My Own Private John Nash

[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by panch from ( on Sunday, July 21, 2002 at 2:48PM :

I saw "A Beautiful Mind"...not much impressed. That his brilliant discovery should have been applied to Economics seems like a joke. There isn't a less precise field than Economics...called that "Dismal Science" more frimly grounded on emotions and feelings and perceptions and whims than any other "discipline".

It's mostly studied at Universities heavily funded by Business Interests, all of whom subscribe to the basic idea that the majority of you and I must be kept one step above ensure the Good Life for a few of them,( indeed it is from robbing us of any "excess" reward for our labor that they even GET their obscene profits) ... an open class, open to anyone with dubious merits and not much heart , among whom we might hope to dwell if we either steal enough, lie enough, or work ourselves to death enough....there will be lots of Call Girls to take the place of the wife you'll lose along the way, and the kids will get an excellent "education" everything that doesn't count.

What precision, what mathematic principles did John Nash bring to Economics exactly...a system of Ideas and analysis... something akin to having analysts at the casinos in Vegas telling you that SOMEONE is going to might as well be pay up and maybe win...but more then very likely lose, Casinos HAVE to pay out...they WANT to pay out...or they couldn't take you in, in the first place. In the Roulette of the Stock Market...a major part of our "strength" as a nation, we're told...some people HAVE to win...but their winnings come out of the pockets of all the rest of us who just as surely HAVE to lose...and at no time more than in" Bubble Time" when no one is creating anything of any real value don't make them kind of bucks doing real business.

The only real value, economic as well as in every other to provide free birth planning...abortion on demand...and put the majority of our considerable resources, which we have right here at home... provided for us for free(not counting the cost of stealing it) by one of the wealthiest land masses on this planet ...with no actual need to incur the hostility of the rest of the people on earth...or to ruin their land and air and water...or to use them as targets to refine our weaponry OR hone our "diplomatic skills" upon....without doing any harm to anyone or any place else...we have the material resources and certainly the people to see to it that the children we produce grow up with every real care and concern...not every really expensive toy...but every opportunity to be nurtured and stimulated and really educated, not trained like idiot seals in a run down sideshow, so they can safely share the playgrounds and classrooms and streets with our own dear darlings whom we are sending out in increasingly hostile towns, cities, states, country and which there will soon enough be NO WAY for any of them to have very meaningful lives.

I digress...

Back in 1971 when I first started volunteeing with the Seattle Public Defender's Office, in the Juvenile Division...I had several run ins with the Administration of the Juvenile Court and County Detention Facilities...Jails for Kids.

I was interviewed once on PBS, channel 13 up there about my work...especially the island adventure. But before that I appeared on their radio station for a three hour debate and call in show with the Director of the Detention Facility...a man named Buckman or something.

A couple of days later when I showed up at the office after my shift at the gas station, our secretary handed me a two page, typewritten letter some "weirdo" had just droped off for me. In the 70's you had to be pretty damn weird to be pointed out as such. She said he was an older man, long grey hair, full beard...who carried a heavy looking beat up cardboard suitcase with a rope strap over his shoulder...and... he had a wild eyed look to him. My fan base...figures.

The letter was the strangest combination of brilliance and paranoia I'd ever seen. The English language skills were good...spelling, sentence structure etc...and most of it was straightforward and made sense, though a radical kind, even for then. He'd heard the debate, liked what he heard, and proceeded to tell me his story. There was an address at the end and if I wanted to meet, I was to bring the letter with me.

I'd forgotten completely about this guy, whose name I can't recall, until I heard John Nash in an interview the other day. Something about the way his voice sounded, reminded me of the my encounter. The film was too dressed up to do it...but Dr Nash's own way of speaking and his descriptions of his behavior, reminded me in an instant.

In his letter he told how he'd lived all his life in one of those backwoods towns in Oregon till the Korean War. back then not much had changed in those remote towns for was sleepy time America. He'd come of age in time to be drafted and off he was sent at 18 to kill innocent civilians...which is all a soldier is...just a brother or son or father or uncle or cousin who gets put into a uniform to go defend his bosses against other uniformed civilians sent to defend theirs...each thinking any of this is for "his" own good.

He lasted over there about a year and got sent back with a medical discharge. According to the letter he simply couldn't go on with what was asked of him...didn't believe it was necessary for anything. He returned to the house he'd been born in, to his widowed mother and her brother.

Out of uniform so early and looking the picture of health, he was still strong looking and tall when we met....people began questioning his masculinity, his patriotism...and if he'd been dark at all, his ethnicity...his "fitness' to even BE an American would have been called in question.

By his own addmission he began to feel persecuted, like people were talking about him behind his back...stopping whenever he showed up, then bending their heads together to mutter when he left....and they were talking about him! After a while he stopped going out and had no friends to come to see him because no one wanted to associate with the kind of young man he'd become in their eyes.

