Dwight from The Office is a Philosopher IRL

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth … Love is as love does. Love is an act of will. Love is a choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” – from The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

Dwight Schrute’s real name is Rainn Wilson. I found out about Schrute’s brainy alter ego after stumbling upon Rainn’s talk at Google.

Rainn calls himself a “multi-nerd” — that’s the genre of nerd who participates in computer club as well as model U.N. and band. He is a believer in ghosts, God, and having fun.

Hearing the talk, I got the impression that Rainn’s parents were almost certainly West Coast hippies. Then I read his book, The Bassoon King …

Who is Rainn Wilson?

Rainn is the son of two OG West Coast hippies who came within one parallel universe of naming him Lord Byron Wilson. So … yeah.

He made his film debut in Galaxy Quest (1999). In 2005, he was cast as Dwight Schrute in The Office, a role he played (sublimely) until the series finale in 2013.

His friend and real-life Jim, Will Eno, calls his first book, Soul Pancake, a very gentle game of truth-or-dare.

Soul Pancake came out in 2010 as a kind of companion to Rainn’s internet brand. The accompanying YouTube channel has more than 1 million subscribers and seeks to make philosophy and spirituality less … well, boring.

An Eccentric Fellow

Like Dwight, Rainn is an eccentric fellow with a love for the outdoors. Rainn had a wild childhood. He lived in Nicaragua from the ages of 1-5. During this time, he had a pet sloth and got a traumatizing case of tapeworm.

Today, he and his wife own three pitbulls, two potbelly pigs, and a zonkey named Derek.

“My most vivid memory of Nicaragua involved worms coming out of my butthole”

The Bassoon King

Rainn’s earliest years were spent speaking Spanish in a Nicaraguan port town called Bluefields. Yep. His eccentric characters are based on his real life eccentricity.

The music at Bluefields was a Caribbean mash up. Rainn writes about “reggae and dancehall from Jamaica; Calypso and soca from Trinidad; son and salsa from Cuba; and even country and western, which was brought by the American employees of the United Fruit Company.”

Also, don’t freak out, but Rainn’s philosophy sounds like a cult. He and his family subscribe to a smallish religion that started in 1844 called the Bahá’í Faith.

A Spiritual Fellow

Don’t make fun of him! I’m sure being born into a non-major faith has caused him enough trouble, lol.

Anyway, the Baha’i faith sounds like a gentle and tolerant canon. Rainn is one step ahead of those of us who have grown up asking ourselves what is my philosophy of life? The Baha’i call Love the defining power in the universe and don’t go door-to-door unless completely shorted out on toilet paper.

Some of the big answers offered by Baha’i thinking include:

  1. We are not alone in the universe.
  2. You can be friends with Others.
  3. Good means living according to Love.
  4. God exists, and he is chill about the name you call him.

How did Dwight Schrute Help Me Figure Out What is My Philosophy of Life?

With his public-facing spirituality, Rainn’s nonchalant championship of faith makes it a little easier for non-atheist, non-Christian, non-Jewish folks like myself to “come out of the closet” as spiritual people.

That is particularly important for us Gen Zs, since we have little precedent for spirituality in our generation. It’s good to see somebody smart and relatable talk about spirituality on YouTube without sounding like he is pushing some ancient, outdated agenda.

The benefits of spirituality include physical ones such as longevity, less hypertension, and decreased depression.

An explanation for why Dwight freaking Schrute might actually make an impact on how our generation sees spirituality is social proofing.

Social proofing is a concept in psychology that says people will follow the masses. In other words, people see an action as easier and safer if they see others doing it.

Rainn provides precedent for spirituality as somebody who is fun, interesting, smart, and (apparently) satisfied with his life while believing in something beyond science.

Some folks care more about social proofing than others, but it’s hardwired into all of us.

“My dad swears that there were real, actual ghosts in that rickety old house. Every night he would hear this mysterious screeeeee sound, like something scraping the floor, and every morning he would come downstairs to find that the furniture was arranged a bit different. ”

Personally, he makes me more open to believing in the unexplainable, ghosts, for example. I don’t care if science doesn’t partake in a good haunting.

Conclusion – Do You Ever Wonder, “What is My Philosophy?”

To start with, the scientific method is as much of a philosophy as Christianity, so whether you live your life based on faith or science, you are still following a philosophy.

Wilson’s personal tao (or path) hinges on having fun, being open-minded, and expressing your individuality, even if it comes at the cost of being made fun of or missing out on being “normal”.

If you want to know the inner workings of the mind behind Dwight Schrute, you can find his second book The Bassoon King on Amazon.

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Robinson Crusoe is a Good Negative Role Model

Robinson Crusoe is a British guy who gets stranded on an island after selling the Black guy who helps him escape from pirates. It is considered a contender for the first British novel.

Philosophy >> Morals >> Negative Role Models

Who has impacted you more: The person you think of when you think of whom you don’t want to be, or your hero?

It’s not an easy call. I couldn’t tell you my own answer.

Heroes are important. No doubt. Goes without saying, really, but rarely is the importance of the villain vocalized. It’s true that we would never get anywhere without Simba, but sometimes it is all we can do to Not Be A Scar. That is normal. It does not make you a bad person. 

Negative Role Models

Adding fuel to this argument is the element of Lowest Common Denominators (LCDS) — the LCDs of a society. The LCDs of understanding a hero will have serious obstacles to overcome in order to be like the hero. The path of least resistance for these folks, and many people, really, is to simply avoid rather than seek. And although it is an incomplete path, there is nothing wrong with where it leads.

For more clarification on what it means to be an LCD, check out the attached link.

Some people, including a lot of kids and teens, might not understand all the deep virtues in a complex story, but they WILL understand that being the bad guy gets them nowhere.

The Point

So why would a proud South American recommend that you read an annoying book about how the British colonizer successfully converted South American cannibal savages into proper Christian citizens?

Well, it is because there are people whom I accept are a part of me who I very strongly do not want to be like. However, my solution is not to detach myself from the negative role model entirely. Frankly, it would be really nice to raise the LCDs and the negative role models.

Of course that leads to a whole other discussion about Absolute Progress.