Experienced people are often wise. The best type of wisdom usually comes from experience. Wisdom is desirable. You have limited time to experience everything, so one would be wise to listen to possessors of wisdom to help direct the allocation of time.
This calculus is hard to dispute. But we are so unwilling to do so when it conflicts with what we believe even as we have no real experience on which to base the belief.
We have a culture that links happiness with celebrity. That is the belief: If I was famous, I would be happy. It’s a belief that is at once logical in a capitalistic society where success means winning competitions to unlock more consumption. It’s also a belief that makes no sense in light of interminable stories of celebrity drug abuse, suicide, depression, etc.
So we can pretend that Jim Carrey is simply “troubled” or “crazy” and that if we achieved his success it would be different. Or we can take him as wise when he talks in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond about reaching the top and being incredibly “unhappy.”
This film convinced me Carrey is wise, even if he can’t fully put together all the pieces into a perfectly followable philosophy (who can?). And as is true with all philosophy, it need not be an all-or-nothing endeavor (unless that philosophy is religious and patented by an infallible being, but I digress) – you can take value in pieces, but be wary of only taking that which already resonates.
What do people want? “They want to be free from concern,” Carrey suggests. Brilliant. I honestly cannot think of a better answer. This is what people mean when they talk about tranquility, fulfillment or serenity. But unlike those flowery terms, Carrey offers a very tangible definition for one of the deepest existential questions.
The most moving part of Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond came when Carrey talked about the two choices we all face: We can do what we want, or we can compromise in some way. It’s easy to lionize never compromising, but that doesn’t seem remotely feasible. Carrey’s point is that regret and suffering are so much worse when you compromise and still fail.
I can play minor league baseball, which is what I want, or I can sell insurance. I’ve got a family, so I’ll sell insurance. Failure was possible with baseball, but not with insurance (or so you convince yourself); compromise seems safer. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t do it. But of course, you can still fail selling insurance, which counts as a sort of devastating “double loss.” Carrey’s reflection of his father’s “double loss,” and how it showed him that there really aren’t two choices, was another bit of tough-to-dispute wisdom.
Or how about the notion of “living for yourself.” This is a universally hailed ideal. You can witness this by telling anyone you are going to start living for yourself instead of other people. One hundred people out of 100 will congratulate you for this discovery. But, what actually does this mean? What is “you”? And isn’t there something a little odd about the striking coincidence between all of one’s worst characteristics not being “you,” while all the best parts, however rare they may be, being the “real you”?
Carrey has part of an answer.
If you are only ever doing things so you can tell other people, you can’t really be living for yourself, right? Right.
Then there’s Carrey’s whole point about getting everything and being miserable and that this is probably the result of wanting things because you think it’s what you should want, not because you actually want them. This is what leads to incredible interviews like this one:
Jim Carrey is experienced. Jim Carrey is wise. You might just want to listen to him and let your priorities change accordingly.