Jim Carrey believes death will be an “awesome” moment and “such a welcome experience.” He even describes it as an elevated state of consciousness that he feels he can reach at times in a heightened state of awareness. Carrey says he can “get there” at certain times when he is in his most profound spiritual mindfulness.
I discovered this unexpected insight through watching Jerry Seinfeld’s new series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which has been a pure delight for me. I’ve always thought of comedians as our society’s most artful and fascinating truth tellers, and their dimension of communication is reflective, dynamic and powerful, for many reasons. The segment with Jim Carrey was intriguing for revelations about these unexpected aspects of the comedian’s lifestyle, personality and outlook. Beyond zooming around in a Lamborghini with Jerry Seinfeld and visiting Carrey’s art studio (he’s an amazingly prolific painter), Carrey also talks about experiencing his consciousness as being “non-local” and the difference between the “relative” and the “absolute.” Carrey describes the relative is “what you relate to” while the absolute “is the truth of consciousness being everything.”
In some ways it’s surprising to hear a comedian talk about death in such a joyful, creative and reverential tone. On the other hand, conversations in our global culture of this new millennium are accelerating around many aspects of death. From the Dalai Lama talking about his reincarnation, and explaining that his future birth will not occur in Tibet (because of China’s political repression of Tibet’s culture and spiritual traditions) to a neurologist writing a book on his own clinical death and strikingly similar accounts by many people who have had Near Death Experiences (NDE), fascinating dialogues are emerging around death. Deepak Chopra often talks about the human brain and non-local consciousness, and it seems this language and discussion is something that Jim Carrey has picked up on. He also wrote a book on the science, human experience and spirituality behind the afterlife, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof. Non-local, as Deepak Chopra refers to it, means that scientists and doctors can study brain activity, but they can’t identify the exact location of the consciousness that actually perceives sensations or registers thoughts, memories, and ideas. If this non-local human awareness is not biological, then it is reasonable to assume that it continues in some form of awareness after the death of the brain. For Jim Carrey “non-local” is a term he is using that almost describes a meditative-like process, a way he conceives of his mind opening to the vast, rapid-fire associations that form his endless comedic stream of consciousness.
Life is “tragic” and therefore “unutterably beautiful,” writes James Baldwin, because “the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time.” Death occurs in a context of relationship, family ties, love and personal desires and drives, and all these intricacies are somehow connected to questions of the “non-local” consciousness that we sense will survive the physical death of the brain. There are many ways that people come to terms with this process and much of this an intuitive, inner sense of things that people try to work out. As our global civilization is evolving, as we have more access to information, as people have more extraordinary investigations and conversations, it is likely that our understanding of death will become far richer and more beautiful than most conventional beliefs. Like Jim Carrey’s explanation of non-local consciousness and his proclamation that death will be as “awesome” and “welcome” experience, it is helpful for us to expand the ideas, terminologies and cultural frame of reference around the discussion. It is notable that a figure no-less than seminal tech mogul Steve Jobs, surrounded by family on his death bed, was reported to have said his final words, “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
The intricacies of this process of the changing consciousness of death are beautifully told in Kathleen Westberg’s Dying is Weird: A Journey of Enlightenment. Westberg’s book tells the story of her family’s Catholic immigrant Turn-of-the-Century roots, the passage of time and generations, and a remarkable experience with death as a child. After making a conscious decision to explore certain mind-body practices and spiritual teachings (despite raised-eyebrows from her more conventional Midwestern family and friends) Westberg finds herself having transcendent experiences and communications with loved ones who have passed on. Her personal growth, love for her family and inner realizations become seamlessly integrated with a larger vision of the continuity of life after death. This is a deeply engaging and thoughtful book that may be especially helpful for people who are wondering about loved ones who have passed away or are facing death in their family; but of course death touches us all, and the book has universal value.
Kathleen Westberg’s beautiful book is a personal invitation to a broader vision and this larger cultural dialogue and evolution of our perceptions, feelings and understanding of death. You can find out more about Kathleen and her life experiences – particularly her exploration of the clairvoyant and healer Edgar Cayce – on her blog.