American society has adopted a constantly wired, constantly busy and oversensitive lifestyle. Family dinners come in the form of a take-out box. Expressed emotions are articulated by an emoticon sent via text message, and children’s baseball games go without winners.
SoulPancake, written by Rainn Wilson along with other contributing authors, is a book that allows for you to take time to focus on something that many seem to forget: yourself. This book is a needed exploration into what it means to be human. It asks some of life’s most complicated questions. It reminds us that life is not perfect, and neither are we. And that’s okay.
SoulPancake started out as an interactive website for adults. The increasing popularity of both the website and its creator, Rainn Wilson (better known as Dwight Schrute from NBC’s The Office) turned the online venture into a multifaceted self-help book.
Published by Hyperion in 2010, SoulPancake challenges your opinions, emotions and perceptions. It encourages you to reflect on life both past and present. Filled with inspirational quotes, song lyrics, poems, artwork and interactive activities, it is definitely the book to turn to on a bad day. It includes contributions by a number of famous minds (Justin Vernon, Harold Ramis and Amy Sedaris, to name a few). SoulPancake is similar to a children’s workbook, but for adults instead.
The visual component of the book speaks directly to its uniqueness; it looks like a group of over-the-top, best-of-the-best graphic designers, photographers and illustrators got in a room together, drank an ungodly amount of coffee and put together the book’s design. Some of the original graphics include pop-art weaponry, a straight out of Chuckie doll photo-scene and illustrations of mass confusion. Visually, this book is a masterpiece.
All this is organized into ten different sections including topics like spirituality, God, relationships, science and technology. Each section includes small hands-on challenges.
For example, in the “Experiences & Emotions” section, Emily Dickinson is quoted: “Anger as soon as fed is dead. ’Tis starving makes it fat.” The accompanying “Pop Your Problems” invites you to buy a bag of balloons, write something that makes you angry on each balloon, blow them up, find something sharp and pop them all. Instead of bottling the anger and letting it build up, you let it go with every pop of the assorted balloons.
The “Life, Death & Living” section reminds us that “[t]here’s always time to build a fort” and asks us to list five things we can learn from a five-year-old.
The book does a great job at giving us the tools to dig deep down into our souls – hence, the name.
In the “Love, Sex & Relationships” section, the challenge of crashing a funeral is posed. “It’s morbid but eye-opening,” Wilson writes. However terrible it may sound, the thought behind it is to see love manifesting itself as grief, potentially making one realize that those family dinners shouldn’t be taken for granted, but rather cherished.
SoulPancake poses complex questions, like: “What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?” “Which one-eye opening experience should everyone have?” “What is happiness?” It also poses some not-so-complex questions that seem like they should be easily answerable, but are not, questions like, “Why do we hate?” “What is love?” This work of art is a platform to reflect on potential answers. One warning, however. This book does not come with answers. Then again, the point is for us to reflect.
SoulPancake is a book that doesn’t have to sit and collect dust on the shelf after you read it, because our opinions and answers evolve as society evolves.
Jack Kornfield, quoted in SoulPancake, asserts that “[w]hen we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” The point of SoulPancake is to help this problem. As a society, we have become so preoccupied with everything else that we lose time for things that are, or at least should be, important to us.
This book is a reminder that it is okay to disconnect from our technological world. It’s okay to tell someone we love him or her without hiding behind an ironically emotionless emoticon. It is a reminder that we can always learn about life from a five-year-old.