Matthew Southey half-baked half-thoughts    About    Archive    Feed

Silliness: Skipping the Dull Parts

I last watched Click as a child and did not review it before writing. I hope I’m not confusing it with Billy Madison another philisophical great (joke).

There’s a movie called Click (2009) which stars Adam Sandler. In the movie, he receives a remote control that allows him to “fast forward” or “skip” parts of his life. In the film, Adam Sandler continually skips over those parts of his life that are unpleasant or even just boring, and ends up skipping the vast majority of his life.

The movie is bad - but the premise is interesting if understood as Buddhist commentary on suffering. What percentage of life is worth skipping over? The general Buddhist answer might start with looking at the vast amount of suffering (duhka) that existence entails. This sort of suffering is very difficult to be released from. An arhat, or other serious practitioner, might not skip anything due to their relatively diminished level of suffering (even though their life might just consist of meditation and Buddhist training). The untrained mind might, like Sandler, just prefer to skip the whole thing.

However, the crux of the issue lies with how a person acts while they “fast forward”, and therefore the role of “consciousness” in one’s life.

Option A) Skipping or fast-forwarding changes how you act in the interval skipped. In the movie, Adam Sandler basically acts as if he were lobotomized during the portions he skipped. This means that he “awakens” to a worse existence than he would have had if he had not skipped (or so he believes, maybe things were destined to turn out poorly for Adam Sandler).

Would learning the ratio of suffering/pleasure in one’s life lead to a new outlook? It does at the end of Click where Sandler is given a second chance. But this is somewhat surprising, Sandler just learned that the majority of his life is either neutral or unpleasant. Maybe he hopes that the next time around will be better. The unreleased sequel to Click shows Sandler travelling to Tibet to study with venerable teachers, missing out on his family life, but at least solving the problem of suffering. Life is worth living now that it’s unrecognizable!

Option B) One could also take an epiphomenal or a David Chalmer’s approach: whereby consciousness serves no function in the world. The remote would merely turn off consciousness, so that there’s no subjective experience, and turn it back on when it detects the end of suffering/unpleasentness. In that case, other people would not detect any change and you would make all the same decisions you would with consciousness present. This would mean the person who had skipped would “wake up” in a world that is indistinguishable from one where they didn’t skip.

If at the end of Click Adam Sandler finds out that life is disproportionately full of suffering with or without his subjectivity, then he might choose not to go back and live his life over. Would that create a paradox where conscioussness had “made a difference” despite not being functional? Maybe, depends what sort of non-functional theory is being used.

You heard it here first.