Rainn Wilson on eMpowerment Monday

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9787021cb) Rainn Wilson attends the LA Premiere of "The Meg" at TCL Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles LA Premiere of 'The Meg', Los Angeles, USA - 06 Aug 2018

Rachel Dobkin, Staff Writer |

This week’s eMpowerment Monday’s theme was “Let Love Shine” and featured actor Rainn Wilson, who is most credited for his role as Dwight Schrute from “The Office.”

Dr. Emily Riddle, who interviewed Wilson, started the conversation off by asking about the word love. Wilson said that “love is often equated with romantic feelings” in western culture. Instead of thinking of love as a feeling, we should think of it as a verb. It’s what you do with that feeling that matters. For Wilson, love means service and sacrifice.

Riddle went on to ask Wilson about his faith and how that has played a role in his service. Wilson grew up a part of the Baha’i faith where worship is practiced through service to humanity. Wilson said that in western culture, we tend to compartmentalize everything, which limits us to when and where we can worship. However, there are many ways to worship outside of the church. Wilson sees worship through service and the creation of art. He says that worship is “the highest connection of your humanness,” which can be practiced in many different ways.

This idea of service ties into Soulpancake, a project that Wilson has devoted himself to since 2009. It started out as a social web destination to make the internet a better place but then branched into a digital media content studio. Wilson says the purpose of this media platform is “to make the world a better place; to uplift people; to connect people; to inspire people.”

Wilson then talked about his podcast, “Metaphysical Milkshake,” which looks at life’s universal questions. This podcast is not meant to be political, but rather look at the tough questions that people from all over the world ponder. He told the audience that he was always a curious kid and would ask questions to adults like, “What happens when we die?”

Later on, he opened up about his early life, talking about his home in suburban Seattle, which was very blue-collar, so to think about getting paid for art was pretty much unheard of. Once he got into his dream school, New York University (NYU), and landed a role on Broadway, he thought he was on his way to fame. But the play was awful and his acting was terrible, which he reflects on.

After the bad reviews came, he decided to scrap the prideful ambition of making it big and just try to be himself and embrace his weirdness. Although this was a rough moment in his life, he said he was glad it happened because if he hadn’t changed directions, he would’ve never played Dwight Schrute on “The Office.”

Wilson also spoke out about one role he turned down in “Bad Grandpa.” He reflected saying that although he would be able to work alongside Robert De Niro, the movie was “degrading to humanity,” so he decided not to be a part of it.

However, he did mention later on in the discussion that he regrets not taking up some roles that were offered to him during his time in “The Office” due to things like bad management.

After Riddle ended the discussion with Wilson, he played a song from one of his favorite bands, Fountains of Wayne, called “Red Dragon Tattoo.” He felt that it would be appropriate since he was talking to the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons.

The event ended with a short Q & A from the students. Freshman Brianna Shaw asked for advice as a young college student entering into the world. He said that we tend to under-sell ourselves and limit ourselves with our own minds. He encouraged us to try and believe in ourselves and the work we do.

As the event turned to a close, Wilson shared one of his favorite quotes, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

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