A Beautiful Mind: John Nash

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A Beautiful Mind: John Nash

Postby RonPrice » Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:51 am

After seeing the biographical drama film, A Beautiful Mind, twice: on 15 October 2013 and 12 September 2015, respectively, I put the following sequence of three pieces of prose and poetry together.-Ron Price, Australia

Part 1:

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. I watched the film last night, a dozen years after its opening and after it had grossed some 400 million dollars. I won’t give you chapter and verse on: who wrote the screenplay and the novel on which it was based, who directed and produced it, who acted in it, and what awards it enjoyed. You can read all about this film in cyberspace at several sites of which Wikipedia1 was my main source.

The story is also one I only sketch here, FYI. The film begins in the early years of a young prodigy named John Nash. Early in the film, Nash begins developing paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brings on his wife and friends.

Part 2:

Like historical fiction novels, biographical film and drama cherry-pick aspects from the real life of the person concerned and the society, the mise-en-scene, in which they lived. All biography and autobiography, genres I’ve been studying and writing-in for the last 30 years, cherry-pick. I remember after writing the first draft of my autobiography during the years 1984 to 1993, just after I turned 40, I found the result so boring I could hardly bare reading it, and so began the next twenty years of my personal cherry-picking. Cherry-picking is not, therefore, a pejorative term; everyone has to do it as they survey their lives and try to give some sense and sensibility, context and texture, to what is often a rag-and-bone shop of everyday, quotidian reality, however moving and engrossing a life may be.
To make this film both more interesting, more entertaining and, as writers and film-makers know, more popular in the market-place a whole army of people, often called ‘the credits’, are involved. In addition, a certain poetic or literary license takes place, often unbeknownst to the casual reader or film-goer. Although this film was well received by critics, it has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of Nash's life, especially his other family, his homosexuality, and a son born out of wedlock, and its treatment of paranoid schizophrenia. However, the filmmakers have stated that the film was not meant to be a literal representation.

Part 3:

The film begins in the late 1940s when John Forbes Nash, Jr.(1928-) arrives at Princeton university. Nash is an American mathematician whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life. His theories are used in market economics, computing, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, accounting, politics and military theory. The film ends in 1994 when Nash, then serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University, gets the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

In 2002, PBS produced a documentary about Nash titled A Brilliant Madness, which tells the story of this mathematical genius whose career was cut short by severe mental health problems. In his own words, he states:

″I spent times, of the order of five to eight months, in hospitals in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis, and always attempting a legal argument for release. After I had been hospitalized long enough, I finally renounced my delusional hypotheses. I then reverted to thinking of myself as a human of more conventional circumstances; it was only then that I could return to my mathematical research. In these interludes of, as it were, enforced rationality, I did succeed in doing some respectable mathematical research.”

“Thus there came about the research for Le problème de Cauchy pour les equations différentielles d'un fluide général; the idea that Prof. Hironaka called "the Nash blowing-up transformation"; and those of Arc Structure of Singularities and Analyticity of Solutions of Implicit Function Problems with Analytic Data. After my return to the dream-like delusional hypotheses in the later 60's, I became a person of delusionally influenced thinking. My behaviour was relatively moderate, and thus tended to avoid hospitalization and the direct attention of psychiatrists.” -Ron Price with thanks to1Wikipedia, 15 October 2013.


All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.--Swami Vivekananda

Part 1:

For many people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life. It is the place where virtually everyone meets people, forms partnerships and marriage, raises children, and earns a living, among a host of other activities. For others, the ultimate and the most significant of meanings are obtained from other sources.

Creative activity is a particularly apt, indeed, highly rewarding way to express oneself. Creativity is an activity that is often solitary, although group creativity is just as, or even more, common in this modern age. The productions which result from creativity are often regarded as possessing value to society but, of course, not necessarily.

In my life, beginning as it did in the 1940s, solitariness has been unavoidable and essential in one way or another, and so has human interaction. After more than fifty years of extensive interaction (1949-1999), I had come to the point in my lifespan where my employment, my interaction with others, and my health were causing me to feel an immense weariness, a certain tedium vitae, to draw on an old Latin phrase. In the last year before I took an early retirement at the age of 55, I even had to take shots of testosterone to keep me going through my 15 hour days. Throughout the 1990s, as I headed into my final years of work as a teacher and lecturer, I increasingly felt the need for the solitary. I was moving, by sensible and insensible degrees, into a period in my life which I wanted to be characterized by a dominance of the solitary. I also wanted to write.

