Consciousness, Connectedness And Carrey, The Man Behind The Mask

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

which some have subsequently taken as an invitation to express and share their own polarizing personal opinions on social media and elsewhere — opinions which, as it turns out, vary significantly from person to person; ranging all the way from those who on one side claim that Carrey has in fact gone off the deep-end to those who (on the other) say the exact opposite, claiming instead that Carrey is in actuality some sort of enlightened spiritual-genius or brilliant philosophical-guru — this second group, I should mention, has managed to simultaneously defend their position while at the same time shaming anyone and everyone who dares to disagree by way of deliberately designating them superficial, narrow-minded conformist and (somewhat piously) telling them that they simply doesn’t ‘get it’. But what exactly there is to “get” I’m not entirely sure, which is, as you may have guessed, the reason for my writting.

I should start by saying that I do not in this article plan on trying to psychoanalyze Mr.Carrey. Rather, I will for most of this article operate under the assumption that he is neither crazy nor simply seeking attention through some sort of Andy Kaufman-style publicity stunt — because honestly I don’t think that he is — I’m far more interested in exploring the actual content of what he’s been saying as well as the underlying reasons why so many great artists (like Carrey) seem to share or arrive at the same sort of ideas on and 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 common enough to merit its own subcategory of create 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 — particularly when done by incoherent celebrities — is, on the other hand, usually a tell-tale sign that the speaker doesn’t really know what they ‘re talking about. The reason being that the nature of consciousness is one of the most complex and long-debated topics in academia, some of the greatest minds have been pondering the nature and problems of consciousness since antiquity and many, like the father of cybernetics Gordon Pask, have even gone as far as to say that it’s impossible for us as humans to comprehend or explain the essential nature of consciousness because no system is capable of understanding or explain itself . So, not to sound glib but the idea that someone like Carrey — as comically brilliant as he is — can even begin to understand the complexities of something as difficult (if not impossible) to comprehend as consciousnesses seems doubtful.

So is Jim Carrey crazy? No. Is he some kind of 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 his individual ideas or philosophies as it is with the perplexing way in which he’s been going about perpetuating and promoting them publicly because I’m a rather big believer in both the old Eisensteinian cliché that “if you can’t explain something simply, you probably don’t understand it well enough” as well as in the Bukowskian notion that it is the business of artists to illuminate and explain complex things simply just as it seems to be the job of intellectuals to illustrate and describe simple things complexly.

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 and the video above is a good place to start.