Brilliance: Sometimes a Blessing, Sometimes a Curse

By John Dabrowski, LICSW

Harbor Health Services, Inc.

John Nash died on May 23rd, thrown from a taxi cab on the Jersey Turnpike, along with his wife, also killed.  They were in their 80s.  Aside from this being a sad story and a cautionary tale about always using seatbelts, even on a cab ride, why might you care?  The man’s claim to fame was partly due to his being one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, winner of a Nobel Prize.  If you’re like most of us, you’re totally bewildered by the scribblings of “higher” math;  all you really need to know is that our modern world would be far different – or nonexistent – without it, including the nonexistence of your marvelous portable electronic device and the internet that makes Facebook and cat videos on YouTube possible.  While John Nash’s brilliance didn’t bring us any device in particular, he played in the same league as those who did, and his abstract discourses are nowadays hugely influential in economics, the social sciences, and biology, and who knows what next.   Higher math is like that, which is all most of us math-bewildered people need to know.  And it’s only part of John Nash’s story.  If you’re a moviegoer who also happens to be a BH consultant, the other story is utterly tragic, compelling, and inspiring, and quite bewildering in its own way.  Just as the man’s brain was blessed regarding its ability to grasp complicated abstract concepts, it was equally cursed with those scrambled and unbalanced electrochemical circuits that evidence themselves in what the DSM labels as paranoid schizophrenic.  Which in real life plays out in tragic, painful, and sometimes fascinating ways.  The schizophrenic mind can be wildly creative, usually in ways that make normal living impossible.  John Nash’s story was told in a book that became a movie, which had some powerfully gut-wrenching scenes portraying the powers of a remarkable mind gone astray, a Beautiful Mind, as the title of the movie described it.   A marvelous beauty.   A terrible beauty.  The story is also about the beauty of resilience and recovery – often not the case with schizophrenics – and the power of family and friends.  Alicia Nash, who also died on Saturday, had divorced John in 1963, had taken him back in 1970 in a truly heroic act, and remarried him in 2001.   A beautiful story that ended too soon. 



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