Part 2:

After some forty years, 1962 to 2002, of travelling-and-pioneering from place to place, and job to job, from one house to another, from one relationship to another, from deep and meaningful relationships to trivial, routine and difficult relationships, the time to finally stay in one place and, at the same time, to decrease the quantity of interaction with others seemed to have arrived. I was not entirely sure but, at the age of 55, I took a sea-change, moved to a little town where that human interaction would be minimal, and I could get off what had become life’s old treadmill for 60 to 80 hours a week. I could cease my work in life’s several salt mines, so to speak. I wanted--as I say--to write and, gradually in the decade from 1999 to 2009, when I went on an old-age pension, I reinvented myself as: a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger and journalist. As I write this in 2015, I now have millions of readers in cyberspace.

Back in the late 1990s I wanted, like Robert Redford, “to be a private man doing his own thing in a remote place.”2 Like Robert Redford, too, I had had trouble attaining this dominance of the solitary. Now, though, after nine years of retirement from: FT, PT and most volunteer work, 2007 to 2015, I have finally found that privacy, that remoteness and that solitary life.-Ron Price with thanks to: 1Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998, p.15; 2Minty Clinch, Robert Redford, New English Library, London, 1989, p.3.

There were always lots of people around.
back then in ’49, in ‘59, & again, & again.
They were unavoidable, essential to my way
of life. I accepted them like the air; they’d
always been there. And it stayed that way,
in one way or another, until just the other day
when it became just me and my wife,1 a couple
of shopkeepers, my son and my step-daughter
dropping in, many good-byes to the Baha’is,
lunch or dinner with family or friends: the quiet
life at last, at long last, much the same as it had
once been long ago during those first memories.2

Getting closer to solitude, but never really
there, probably never really attainable, not
totally, for this commitment, this vision, is
all part of what Holley called: ‘this social
religion’ and social it is, with solitariness
only really desireable to a degree, a degree.3

Ron Price
26/6/’99 to 13/9/’15.

1 My son moved out of home about the same time that I had given-up all FT and PT work, about 2004 at the age of 60. My wife and I were alone for the first time in our marriage, with an empty nest, since our relationship had begun back in about April 1974. Between the first draft of this prose-poem in 1999, and its last in 2015, my son married and he and his wife had a daughter. One of my step-daughters also had a child, and these new arrangements brought grandchildren into our lives. My second step-daughter also became a greater part of our lives because she was and had been a nurse for 25 years and had a useful caring-role.

2 My first memory goes back to about 1947 or 1948 when I was an only child of older parents and my personal life was relatively solitary.
3 I have been associated with the Baha’i Faith now for over 60 years, and this world religion, and its highly social emphasis, brings me even now in touch with people on a daily basis in one way or another. I keep this interaction, as I now go through my 70s, to about one hour a day on average, not counting the time with my wife. In August 2015, with terminal cancer in my life, I have become even more solitary.


The year before I retired from FT employment as a teacher and lecturer, Sylvia Nasar published, with Simon and Schuster, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash. This week I watched the film that was based on this book and its subsequent screenplay. I place the following prose-poem below and following, as it does, the above piece on the nature of the social-solitary continuum in my lifespan. I do this because the content of this prose-poem also draws on that same biography of John Nash.
Section 1:
A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash(1928- ). I have already discussed the film in some detail and will not repeat the details here. Early in the film, in 1959 in fact, Nash begins developing paranoid schizophrenia. That was a big year for me; I was 15 in 1959, and the home-run king in a little town in a region of Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. That same year I also joined a Faith that claimed to be the latest of the Abrahamic religions.1

Nash went in and out of psychiatric hospitals until 1970, as I was planning to come to Australia from my home in Canada and to work in the city of Whyalla in the state of South Australia as a primary school teacher. The film ends with Nash receiving the Nobel Prize in 1994. By then I was looking forward to retirement from a 50 year student-and-employment life, 1949 to 1999.

Like most biographical drama, the film takes considerable literary or poetic license with the story. It is the same with historical fiction. If people want more accuracy in the lives of those about whom personal drama and bio-pics are made, they have to go to biography; even then biographers have a certain stance, a certain take, on the person concerned. That is why some critics of the genre say that a true biography can never be written.

Section 2:

In 2002 PBS produced a documentary about Nash entitled A Brilliant Madness which tells the story of the mathematical genius whose career was cut short by severe mental health problems. I took a special interest in this film because I suffered, during my eight decades in the lifespan, from several mental health issues beginning with ‘a mild schizo-affective disorder’ and, then, bipolar 1 disorder, among other mental health problems. In the 400 page overview of my experience I mention several other mental health problems that I have had to deal with.3 -Ron Price with thanks to: 1The Baha’i Faith, 2Wikipedia, 16/10/’13, and 3Ron Price, 72 Years of A Chaos Narrative now located at several mental health sites.

