John F. Nash Jr. at his graduation from Princeton in 1950.  Credit Courtesy of Martha Nash Legg & The New York Times

John F. Nash Jr. at his graduation from Princeton in 1950.
Credit Courtesy of Martha Nash Legg & The New York Times

Today was to be an ordinary day. I wrote. I ate. I smoked, I chatted on Facebook, I checked the news and I hoped for better days and was grateful for days that are.

Today was to be an ordinary day, until the news came across my feed.

Death is always something to mourn. Many around the world will mourn John Nash. The death of such a man should be noted. Beloved thanks to the Oscar winning Russel Crowe film A Beautiful Mind (and Nash biographer Sylvia Nasar’s book of the same name), John Nash’s death is an event of some note.

Honored by the world of mathematics and economics thanks to his amazing depth of achievement, for most people John Nash’s death, and the death of his wife Alicia, is newsworthy…and sad.

For his family and friends, and for others who knew him well, John & Alicia Nash’s death must be heart wrenching. My prayers go out to his sons, John Charles and John David, to his sister Martha, and to his friends, colleagues and students.

I never met John Nash. I never met his wife. I did not have that honor.

I feel, however, that I know John as much as anyone can know a person from what one observes from that person’s life, from their actions, and from their accomplishments. However, unlike roughly 97.3-97.7% of people, John Nash and I share a kinship, of sorts. I feel that I know him a bit more than most who, like me, know him only from his publicly discussed life and work.

John and I both experienced the tremendous burdens (and, occasionally, blessings) that are the symptoms of schizophrenia.

I do not have the mind that John had, not even close. I’m not a mathematician, I’m merely a writer, and God knows I’m no genius. John’s amazing mental prowess leaves me in awe.

His was a mind that we will not likely see an equal of. That he achieved what he did in his field, a field of logical thought, mental discipline, and mental agility – while struggling with an illness which, by its nature, disorders one’s mind to the point of near non-functionality –  means much more than John Nash merely being a genius due to his mathematical prowess.

He was obviously a genius, but he was so much more.

John Nash was nearly godlike in his mental capacity.

The schizophrenic mind functions (if you can call it that) differently than any other. Where a ‘normal’ mind sees randomness, coincidence or chaos when there is in fact merely randomness, coincidence or chaos, the schizophrenic perceives – believes – that there is an order and a purpose he must come to understand. Where there is order, reason, and reality, the schizophrenic mind instead inevitably perceives – believes – that this order is simply purposelessness and randomness standing in the way of his goals.   The result is a disordered mind and a disordered life.

That John Nash was able to put his life and his mind back together – without medications – through sheer mental effort, is a feat that should leave any person humbled. Few will understand what it must have taken, however. They cannot understand, not really, as 97.3-97.7% of them do not struggle with schizophrenia.

John told the very mind which was malfunctioning to bring itself back to functionality – and then forward further to acts of genius once more.

We are told that mental illness is biological in origin. We are told that because it is biological, mental illness cannot be treated without medications. If so, than this man took the most difficult to treat, most misunderstood, and most complicated mental illness known – an allegedly biological, not to be treated without medications illness – and he corrected it, and did so without medications. He did so by simply choosing to want to, and then he thought his way out of madness. I have no idea how he accomplished this feat, but it cannot have been done without an amazing act of will, along with a mind so powerful and so beautiful it was capable of such will.

John Nash was able to do so.

For his beautiful mind he has been my hero since I first learned of him, just a couple years past my initial entry into the world of schizophrenic symptoms.

I understand John’s mind. I cannot hope to match it, but I understand it. I feel I know him as well as anyone can know a person from his life, actions, and accomplishments. From the first moments that John’s life leaped from the pages of his biography, I had found a friend and a hero.

When it came time to choose a name – most writers tend to pick a name to help define their words – I chose Hunter Nash. I chose Hunter because I am always on the hunt for new ideas, and I chose Nash because of the man who inspired me to reach beyond what I had been told my mind would ever be able to accomplish.

This day was to be ordinary. Then learned of the death of the man I call my hero.

I’m a music lover, so I will close with a lyric or two from a song. It seems apropos today.

You can’t take a trip if you don’t first say goodbye.
You can’t find a star if you don’t look up in the sky.
You can’t find a light if you don’t know where the dark ends.
And you can’t change the heroes and friends

You can’t light a spark if you don’t first carry a flame.
You can’t take the weight of a single ounce of shame.
You can’t change the signal, just the message that it sends.
The message of the heroes and friends.

Writer(s): Melissa Etheridge, Melissa L. Etherridge
Copyright: Songs Of Ridge Road

Today is not ordinary. A small part of me died along with John and Alicia in that taxi crash on the New Jersey turnpike. I lost my hero and friend.


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