A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Delusion

A mathematician imagines that there is more to life than what can be touched, but it’s just his schizophrenia talking.

Tommy Viola

You’re a world-class mathematician and economic theorist at the world’s premier academic institution. Your wife looks like the gorgeous film star Jennifer Connelly. You have a baby boy. Things couldn’t be better.

But suddenly your world becomes upset by a series of supernatural visions: you begin to see an authoritarian figure (the Father) who insists that you have a moral and ethical duty to fulfill to him and to your fellow man; you begin to see a kind man with a propensity for enigmatic sayings (the Son) who wants to live with you—he calms your fears and gives you courage to persevere; you begin to see a lovely young girl (the Holy Spirit) who delights you with her charm and strengthens you with her presence. What on earth is going on here—are you becoming a Christian?

Nonsense: you’re obviously schizophrenic.

In some ways, A Beautiful Mind is a subtle remake of that sixties chestnut Inherit the Wind (itself a caricatured and biased remake of the real-life Scopes Monkey Trial). The underlying moral of the story in A Beautiful Mind is that if it can’t be touched, tasted, or calculated in chalk on the window of a neo-Gothic building in bucolic New Jersey, it just doesn’t exist. (“This is what’s real,” Connelly tells Crowe as she guides his hand to her body.) If you believe otherwise, you probably are in need of a couple weeks of shock therapy.

We also learn from the story that neither shock therapy nor psychotropic drugs—not even sleeping with Ms. Connelly—will fully dispel these visions. A part of you will continue to want to believe that there is a world beyond this one. That’s OK. Just ignore it. Just pretend you don’t see them waving to you. Just pretend you don’t hear them calling your name.

posted by editor ::: April 16, 2002 ::: philms :::