Section 3:

Your visual hallucinations
were not on the spectrum
of my paranoid experience;
yours lasted much longer
than mine with or without
the medications; I only got
hit in two episodes, but ECTs
and medications sorted me out.

Problems with what is called
compliance were not as bad in
my case. I thought that the film
could have been more accurate
in its handling of the treatment
for paranoid schizophrenia; the
film’s use of the insulin shock
therapy frightened the pants off
of the millions in the population
who saw the film, gave psychiatry
yet another pejorative pubic-image,
and discouraged people with mental
health disorders: schizophrenia, BPD,
and other mental health sufferers from
taking medication….thus simplifying
what is a very complex health problem.

Ron Price
16/10/’13 to 13/9/’15.


Part 1:

A Beautiful Mind was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1998 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly, among others, in supporting roles. The story begins in 1947, the early years of a young prodigy named John Nash and continues, episodically, through to the 1980s.

Nash is given a course of insulin shock therapy and eventually released. Frustrated with the side-effects of the antipsychotic medication he is taking, which make him lethargic and unresponsive, he secretly stops taking it. This causes a relapse and the manifestations of his paranoid schizophrenia returns.

Part 2:

The film opened in the United States cinemas on December 21, 2001. It went on to gross over $313 million worldwide and win four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score.

We may not leave the cinema with A level competence in game theory, but we do get a glimpse into what it feels like to be mad - and not know it. I had already had such a glimpse of this ‘madness’ back in 1968 and 1977 when I experienced “a mild schizo-affective state,” had eight shock treatments, and several different medications.

Part 3:

Sylvia Nasar, who wrote the 1998 biography that informs Akiva Goldsman's screenplay, begins her book by quoting Wordsworth about "a man forever voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone." The setting in the late 40s through to the 1980s calls to mind aspects of the Cold War, and changes in society from the 1950s to the 1980s. Nash observes: "Without his 'madness,' Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then been forgotten."1-Ron Price with thanks to Roger Ebert, 21/12/’01 at Roger Ebert.com.

My mind was filled with
paranoid ideas that were
hit on the head by ECTs,
drugs for neuropsychiatric
symptoms. I went on to live
a relatively normal life as the
meds got better and better, the
issues surrounding mental illness
continued to keep pundits as busy
as ever, and the public for the most
part in the dark in an increasingly
complex world with a tempest
unprecedented in its magnitude
sweeping the face of the earth, and
harrowing-up the souls of its inhabitants.
I went on to live a voyaging
through those strange seas
of thought that old William
wrote about so expansively
in his Prelude, & I wrote so
expansively in my Pioneerng
Over Five Epochs, or Four!!1

1 The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet's Mind; An Autobiographical Poem is an autobiographical conversation poem] in blank verse by the English poet William Wordsworth. Intended as the introduction to the more philosophical Recluse, which Wordsworth never finished. The Prelude is an extremely personal and revealing work on the details of Wordsworth's life. Wordsworth began The Prelude in 1798 at the age of 28 and continued to work on it throughout his life.

My autobiographical prose-poem was begun by sensible and insensible degrees in the 1980s and 1990s. I have continued working on it in this 21st century.

Ron Price
End of document
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).

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A Week at the Movies:

Postby nmblum88 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:30 pm

A week's worth of movies, and these were the best…
The film:
An uncomfortable reminder of an unfortunate period in American political life.
Well done.
In no small measure due to an extraordinary, even thrillingly theatrical performance by Brian Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, the black-listed (i.e. "do NOT employ") Hollywood script writer who was , parenthetically, also the author of "Johnny Got His Gun…" one of the great American anti-war novels.
Amazingly crowded theater , considering that all the characters on the screen were recognizable human beings.
(Of course, I did see in it depraved, devoid of American values, Hollywood.)

Ditto the showing of "Bridge of Spies…" ( a version of an actual US-USSR, Cold War event).

Ditto the beautiful, startling, "the Danish Girl…." a gorgeous young man, his encouraging wife, and the first known successful trans gender surgery…
And ditto, "Carol," woman-woman love story.
Could it be that the Zombie, Ghoul, Alien era could be coming to an end?
In favor of…" hmmmm… this COULD have something to do with me? Or at least with some form of life on MY part of the planet?"

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