John Nash — Greatness and Madness in A Beautiful Mind

He is a genius, he is a madman; He won the Nobel Prize for his “Nash Equilibrium”. He was schizophrenic and trapped all his life. He, John Nash, is the inspiration for “A Beautiful Mind.” On May 24, 2015, John Nash and his wife were riding in a taxi home from the airport when they were hit by a car crash. The two men, who were not wearing seat belts, were thrown out of the car and died. He’s gone, and I’m sure the first image that came to mind when many heard the news was Russell Crowe’s steely face from A Beautiful Mind. But the reality is not a movie, those dramatic touching moments are just scriptwriter’s imagination. The greatness of John Nash was not in the fiction of those movies, he was a legend. He struggled with the disease in his brain all his life, but he kept a beautiful heart. Such a great and crazy man, to be able to end his life in such a way, is unfortunate, but also lucky. Today, we’re not going to talk about movies, we’re going to talk about John Nash, this ordinary, great, beautiful, crazy man.

There is no doubt that John Nash was a genius. The letter of recommendation from Nash’s master’s supervisor contained only one sentence: “This man is a genius.” But geniuses are often lonely, not to mention Nash as a megalomaniac. He seldom attended classes because he thought they would drain his creativity; He looked down on his classmates, thinking that he was far superior in intelligence and ability. At Princeton, he spent most of his time riding his bicycle alone, around and around the lawn, in figure eights. Alone and conceited, that was how his colleagues at MIT described him when he was a professor.

As in the movie, Nash and his classmates like to compete against each other in chess in the common room. It was this experience that led to his interest in game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that deals with games of all kinds. Game theory at that time could only solve some simple two-player game problems. At this point, Nash proposed the “Nash Equilibrium”, which proved that in every game, each player had the best strategy to respond to based on the strategies of the other players. Nash presented his argument in the spring of 1950, when he was 21 years old. At the time, no one anticipated the potential of the Nash equilibrium. Decades later, the “Nash equilibrium” became a cornerstone of the modern economy. John Nash, at 66, won the Nobel Prize in economics for a paper he submitted at 21.

The real Nobel award ceremony is not as solemn as in the movies. In fact, John Nash wasn’t even the only winner that year. He shared the award with two others. In the video footage, when John Nash’s name was pronounced, he stood up nervously like a startled deer, and straightened his clothes in a nervous, even frightened manner. After the trembling stage, the award, the whole process does not exceed 20 seconds. A moving speech, no; A few minutes of applause, no. The respect and admiration for Nash did not seem to be expressed in these forms.

The Hong Kong translation of “A Beautiful Mind” is called “Beautiful for Life”, which means the love between John Nash and his wife Alicia, but the real love is not so perfect. Alicia was not Nash’s first love. He had a brief relationship with a nurse and even had a son. But how could Nash, a math student, have fallen into mediocrity because of his love affairs? He refused to raise the “accidental product”. This relationship will not end.

John Nash met Alicia Nader, the character played by Jennifer Connery, at MIT. Like in the film, the real Alicia also has a beautiful appearance, also is Nash’s student. Nash, on the other hand, was a young, promising bachelor in mathematics. Such a pair of talent and beauty, it makes sense to go together.

Alicia in the movie, waiting by Nash’s side, decade after decade. The real Alicia, unable to bear Nash’s mental illness, divorced him after seven years of marriage. In 2001, when “A Beautiful Mind” was released, Alicia remarried Nash. As she said, she had been fighting with fate all her life, and in this year, she finally won. In reality, there is no perfect love in the movie, but no matter how imaginative the scriptwriter is, it is impossible to predict the life ending of the couple. I think, in this way, and their love together to end life, it is not regret.

If there is a heaven, may there be no sickness in heaven, and may Nash and his wife walk hand in hand to recover the good times they once lost.

By the time Alicia was three months pregnant, Nash was beginning to show signs of schizophrenia. He begins to doubt himself, even fear; He bursts into the MIT faculty lounge and claims to have received coded messages from extraterrestrials; He claimed to have appeared on the cover of Life magazine disguised as Pope John XXIII only because 23 was his favourite prime number. His wife and friends were very upset by this strange behavior, and the final examination also proved that the uneasiness was not groundless. John Nash, the great mathematician, suffered from schizophrenia.

The next step for Nash was endless therapy and recovery. “They won’t let me out until I’m normal again, but I don’t think I’ll ever be normal again,” Nash said. Indeed, doctors at the psychiatric hospital treated Nash with insulin coma, a now-useless and dangerous treatment popular at the time: injecting patients with large amounts of insulin to put them into a coma in order to regulate their metabolism. Nash says he doesn’t remember many details, just being sedated, unconscious, convulsed, and then again. The cruel treatment stabilized Nash’s mind, but deprived him of his mind. His inspiration as a mathematician, his genius, and even some of his early memories, were all gone. For a mathematician who lives by his brain, this is perhaps the cruelest form of death.

Four years after his first hospital admission, Nash, 33, stabilised and was given a job back. As shown in the movie, although Nash was successfully released from the hospital, he still had to take medication to stabilize his mind. The price of taking the medicine is the loss of creativity and the dullness of life. To get his brain running again, Nash stopped taking his medication. Then the noisy voices, the vague visions, came back into his life, the noise in his ears, the confusion in front of his eyes.

Nash forced himself to do what he called “rational thinking.” Eventually, his willpower overcame his illness and turned his brain into a hard drive partitioned, with the schizophrenic part in one area and the normal part in another, and he locked the schizophrenic area when he needed to think. By the end of the film, the three imaginary people were still present in Nash’s psyche, but he had managed to ignore them. Like old friends he saw every day, Nash might not have gotten used to them without them.

In the film, the afternoon ceremony does not actually take place. But the respect for Nash at Princeton, and around the world, was real. Here I put an experience from a Douban netizen, excerpted from a Douban film review, The John Nash I Know

John Nash, that was it, an ordinary, even dull old man.