A Beautiful Mind

Sunday, February 3, 2003
Suburbia, California  

 Morning greetings!

Pure mathematics is a poetry of logical ideas. 
~ Albert Einstein 

A Beautiful Mind is a meticulously crafted and beautiful movie, directed by Ron Howard, that tells a great story about John F. Nash, Jr., played by Russell Crowe, a brilliant mathematician and Nobel prize winner who struggled through most of his adult life with schizophrenia.  

I have taken many classes, enjoying most, detesting a few, and indifferent to no small number.  But Calculus I and II  stand far above the rest as my most enjoyed, challenging, and fulfilling classes.  Taught by Dr. Gerald "Jerry" Hile,  a fellow Indiana University graduate and professor at the University of Hawai`i, those were my favorite classes in my 14-year college career.  

Learning limits, derivatives, and integrations; solving problems with pages long sequences; appreciating the simple, but profound beauty of the parabola, and scribbling squiggly-lined symbols and brackets to keep all those calculations in order, my mind was happy.  No, joyful.  No, even more than that. Ecstatic! 

Calculus opened up a whole new realm of logical, rational, and expansive  thinking for me.  A new world of abstract thinking that was tantalizing and stimulating. Exquisite, complex and delicious, it was my ultimate mind-candy.  

Was it the teacher that made the critical difference?  In large part, yes.  I adored Jerry, a down-to-Earth Hoosier, who was also a caring, soft-spoken, and patient teacher.  He loved his subject matter, and his love for it was contagious. Was it the high it gave me?  Definitely, yes. Besides challenging my mind, I looked at situations in new ways. Most of all, I saw its beauty.  

Yes. Calculus is darn beautiful.

And, ironically, all of this rapture comes from one who hated all things math through high school and beyond.  It was my albatross, and I had fully expected Calculus to be yet another excruciating struggle and monumental torment.  Instead,  my mind ate it up.  Voraciously. For two semesters, I ate, slept, and breathed it, going above and beyond the requirements of the classes. Calculus was a subject that I could sink my mental choppers in. 

But I was not to linger long on mathematics.  I remained undeterred in my life quest, no matter how exciting the detour and however tempting the dalliance. College algebra, trigonometry, statistics and Calculus were prerequisites for my professional training, ultimately serving as vital stepping stones in my life's path, as they greatly eased my passage along that path by developing, testing and honing my analytical thinking skills. 

These many years later, when I learned that this movie was about a mathematician and directed by one of my favorite human beings, Ron Howard, our Big Bear Lake neighbor across Boulder Bay,  I found myself casting wistful, sentimental eyes backward.  The recall of  my love affair with mathematics was sweet, and I made a mental note to see the movie.

The opportunity to see it presented itself promptly last night. It was only 6 pm when we got home from LeRoy's birthday party.  The night, as they say, was still young. A quick check on the listings showed that it was playing at the theater closest to us, at 7:30.  Perfect  timing for a movie date night with DH.

I won't tell you specifics about the story, at the risk of spoiling it for you. I hope you will consider seeing it for yourself.  Not to worry if you are a right-brainer.  You don't need to know any math to appreciate the essence of  A Beautiful Mind. 

Without giving away too much, it is about the heart and the mind. It's deep, touching deep emotional chords.  No cloying false sentiments here.  Just rock solid, unwavering love.

Whether the movie gets any Oscar nods matters little to me.  In my book, it's already a winner. For best director. Best acting for Crowe (and this is the first movie that I have seen him in).  The supporting cast is superb:  Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Vivien Cardone, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer.  And the music.  Absolutely lovely.  

(Go to the website, A Beautiful Mind, for the music theme, "Of One Heart, Of One Mind" that is looped  there.  Also Amazon.com's site has every clip)  

I'm listening to it now as I write this. Ahhhhhhh.....  As I said, lovely.

Trivia: Did you know that "calculus" means pebble in Greek?  As in, renal (kidney) calculi?  In ancient times, the Greek used pebbles to help them with their mathematical manipulations.  Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz independently created Calculus; Leibniz, it is said, derived Calculus from the Chinese, specifically from the binary integers of the I Ching. 

"I know not how I may seem to others, 
but to myself I am but a small child 
wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, 
every now and then finding a small bright 
pebble to content myself with." 
~ Plato

Well, that's it for now.  We'll soon be off to our friends' home.  It's Super Bowl Sunday.  Never mind who's playing. (I had to ask.  It's the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.  Where are they playing?  I don't know)  It's a great excuse for friends to get-together.


"Life is a Gift."

Mathematically yours, 
Author Unknown

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself with words, in response to this journal entry, you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
September Morn 2002