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Jim Carrey delivers life lessons in commencement speech

May 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM ET

All righty, then! Jim Carrey is known for making people laugh, but he brought out his serious side when he delivered a thoughtful commencement address at Iowa's Maharishi University of Management on Saturday.

"Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much," he told the graduates. "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."

He went deeper, talking about the soul and the lessons his dad taught him about pursuing dreams. 

"My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we 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."

Carrey also got his own degree that day, Doctor of Fine Arts honoris causa.

Maharishi University, where director David Lynch offers a masters program in film, may not be a school people are immediately familiar with, and its curriculum deviates slightly from the expected college courses. Founded in 1973 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it focuses on a "consciousness-based education," according to its website. That includes the practice and application of Transcendental Meditation.

Which could explain why Carrey was willing to go into his own psyche. "Like many of you, I was concerned about going out into the world and doing something bigger than myself, until someone smarter than myself made me realize that there is nothing bigger than myself," he said. "My soul is not contained within the limits of my body; my body is contained within the limitlessness of my soul."

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