Jim Carrey's Commencement Speech
This commencement address was given to the Class of 2014 at the Maharishi University of Management. Watch the full speech here.
Jim Carrey is a Canadian-American actor and stand-up comedian. He's most known for his roles in Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Bruce Almighty. As well as acting in dozens of other films and television shows, he's been a voice actor, a screenwriter, and a producer over his long career.
He's recently taken a break from these pursuits and has become more introspective and reclusive. He's been searching for meaning in this new part of his life. Jim Carrey has a comedy style that is often hit-or-miss with audiences. Whatever your feelings towards Jim Carrey, I encourage you to watch this. While he is certainly still goofy, I'd bet it's a side of Jim Carrey you haven't seen before.
Jim opens by declaring the purpose of his commencement speech:
"I'm here to plant a seed today. A seed that will inspire you to move forward in life with enthusiastic hearts and a clear sense of wholeness.
The question is: will that seed have a chance to take root?"
"Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. How do I know this? I don’t, but I’m making sound, and that’s the important thing. That’s what I’m here to do.
Sometimes, I think that’s one of the only things that are important. Just letting each other know we’re here, reminding each other that we are part of a larger self."
"I used to think Jim Carrey is all that I was..
Just a flickering light,
A dancing shadow,
The great nothing masquerading as something you can name.
Seeking shelter in caves and foxholes, dug out hastily.
An archer searching for his target in the mirror.
Wounded only by my own arrows.
Begging to be enslaved.
Pleading for my chains.
Blinded by longing and tripping over paradise"
Pursuing Your Passion:
"Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear."
"So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it."
Jim Carrey talks about how his father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that it was possible for him. So he made the conservative choice and got a safe job as an accountant.
When Jim was 12 years old his father was let go from that "safe" job, and his family had to do whatever they could to survive.
"I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."
On Loving Comedy and Being a Comedian:
Jim grew up watching his father and he would see the affect his father's love and humor had on the world around him. That's when Jim first thought, "That’s something to do, that's something worth my time."
From that moment on he dedicated his life to comedy. When he was 7 years old and his family had company he would great them by throwing himself down a large flight of stairs. When the visitors would ask, "What happened?" Jim would say he didn't know but he would check the replay. And then he would go back to the top of the stairs and come back down in slow motion. He says, "My father used to brag that I wasn’t a ham — I was the whole pig."
When I was about 28, after a decade as a professional comedian, I realized one night in LA that the purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern, like my dad. When I realized this, I dubbed my new devotion, “The Church of Freedom From Concern” — “The Church of FFC”— and I dedicated myself to that ministry.
On Giving Back:
Jim asks of the audience: How will you serve the world?
What does the world need that your talents can provide? That’s all you have to figure out.
"As someone who has done what you are about to go do, I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.
Everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart, and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart."
Later he follows with,
"I’ve often said that I wished people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame so they could see that it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion."
Success isn't the Answer & Finding Inner Peace
Jim starts to get emotional as he thinks about how grateful he is for where he is in life. He said he was at the top of a mountain but the only person he hadn't freed from concern was himself. And that's when his search for identity deepened.
"I wondered who I’d be without my fame. Who would I be if I said things that people didn’t want to hear, or if I defied their expectations of me?"
True inner peace, he realized, "lies somewhere beyond personality, beyond the perception of others, beyond invention and disguise, even beyond effort itself."
"You can join the game, fight the wars, play with form all you want, but to find real peace, you have to let the armor fall.
Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory."
At this point in the speech Jim drops a curtain that had been covering a very large painting in the background.
On the Painting, "High Visibility":
It's a dizzying 16 feet tall. and he says, "it's big for a reason. It's called 'High Visibility.'" It’s about picking up the light and daring to be seen.
But here's the tricky part: everyone is attracted to the light.
Look at the the Party Members:
The Party Host up in the corner who thinks unconsciousness is bliss and is always offering a drink from the bottles that empty you.
Misery, below her, who despises the light — can’t stand when you’re doing well — and wishes you nothing but the worst.
The Queen of Diamonds, under him, who needs a King to build her house of cards.
And the Hollow One, down bottom, who clings to your leg and begs, “Please don’t leave me behind for I have abandoned myself.”
Painting is one of the ways I free myself from concern, a way to stop the world through total mental, spiritual, and physical involvement. But even with that, comes a feeling of divine dissatisfaction.
Because ultimately, we’re not the avatars we create. We’re not the pictures on the film stock. We are the light that shines through. All else is just smoke and mirrors. Distracting, but not truly compelling.
The Battle with Your Ego:
The imagination is always manufacturing scenarios — both good and bad — and the ego tries to keep you trapped in the multiplex of the mind.
Our eyes are not only viewers, but also projectors that are running a second story over the picture we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script and the working title is, ‘I’ll never be enough.’
He goes on to say,
No matter what you gain, your ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the earth, until you’ve achieved immortality.
How tricky is the ego that it would tempt us with the promise of something we already possess.
Being Open To Fate:
Jim talks about being open to the universe.
As far as I can tell, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it while letting go of how it might come to pass.
Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head and when the doors open in real life, just walk through it.
Don’t worry if you miss your cue. There will always be another door opening. They keep opening.
He addresses the inevitable obstacles on the path by referencing how he opened his speech.
And when I say, “life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.” I really don’t know if that’s true.
I’m just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way. You’ll come up with your own style, that’s part of the fun!
Why not take a chance on faith as well? Take a chance on faith — not religion, but faith. Not hope, but faith.
I don’t believe in hope. Hope is a beggar. Hope walks through the fire. Faith leaps over it.
He closes by saying,
You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear.
Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.