A Gorgeous Mind Signs and Motifs
Patterns and Codes
Patterns and codes feature at several points in the book and provide insights into the method Nash’s mind works. From a young age, he is “consumed with creating secret codes” (36 ); this continues, as he ages, through his deep interest in studying patterns and creating mathematical models for habits and occasions. A clear example of this can be found in his “obsession with the stock and bond markets” and his belief that “there might be a trick to the market, not a conspiracy, however a theorem” (233 ).
Likewise, Nash’s work on video game theory is based upon the idea that there are trusted patterns to human behavior which adequately complex mathematical designs can predict individuals’s choices. This reflects Nash’s sensible thought procedures and his “praise of the reasonable life and metrology” (104 ). When Nash becomes ill, his fascination with patterns mutates to reflect his inefficient thought processes, efficiently becoming “a caricature of itself” (19 ).
He begins seeing encoded messages in news article and patterns in everyday events and starts ascribing significances where there are none. One particularly noticeable example of this is his belief that guys in Boston wearing red ties are part of some type of pattern that communicates secret messages about “a crypto-communist party” (243 ). Codes are also main to the messages he composes on the blackboards at Princeton during his time as “the Phantom” (332 ).
These messages use a twenty-six-symbol numeral system called “base 26” in which the letters of the alphabet are numbered so that, “if a calculation [comes] out? right,’ it produce [s] real words” (336 ). Nash uses this to create coded text that is part mathematical formula and part written message and to discover “concealed” significances in particular words and names. Again, this delusional use of codes and patterns represents the confused, illogical state of Nash’s mind throughout this period.
Nasar utilizes descriptions of physical look, especially clothes option, to show Nash’s eccentricity and psychological health. Nash’s dad is “worried about appearances,” with a strong long for “everything to be very appropriate” (27) and he attempts to impart this in Nash from a young age. In some aspects, Nash does hold this view, attempting to suit in order to “remain in the club” (44 ). Nevertheless, in other aspects, he rebels.
A number of the other mathematicians in the book, thinking of “eccentricity and being excellent in mathematics as fitting” (142 ), location “a certain premium on eccentricity and outrageousness” (142 ), reflecting this in their uncommon clothing. Nash does this, too, “embrace [ing] a touch of flamboyance about his dress” (143 ), intentionally marking himself as “a self-declared free thinker” (67 ). Nevertheless, when his psychological health decreases, his physical appearance ends up being stranger and accidentally marks him as an outsider.
At the height of his disease, Nash has a “sleepwalker’s gait and repaired faraway expression” (324 ), wears his hair “grown long,” sports “a complete beard” (282 ), and spends much of his time using “a smock-like Russian peasant garment” (285 ). At this stage, even his own sis is “scared by his appearance” (282) and she is not alone in this; by the time Nash becomes “the Phantom” (332 ), his gaunt, disheveled appearance is genuinely alienating and disturbing, both reflecting and reinforcing his outsider status.
As a child, Nash takes pleasure in playing tricks, “occasionally ones with a nasty edge” (37 ). This continues into his adult life, where he continues to take pleasure in playing tricks on students and coworkers. These pranks represent numerous things at various points in the book. On one level, they show Nash’s immaturity. An especially striking example of this can be discovered in Nash’s practice of playing “all kinds of pranks” (101) on Shapley since his has crush on the older male that he can not reveal or communicate in a mature way.
His tricks on Shapley’s buddies– which in some cases get “absolutely out of hand” (101 )– also represent Nash’s jealousy and possessiveness, once again in an immature method. Because they are viewed by numerous as “ridiculously childish” (114 ), tricks likewise highlight the troubles Nash faces in integrating into “regular” society, representing his off-key humor and absence of social function.
Lastly, they also represent Nash’s disregard for others, an element of his self-involvement and “cold factors to consider of self-interest” (99 ). In this regard, the tricks, and specifically the ones “with a nasty edge” (37) or the ones that get “totally out of hand” (101 ), function as little, minor acts of revenge created to amuse Nash while blasting the “typical” world that excludes him.
Games serve to show Nash’s self-centered individualism. The fact that playing games draws out Nash’s “natural competitiveness and one-upmanship” (76) highlights his aggressive self-centeredness. Likewise, the first video game he develops, “Nash,” in which “there’s no luck, simply pure technique” (77) and for which one gamer must always win even if she or he tries to lose, shows his focus on competitors and self-interest.
This is much more evident in the 2nd video game Nash invents, 67 “Fuck Your Friend” (102 ), which needs players to betray their allies in order to win the video game. Nash’s work on game theory likewise functions as an extension of this. While von Neuman’s work reflects his background in collective work, Nash’s approach shows his separated individualism, his theory being profoundly formed by his understanding of human beings as disconnected and self-serving people.
“Lost in Thought”
The image of Nash “lost in idea” (48) repeats throughout the book. Prior to Nash’s disease, it shows his distracted, obsessive, and unusual working methods. Nash does much of his research within his head, spending “most of his time […] simply thinking” (69 ), feverishly resolving problems and solutions in his own personal world.
He ends up being so deeply associated with these thought procedures that in some respects, he is “liv [ing] inside his own head” (167) while his body is taken part in weird, unconscious behavior such as resting on desks, “walking around rather aimlessly” (48 ), or riding bicycles in “ever-smaller concentric circles” (69 ).
These early examples of the image prefigure his later life as “the Phantom” (332) where, practically totally separated from the world around him, he invests his time absently “roam [ing] around town whistling” or, regularly, “simply pac [ing] round and round the house” (323) with a “set faraway expression” (324) as he gets more and more lost in his own delusional thinking.