The Virtue of Hopelessness

Here’s one more post (for now) on the philosophy of actor Jim Carrey. He said,

There’s a virtue in hopelessness. I’m not kidding. You’re off the hook and you don’t have to worry about what’s coming. “Okay, the world freaking ended. That’s great. Now what?” Give up! Surrender to the idea that things are bad and yet still, from 3,000 feet up, we don’t matter. Things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not. But we don’t matter. …Once you lose yourself, you’re pretty okay. Just get out of the way.

The idea that “things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not” sounds fatalistic, doesn’t it? But it’s true that at one level, we are just molecules that bump around like any other molecules. Events carry us along like leaves blown by winds that they cannot control.

You might think we’re different because we have “free will” with which to change the course of events. But as I wrote in Free Will and the Water Park, to the extent that our choices are rational and not random, they are based on actual data about the world. Thus, they are the product of the very events and information we supposedly transcend. The only way we can act free of outside influence is to act randomly — which is not what people mean or want when they claim “free will.”

There is also a virtuous humility in Carrey’s philosophy. Life is not about us. We are just “things that happen.” The main difference between us and the stardust from which we came is that our molecules are arranged in such a way that we are conscious. Much blessing and suffering comes from that, but at bottom we are only dust.

For Jim Carrey, this humility was born of suffering. In the same interview, he said,

The fact is, going down the river of sorrow and suffering is the way to freedom. I’ve gone through it and I’m telling you, you don’t survive it. You don’t come out of it on the other side. You might come out of it with a body, but there’s no you attached to it.

When there is hope, then by all means struggle. When the situation is hopeless, there is virtue in relaxing with current until it brings you to a new place.

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