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A Beautiful Mind in Review

In honor of the mental body, I am doing a movie review on the film A beautiful mind. This is a spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen the movie stop now and go see it. You will not be disappointed! If you are ok with a preview continue on.

This movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. I remember seeing it in the theater and then sitting in the theater parking lot for almost an hour talking about it. At the time schizophrenia was something I was not familiar with and I don’t know… this movie changed the way I looked at mental illness. It changed me in ways I cannot articulate.

Now, I would say my love for the movie A Beautiful Mind can be defined in one word, Paradox. I love when things that seem opposite find a way to come together as one.

The mental process of John Nash was both genius and incompetent at the same time. Without both, we would probably never know his name.

He was afraid of his own mind but used the fear of losing the love of his life to overcome his loss and gain something better even though that better was the opposite of what he thought he wanted. John Nash used the very thing that was his vice to create his virtue. He used his thinking to question his thoughts. Using your vice in the quest of obtaining your virtue is the enneagram message and genius. I’ll talk about that more later.

The 2001 movie is based on the life of the American mathematician John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and Abel Prize winner. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, also known as Vison to fans of The Avengers and which btw I loved in the series WandaVision on Disney+. Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, and Christopher Plummer famous for The Sound of Music are also in A Beautiful Mind.

It won four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Connelly certainly deserved it.

The story begins in Nash's days as a graduate student at Princeton University. In real life, John Nash was raised by two educated parents and his father often gave him mathematics books to read as a child. He was always considered a different sort of kid and the movie lets us know that. He is socially awkward but you get the idea that he would really like to fit in. He is very much a square peg in school, in social situations, and in life.

John doesn’t attend classes. Instead, his goal is to come up with an original idea that propels him into the best of the best probably much like e=mc2 did for Albert Einstein. Incidentally, both Nash and Einstein were at Princeton University at the same time and the real John Nash shared that he and Einstein had a talk once where he shared some of his thoughts about gravity and the expansion of the universe and claimed he saw some famous theoretic physicists using theories similar to his as the years passed.

In the movie, there is a pivotal scene where he and some fellow students are in a bar and a group of girls walks in. You will have to watch to get the full picture, but this is the moment his original idea is born. It is known today as game theory.

Game theory is the process of modeling the strategic interaction between two or more players in a situation containing set rules and outcomes. While used in a number of disciplines, game theory is most notably used as a tool within the study of economics.

In the words of John himself, “The Best for the Group comes when everyone in the group does what's best for himself AND the group.” It seems strange to me that this was such a revolutionary idea, but we have yet as a society taken this mathematically correct approach into our psyche with full force.

Isn’t it amazing to think that oneness and unity in prosperity can actually be mathematically proven to be the best force of action? Our egos want to push against this idea. It seems to go against our free market spirit. This is a mathematical truth.

“The Best for the Group comes when everyone in the group does what's best for himself AND the group.”

This is how the mental body looks at and processes. It loves reason and logic. It remembers and understands. It looks for answers and creates expansive ideas. The mental body is a paradox in and of itself.

With John Nash’s original idea comes practically a free ticket to work within his field anywhere he wants and he chooses MIT. In real life, he was a difficult professor. He taught way beyond his student’s capabilities and judged them harshly for it. It is here he meets his future wife, Alicia.

The movie depicts a most romantic courtship and gives the impression that it is Alicia that breaks down his awkward walls and makes him a caring and loving human being for the first time in his life.

It is heartbreaking that soon after the marriage John’s schizophrenia comes to a head and the whole first half of the movie is called into question. The movie is genius (and appropriately so) at sending you on a roller coaster ride of questioning reality in probably the same way the characters in the movie do.

The film brings you to tears as Alicia is forced to agree to horrible insulin shock therapy used at the time to induce a comatose state. You also cry at how the effects of the treatment and medication mock their once beautiful romance. It invokes questions like, how would it be to be married to someone whose mind cannot be trusted? We get a glimpse at the paranoia it must have caused in her. Also, how would it be to have your loved one not trust your thinking?

John decides to stop his medication and because he was never convinced some of his closest allies in life were imaginary, the illusions return rather quickly. It is only when Alicia sees how dangerous the illusions can be and tries to leave that John finds a flaw in the illusions.

In real life, this limbo-like state of John coming to grips with his illness takes years. John and Alicia actually divorce about 6 years after they marry in 1963. In 1970 Alicia takes pity on John and allows him to move into her home as a border and in 2001 they remarry.

One would call them soul mates for sure. In fact, in 2015 both of them were killed in a vehicle accident on their way home from the airport after a visit to Norway, where Nash had received the Abel Prize. It makes sense that neither of them had to live without the other.

The film depicts Alicia’s strength and compassion as she supports John’s decision to treat himself in his own way. She must surrender to the truth of how life is, rather than the way she must have believed it would be. Instead of a large important career, John goes back to Princeton and with the help of his colleagues carves out an existence. He thanks Alicia and credits her for his life and ability to accept the Nobel Prize in 1994.

This mathematician's desire was to find answers to the why’s of life and to make sense of a world he never understood. In fact, there is a funny scene where John is trying to come up with equations for everything from how pigeons move to why someone would get mugged. Math was a pathway to understanding how and why in a world of paradox

where how has a million different answers and why another million. Even he eventually accepts the unknown. My favorite quote of his is where he asks,

~ What truly is logic?

Who decides reason? [...]

It is only in the mysterious equations of love

that any logic or reason can be found.

John Nash

I could not agree more. Certainty only lies without exception in uncertainty. Life is a paradox.

I mentioned earlier about the enneagram. If you have never heard of the personalities of the enneagram you must go Take the test and when you tell me your type I will send you some information you will find fascinating.

The enneagram doesn't just give you a type of horoscope for your life, it gives you insight into how you show up under stress and what traits you can take on to relieve that stress. You will want your whole family to take the test so you can understand what motivates them in their life.

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