He'd always been a good hunter...and then one day, he locked himself in his room... said he wouldn't come out because "they" were out to get him. This alarmed his family even more and they called the police. When two squad cars pulled up he was certain they'd 'come for him", and fired shots in the air to warn them away. next thing he knew the entire town gathered behind barricades...all the cops in town plus the fire department showed up. It certainly must have seemed like people were out to get him by then.

Hours passed and he refused to come down or throw the rilfe out. With everyone safely out of the house a tear gas cannister, then another were fired through his window. he threw one out before it exploded but the second one went off just as he released it and the explosion stung his eyes so badly that for the rest of his life his vision was damaged. He came out then, stumbling along with his eyes covered and was cuffed and taken in for observation.

No charges were filed but he was sent to a State Hospital where he languised for 17 years. His last two relatives died and no one else came to see him. he adapted to life inside and of all things, began to study mathematics...not adding and subtracting but the real eye-crossing kind...the kind that will make a genius out of you if it don't kill you first. He'd always been fond of it...good at it too,and now he had the time to spare.

At the time he heard the radio progran he'd been out a year or so. He'd moved to Seattle to get away from his past...was living in an old hotel, on welfare and disability...did I want to meet?

Did I!!

The residence hotel was this side of a flop house in a seedy part of the same area I was soon to open my group home in. I went to his second floor room and knocked. Inside I could hear a number of bolts and chains being released and the door openned a crack.

"Who are you"!! he all but barked out the a voice crammed full with fear and anger. I did as he'd wrtitten in the letter and held the it up to the crack in the door where I guessed his face must was dark in the hall. Some time pased while he read it, I guess...maybe trying to figure out if it was in any way a forgery...if he'd been discovered and was about to be tricked by his tormentors of old.

The door finally opened enough for me to squeeze past and slammed shut befind me the second I did. He'd muffled the lights in his room so I could barely make out where I was. The sound of the chains and locks and bolts being replaced didn't calm me any. I'd never been greeted this way I was the paranoid one!!!

He looked as he'd been described, slightly shorter than I was with a decided stoop. His shoulders were broad...his eyes sharp and penetrating...but it was true...he did have a wild cast to his eyes.

He barked at me to sit at the small table with two chairs...a bare bulb hung over it. For the next hour he paced back and forth and told me more about himself. I couldn't help but be intrigued...was he just plain crazy, or had he been driven nuts...and did it matter much...till I got out on the street again?

His eyesight had been rapidly getting worse... he was near broke. He'd managed to cash only oen check and was running out of excuses to give the landlord. There was no food in the refrigerator...nothing but a bed, the table and chairs and a dresser. There was another suitcase, besides the cardboard one with the rope strap.

Being Assyrian I asked if he was hungry and took him to a restaurant around the corner where only I would be the odd duck. He took the cardboard suitcase with him and indeed I never saw him anywhere without that suitcase strapped over his shoulder. Even at the restaurant he placed it on the bench next to him with the strap still over his shoulder and one hand clutched on the handle...even when he ate.

In the next couple of weeks I managed to open an account for him and deposit about $3000 in government checks he'd accumulated. His income was enough to meet his modest means. I insisted he go see an eye doctor and over his protests he finally agreed to go. I had to be in the room for the examination and it was the only time I saw him able to part from that suitcase. I had to hold it whenever he wasn't.

After the exam, the doctor calmly told him there was nothing to be done...that in a few years time he'd be totally blind. I'm afraid I gave the doctor a bit of a scolding he didn't deserve on his lack of tact. Only later when it came my turn would I see how quickly habit can make you do away with the niceties.

We were handed a prescription for eye drops and sent away. I never was able to convince him to get the eyedrops. he trusted no one. As was inevitable, the day came when he stopped trusting me as well. The time before my last visit, he'd relaxed enough, or was careless enough, to allow me to see what was in the suitcase. I knew of his fascination with math so on entering his room wasn't that surprised to see a sheaf of papers on the table. The suitcase was laying open on his bed. In it were stacks and bundles of papers with scribbles and letters and numbers, algebraic equations after page. The sheets on the table were likewise crammed to overflowing with mathematcal notations I had never seen before. If it was all nonsense and randomn, it was certainly written down methocically and neatly enough. For the brief moment that I glanced at them I could see no sign of indication that they made no sense or had no coherence to the man who wrote them.

When he realized what he'd done... that I was looking at the papers..he quickly put them away and closed the suitcase. The next time I visited him he wouldn't open the door past a crack...enough to see if it was really me. It wasn't me...not to him.

To every protestation I made he yelled "Go Away", with such increasing force of anger and fear, that I decided not to stay longer...I was making it worse.

About a month later I stopped by to ask about him but they said he'd moved out weeks before.

Was he just plain crazy?....was he crazy bright? Are we all crazy stupid? I don't know.

-- panch
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from