Joel Silverstein

Tuesday night I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. No, there was no muted voice mafia Don holding a gun to my head. Just a couple of friends, a free movie, and complimentary popcorn and soda. Relishing at the chance to laugh at the patrons who’d pay eight dollars, I saw no alternative. I also hadn’t seen “A Beautiful Mind.” I wasn’t expecting much. I’d heard it was well crafted, but really nothing special. I was more excited about seeing an old high school acquaintance (an extra) than anything else. Still, although it flirted with being dogmatic in parts, I found something in that story, in John Nash. It got me to thinking, an effect most films tend to have on me, but this seemed more prevalent. I felt a moment of Zen. I believe I experienced what Robert Pirsig refers to in his sublime “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” as a chataqua, a tangent of mind that results in a better understanding of life.

There is something to be said about the type of genius that lived inside that mathematician. An unscathed purity in thought, that ultimately sent him spiraling towards instability. But who can be the judge of stability in someone whose mind is as advanced as Nash’s? The mainstream psychological diagnosis was schizophrenia. But, as always, the mainstream was quick to prove the falsity of his actions in terms of mainstream legitimacy – refusing to consider other levels of existence, such as spirituality, i.e. “outer body” phenomena. And perhaps the complex level of mathematics in which Nash was engaged triggered an ability to utilize more of his brain than other people could. Albeit Nash’s actions could seem unstable to those who didn’t share the same experiences, I feel that some of his more “unstable” discoveries yielded works of art if nothing less.

I tried finding that in myself. When do I find myself with a greater sense of spirituality? I found this (and I wrote it down, in the bathroom, on the envelope that houses a threatening overdue library notice): Only when the instinctual realms of the mind are occupied, can we delve into other forms of consciousness (sans drugs, that is). When sitting on the toilet, or perhaps more appropriately playing a continuous drum beat, instinct overcomes certain impulses, allowing others to push us towards spiritual awareness. For Nash, it was theorems and equations of equilibrium. For Pollack, it was a methodical drip of paint. To each genius, a seperate portal.

In our culture, lack of understanding is a source of fear. In the psychological world, it seems as though this fear has become fuel for the over-diagnosis of disorders such as obsessive compulsive and manic-depressive. There seems to be a need to define every individual’s condition. Whether it’s out of obligation or pride, or accuracy, I don’t know. My qualm with that is: Why define something that defies parameters? As astronomers concede to the fact that the universe is infinite in size, so should psychologists realize that some minds supercede diagnosis. Let us admire that genius, instead of cutting it down to our size.

I ended up missing my buddy from high school (the extra), as I was transfixed on the Aussie Crowe portraying one of Nash’s fits. It was a great surprise however, that I took this much away from 82nd Ave. the other night. Perhaps my bag-to-mouth shoveling of popcorn occupied my instinctual impulse enough to allow this story into my subconscious. That might explain why my chataqua came when it did, on the toilet; I did eat the whole bag.