Me and Jim Carrey: Wild and Crazy Guys

by rthieme on May 14, 2018

Jim Carrey, the entity once known as Jim Carrey I should say, is catching flak these days from those who cannot understand what he is saying. He is saying lots of things, including that none of us exist, not the way we think of ourselves, that is, that the universe we inhabit is nothing but a dance, a dance of ecstatic energy, and the names we attach to ourselves are stickers that seem to adhere and suggest a permanent identity but don’t, and — here, listen for yourself. (be sure to add – doing it this way to keep the links optional)



Now, some say Jim is crazy. That’s what humans say when they cannot understand a point of view that differs significantly from their own, when their model of reality of challenged. I myself have been called crazy a few times. Here are a few instances.

Many decades ago, I had an epiphany while playing a computer game (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from Infocom). I saw that my thinking was being changed as I engaged with a computer, but beyond that, I myself was being changed. I saw that interacting with the symbol-manipulating machine called a computer did different things to me than reading the symbol-manipulating machine called a book.

I had studied and taught English literature and writing so I had a clue as to how text worked, how meaning was mediated by writing and print, and by contrast, I saw that meaning was mediated differently by computers. So as more and more people interacted with computers and computers with one another, as the symbiotic network expanded, the social, cultural, political, and mental worlds we inhabit would alter in significant ways.

I was still an Episcopal clergyman then, so I addressed what I saw in terms of religious images, ideas, structures. I wrote an essay called “Computer Applications for Spirituality: The Transformation of Religious Experience” and sent it to the Anglican Theological Review.

The Review rejected the essay out of hand, but it was in the margins that I found the most interesting comments. “He must be insane.” said one. “God forbid!” said another. And on it went, the paradigms within which the editors lived rejecting fresh insights the way a body rejects toxic bacteria.

Years later, a new editor dusted off the piece and wrote that the Review would be honored to publish my “cutting edge essay,” – the technical references in which were long obsolete. (moos and mushes instead of MMORPGs).

What had changed was the context in which the essay could be read. The digital revolution had begun to socialize people to its frames. “Wisdom and insanity are contextual,” I noted, the frames determining which pictures could fit.

Here’s another instance.

After I spoke for a technical conference in Nashville TN, the technologists in the audience invited me to speak for a conference at a school in western Kentucky. I offered a variety of topics and the conference chose “The Future of Hacking.” I liked that. The topic allowed me to explore the real meanings of hacking in several fields and to swing for the fence, describing as best I could what the future held..

I misjudged the second audience, however, which consisted of computer operators in small businesses in western Kentucky, not upper level technologists. The data entry folks tried to follow along but it sounded crazy to many.

After the speech, a woman approached me and said, “You should know what some of us are discussing.”

I raised my eyebrows in expectation.

“We are discussing whether or not you are insane.”

I laughed. “Thank you” I said. “That’s a compliment.”

“No it is not,” she said. “I mean that. We think you may be insane.”

They were saying in effect that the context of their lives and the frames it enabled could not contain the ideas I advanced. And since they were sane – everybody thinks they are sane – and what I said did not make sense, I must be crazy.

In both instances, events have proven me far-seeing and right on the money. When you get older, you get a track record, the downside of which is you have to get older to have one. I described the future by following the contours of emergent properties as a result of technological transformation to identify the shapes of relationships, organizational and geopolitical structures, everything. I was not crazy, I was early in terms of their timelines. (My mistake as a speaker was not understanding who I was addressing and communicating appropriately).

Back to Jim Carrey. If you have listened to him or watched the documentary on his transformation as a result of engaging with the personas of Andy Kaufman in “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond” on Netflix, then you can understand why some think he is crazy. Hopefully you can also see why he isn’t crazy at all. His transformation led into the right-brain frame where boundaries dissolve, categories evaporate, and the fluid unity of everything can be experienced.

I interviewed Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell (it’s an appendix in my novel FOAM and on my web site at Mitchell recounts how, returning from the moon, he went in and out of altered states and experienced the unity of all things. It changed his life and he struggled to communicate what he discovered for the rest of his days. The remarkable thing, he said, is not that we experience everything as interconnected, but that we experience anything as separate.

For a neuroscientific approach, read Jill Bolte Taylor’s “My Stroke of Insight,” or watch her TED talk or interview with Terry Gross online. She describes the serenity she found in the “right brain” experience after her stroke wiped out linear and logical distinctions. The anxieties of worldly attachments disappeared. She described in effect what people report after taking psilocybin, what Buddhists call nirvana, what Jews and Christians call “the peace that passes all understanding.”

No wonder those who take religious and spiritual experiences seriously sound crazy. Their experience leads them to rethink how they ought to be in the world, once arbitrary labels and categories and distinctions no longer hold. The knowledge that we are all part of One Real Everything compels a different ethical and moral approach to life, since everything we do affects – well, everything.


The artist formerly known as Jim Carrey is not crazy. He saw the light and chose to speak out about what he knew. Shamans experience that, too. A priest, like a shaman, is empowered to go crazy on behalf of his or her community, but the trick is, they have to know how to come back. When you can transit between states, you can see the world from a different point of view, and coming back, you can use language as best you can to say what you experienced. But language breaks, and we are left grasping for meanings. We seek metaphors that might make sense of a different landscape.

I wonder what “Jim Carrey” will do next. Will he create personas that let him make more brilliant films like “Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “The Truman Show?” or “Man on the Moon?” Or will he do something entirely else?

The only thing I know is, it doesn’t matter. “Jim Carrey” knows that, too. It really doesn’t matter.

And it doesn’t matter that some of what I see and say, once again, sounds crazy. So when I say that I know the universe is teeming with life, when I say that “visitors” have been coming to our planet for many years (a US Air Force text book suggested in the 1970s that at least four different civilizations accounted for some UFO phenomena), when I illuminate the “wilderness of mirrors” where illusions are manufactured and disseminated, when I try to hint at how it feels to have the very cornerstone of one’s construction of reality pulled out by an intelligence professional disclosing what they did – some will call what I say crazy.

Wisdom is making a distinction between what one knows one knows and the vast rest of it, what one knows one does not know. I’ll stick with what I know and partner with those who know other things. It worked when I went to hackers half my age and said, show me, please, what kind of world you are building, that the rest of us will inhabit. The gift of their vision suggests that’s a good way to learn, and I hope I will still be a learner in coming years.

The readiness is all.

Richard Thieme ( is an author and professional speaker who addresses what’s past, and passing, and to come.

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