Theme: The Head / Heart Split
In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, there is a story of a great king who committed the sins of pride and self-exaltation. For this, his kingdom was removed and he was driven away from mankind. Becoming like a beast of the field, he lost his mind. His name was Nebuchadnezzar; his story is the story of John Nash.
The early scenes of A Beautiful Mind tells us much about the man, John Nash. Outwardly, he was a brilliant young mathematician sent to Princeton on a Carnegie Scholarship. Inwardly, he was proud, unable to connect to people, and convinced that the only way he would ever matter was to distinguish himself with his brilliant mind. Perhaps his first grade teacher who told him he had "two helpings of brain and one-half helping of heart" instilled this belief.
The portrait that emerges of Nash is not one of a beautiful mind, but of a dark one:
Proud - He sets himself above all the other brilliant students.
Arrogant - Even though he has never attended a class, he tells the professor what
assignment he will take with no second choice.
Competitive - He cannot stand to lose.
Alone - "People don't like me much, and I don't like them."
With such a mind, outward success is never enough. So, it is no surprise that Nash's brilliant paper and appointment to Wheeler do nothing to alleviate the growing paranoia within.
What exactly is the darkness in John Nash's mind? As the film develops, we learn that he has schizophrenia, causing him to have paranoid delusions. Namely, Charles, Marcee, and William Parcher are not real people; they only exist in Nash's mind. Schizophrenia is a modern term meaning split (schizo) mind (phrenia). Its name maybe modern, but its origin goes back to Genesis. Once man was separated from God (Genesis 3), his mind became darkened (Romans 1:21-22), and he lost two essential things: his sense of belonging and his significance. John Nash's delusional people were extreme answers to this loss. Charles and Marcee fulfilled his need for companionship, family (he is called Uncle), and belonging. William Parcher fulfilled his need for significance. He appealed to his pride (i.e. "You're the best natural code breaker"). Dr. Rosen tells Alicia, Nash's wife, that schizophrenia is not knowing what is true. He asks, "What kind of a hell would that be?". It is the kind of hell that every man separated from God experiences.
Nash's redemption is not found in his ability to reason or in the modern world's treatment (Dr Rosen) of schizophrenia. It is found in the unconditional love of his wife, Alicia. Patting his heart as she tucks her handkerchief in his pocket on their first date is symbolically her entrance into his heart not his head.
How is she able to remain through all the darkness? She explains to Sol that she forces herself to see the man she married; he is transformed into someone she loves, and she is transformed into someone who loves him. It is this extraordinary grace that is the key to Nash's redemption. She doesn't see him with her mind, but with the eyes of her heart.
The turning point comes as he sits on the bed holding her handkerchief. Having lost everything, he is broken in mind, body, and spirit. Alicia gently asks him, "Do you want to know what is real?" Touching his head and her heart she says, "Maybe the part of knowing the waking from the dreaming isn't here (head), it's here (heart). I need to believe something extraordinary is possible."
From this point on, John Nash is a changed man. He has been humbled, and now he walks in humility, not pride. Yes, he still wrestles with Charles, Marcee, and William, but what they once offered in a sense of belonging and significance are now given to him through community. Martin Hansen bestows friendship; the Princeton student shows respect. After his long journey, he no longer has two helpings of brain and and one-half helping of heart. His heart has been restored by love (I John 4:16). We know this by the speech that he makes when receiving his Nobel Prize. It is not logic and reason that he exalts, but love. He tells Alicia, "I'm only here tonight because of you. You're the reason I am. You are all my reason."1
"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.'' Daniel 4: 34-37
Scripture: Matthew 23:12
"According to the Greek philosophers, reason is the highest thing in us. Reason should judge love; we are to love and live according to reason. But according to Christianity, we are to love beyond reason, as God does, with agape, nonjudgmental love; love that does not follow worthiness, but creates it. Reason follows love rather than love following reason; only if we love will we know. When asked how to understand His teachings, Jesus replied, 'If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teachings.' On another occasion He said, 'Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.' What we see, what we understand of God and each other depends on our heart, on our faith and hope and love."
Heaven, The Heart's Deepest Longing by Peter Kreeft
Suggested Reading: Heart by Gail Godwin
The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge