Psychobabble

Consciousness, Connectedness, and Jim Carrey, the Man Behind the Mask

Jim Carrey has been raising some eyebrows recently after making a few rather bizarre public appearances (like the one below):

Jim Carrey’s Red Carpet Interview with ‘E News’

Some people have taken Carrey’s behavior as an invitation to make wild accusations. One side says he’s mad. The other that he’s crazy. The latter of these two groups has managed to defend their position by shaming anyone who dares disagree via saying that they simply don’t "get it." But what exactly "it" is I’m not entirely sure.

I have no intention of psychoanalyzing Mr.Carrey. I’ll operate under the assumption that he is not crazy and is merely seeking attention in some Andy Kaufman sort of style. This may, in fact, be true. Although admittedly it probably isn’t, I suspect things probably go far deeper than a superficial publicity stunt.

I’m interested in the actual validity of what Carrey has been saying, that as well as the underlying reasons, why he and so many other great artists seem to eventually arrive at the same sort of ideas about the interconnectedness of the universe and the nature of consciousness. Are they onto something? Or is it all just a bunch of pseudo-intellectual, fame and fortune-induced nonsense?

In his book Tides Of Mind, author David Gelernter notes that this sort of focus on interconnectedness and consciousness is (far from being unique to Carrey or any one individual) in fact frequent enough to merit its subcategory of creative people who he calls the "spiritually gifted" saying:

The spiritual gift allows a person to feel (not deduce or decide) a transcendent unity among far-flung objects and events. This experience of cosmic unity often (though not always) suggests one creator who stands outside his creation […] The connection between spiritual feelings and creativity is obvious: if creativity centers on discovering new analogies […] spirituality centers on making long chains of such connections […] The spiritually-minded person experiences something: the unity of many people, objects, or events — or of everything in the cosmos.

Talk of consciousness—mainly when done by celebrities—is usually a tell-tale sign of incompetence. The nature of consciousness is one of the most complex and long-debated topics in academia.

Some of the greatest minds have been pondering its problems since antiquity. And many (like the father of cybernetics Gordon Pask) have gone so far as to say that it’s impossible for humans to comprehend or explain the essential nature of consciousness. No complex system they say is capable of fully understanding or explaining itself. So, not to sound glib, but the idea that Carrey—as comically brilliant as he is—understands the complexities of consciousnesses seems dubious a claim at best.

So, is Jim Carrey crazy? No. Is he some enlightened spiritual or philosophical genius? No, he is merely a man who (like his hero Andy Kauffman before him) has decided to try and take the notoriously-dark and dangerously-depressing comedic road-less-traveled in search of both his place and perhaps a bit of meaning in the universe, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. However, let me hasten to add that (in spite of all of the above) there may in fact still be some small kernel of truth buried somewhere deep within some of what Carrey has said.

My problem isn’t so much with Carrey’s ideas (some of which I think are undoubtedly correct and profoundly true) as it is with the sanctimonious way in which he’s been talking about them. Artists should endeavor to explain complicated things simply, as simply as possible without compromising the integrity of the truth.

Alan Watts on Life as an Illusion

Carrey, Brand, and every other spiritually-gifted, creative person interested in trying to understand both themselves and the world a bit better would benefit greatly from exploring the ideas and philosophies of Alan Watts. If this includes you, the video above is a good place to start.

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