Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pi and "Sanity"

Last night, I watched the movie "Pi", which is an independent film about an ethnic Jewish (as opposed to religious Jewish) mathematician who finds (via his computer mainframe) a mathematical concept of natural unity whilst trying to make mathematical sense of the stock market. It's sort of hard to explain. His mentor had found a similar (perhaps identical) concept whilst studying the transcendental number pi.

Anyway, Max (the protagonist) appears to have some physical and/or mental illness issues. He seems to suffer from chronic migraines and at the very least severe social anxiety.

It's a very intense and multi-layered movie, and I'm sure I'll get more out of it on subsequent viewings.

One of the things I got out of it on this first viewing is that neither Max nor his mentor (Sol) are particularly mentally healthy. Max, as previously stated, appears to suffer from severe social anxiety and possibly some sort of paranoia. Sol has had a stroke. And yet, they have both at least glimpsed a truth and a reality beyond normal perception.

It seems like sanity blocks the perception of such profound truths and realities. It seems like, in putting our perceptions of the world into neat little boxes, we miss the forest for the trees. It seems like only in "madness" does the truth really emerge.

It just put me in mind of my favorite Seneca quote: nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementia fuit. (There has never been any great talent without an element of madness.)

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