Prayer for Those Whose Work is Invisible by Mary Gordon
“For those who paint the underside of boats, makers of ornamental drains on roofs too high to be seen; for cobblers who labor over inner soles; for seamstresses who stretch the wrong side of linings; for scholars whose research leads to no obvious discovery; for dentists who polish each gold surface of the fillings of upper molars; for sewer engineers and those who repair water mains; for electricians; for artists who suppress what does injustice to their visions; for surgeons whose sutures are things of beauty. For those whose work is for Your eye only, who labor for your entertainment, or their own, who sleep in peace knowing that their efforts are unknown. Protect them from downheartedness and from diseases of the eye. Grant them perseverance for the sake of Your love which is humble, invisible, and heedless of reward."
You matter, friend. The world is already better just because you are in it. Keep going. Thank you for being here.
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