Rainn Wilson & Reza Aslan on Living In The Questions | The Rich Roll Podcast

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Key Takeaways

  • Our culture is in deep need of the practical wisdom embedded in the studies of philosophy and spirituality
  • “Have a mission, not a job” – Reza Aslan
    • If you don’t know what your life purpose is, you’re not doing it yet
    • The greatest form of humility is to ask the universe for a sign of purpose. Explore your environment and monitor your feelings, you’ll find a lot of purpose in making meaningful connections with your surroundings.
      • “The more we know about the universe, the more science advances… the more spiritual it all starts to sound” – Reza Aslan
  • Religion and spirituality are two different things
    • Religion isn’t an end in itself, it is a language that provides a path to an end
    • Spirituality is the urge to understand and be communal with the aspects of the universe that transcend the material world
  • Embracing death as a “continuation of the mystery” can profoundly change the way we view death
  • “If my consciousness is the sum of my matter and energy, then who is to say my consciousness doesn’t continue forever in some way shape or form?” – Reza Aslan
    • When we are in the womb, we have no idea what is happening but are being prepared for the next stage of life. Who is to say we are not being unconsciously prepared for another stage of life right now?
  • Don’t ask yourself if you’re addicted to something, ask yourself why you may be addicted to something
    • Addiction is the symptom of trauma, not the problem

Intro

  • Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson) is a comedian and actor, best known for his role as Dwight Shrute in The Office. Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) is an author and scholar of the sociology of religions. Rainn and Reza have recently teamed up to host their own podcast, Metaphysical Milkshake. In this episode, Rainn, Reza, and Rich discuss the meaning of life as it relates to purpose, spirituality, religion, and death.
  • Host: Rich Roll (@richroll)

Consciousness Crisis

  • “There are these huge questions about life that have been relegated to philosophical academics that you take in undergrad Philosophy 101 that people often steer away from” – Rainn Wilson
    • Philosophy and spirituality should be a roadmap to our lives, not tucked away in the classroom
    • Our culture is in deep need of the practical wisdom embedded in these studies
  • Metaphysical Milkshake – Podcast hosted by Rainn and Reza exploring questions on life
    • “Wisdom is found in the impact you leave on the people around you” – Reza Aslan

Does Everyone Have a Purpose?

  • Rainn believes ‘purpose’ isn’t bounded by the spectrum of theism and atheism
    • You can call God whatever you want – our spiritual relationship with the world around us can come in a variety of forms
    • Example: In sailing, you try to align yourself with the winds to see the most benefit
      • Identifying a beneficial relationship between us and our surroundings often births a sense of purpose
      • Pay attention to these feelings. If you’re fighting the wind, sailing isn’t your purpose.
  • If you don’t know what your purpose is, you’re not doing it yet
    • Once you find your purpose, continue to find it and share in services to others
    • The journey is just as important as finding the purpose
  • “Have a mission, not a job” – Reza Aslan
    • Your mission is bigger than the things that you do
      • Your mission doesn’t have to be grand, it just has to maintain your values
    • Step off of the hamster wheel – view your 20s as a workshop for exploring and defining your mission
  • Pray for purpose – prayer is simply communicating your openness to receiving signs of your purpose from the universe
    • Not in the religious context, but in the context of spirituality
    • Receive the wisdom from the universe – open your heart to the creative cosmos of your surroundings, you never know the connections you’ll find
    • “It takes humility to pray” – Rainn Wilson
      • By asking for signs, you recognize you are not where you want to be yet which can be challenging
  • Be ‘other-ish’ rather than selfish

Spirituality vs Religion

  • Religion and spirituality are two different things
    • Religion isn’t an end in itself, it is a path to an end
    • Religion is a language that can guide us towards spirituality, or an understanding of the human experience
  • Spirituality is the urge to understand and be communal with the aspects of the universe that transcend the material world
    • Cognitive Theory of Religion: Why is spirituality (or religious impulses) a universal phenomenon that exists in every culture throughout all of time?
      • There should be some evolutionary advantage to maintain this search for spirituality but this isn’t clear
      • But, there is a general benefit to constantly being curious about questions that we don’t know the answers to
  • “The more we know about the universe, the more science advances… the more spiritual it all starts to sound” – Reza Aslan

Death

  • The body is a cage and our reality is the bird within the cage. When the cage is broke, the bird goes free. The bird’s freedom is meant to be celebrated.
    • This analogy for death derives from the Baha’i faith which Rainn Wilson practices
  • “We are so afraid to talk about death even though it’s the one thing we all have in common” – Rainn Wilson
    • Embracing death as a “continuation of the mystery” can profoundly change the way we view death
  • The cells, atom, matter, and energy that makes up you is eternal, they just stop being you as you currently know yourself at death
    • Panpsychism – the view that all things have a mind or a mind-like quality
    • “If my consciousness is the sum of my matter and energy, then who is to say my consciousness doesn’t continue forever is some way shape or form?” – Reza Aslan
  • When we are in the womb, we have no idea what is happening but are being prepared for the next stage of life. Who is to say we are not being unconsciously prepared for another stage of life right now?

Addiction

  • Addiction often reveals itself as a trauma response
    • Reza explains his experience as a workaholic which derives from the working ethics he learned from his immigrant parents
    • He was in a very achievement = approval household
  • Don’t ask yourself if you’re addicted to something, ask yourself why you may be addicted to something
    • Addiction is the symptom, not the problem
  • Global warming may be the thing that revolts against our addictive personalities of accumulation and consumption
    • People always say we need an alien invasion that would unite us all. Global warming can and should be our “alien invasion”
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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