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What has no solutions, and yet, extraordinarily has one in and of itself? The greatest mathematicians have spent the entirety of their lives coming up with solutions to complex questions such as this in accordance to real life applications. So, it came to no surprise that on one fine May morn’ that all of Nashville, Tennessee came to mourn the death of one of the most unique minds known to our epoch, to whom we knew as John.

Even in his early collegiate years, there was no denying that John exhibited great intellectual capacities, however, the extent of his intelligence was somewhat of a questionable matter. This resulted from the fact that, although John showed great promise in the eyes of the most prestigious universities, he had become somewhat of a lone wolf due to his predisposition to audaciously declare that he was a genius; one that was dedicated to formulating as John called it, “ A truly original idea.”

Year after year turned likened to the pages of a textbook. Until finally, one of the many great problems in which John encountered presented itself as he was summoned to see the dean.

“John,” he began cordially.

“You’re considering my theory for publication,” John blurted eagerly in response.

“No, I’m afraid not,” started the elderly man after a prolonged pause, “It’s been brought to my attention that you’ve been skipping classes. Also, we cannot overlook the fact that you haven’t accomplished anything. Your peers have been published several times over, and you haven’t come up with anything. It is for this reason that I regret to inform you that we can no longer fund your research.”

As the final words left the dean’s mouth, John’s ambitions smile faltered, and his face became as blank as a white board.

The problem however, was not John’s, but that of his colleagues who were incapable of seeing the heights in which John was aiming; unable to see the significance of his theory pertaining to economic competition, in which none other competed.

Little did John known that on that very day, he was also going to face the greatest problem of his life.

Distraught in having his life’s work rejected, John returned to the campus dorm, where he found solace in his newfound friends, Charles, who would turn out to be John’s biggest foe.

“You are brilliant John,” he reassured him in his moment of darkness. “They’ll never be able to see the world as you do.”

John was comforted by his newfound acquaintance, even though his fellow students were somewhat perturbed by his very essence. Nonetheless, John took the strangers advice, and continued on with his work, and occasionally, John would be found in the most unlikely of places; bars, restaurants, and anywhere else that John could find where he could be alone with his thoughts.

Hard work eventually paid off, and the second time John presented his work, he was made a professor, was given government clearance, and even went on to aid the Pentagon from time to time.

In time John discovered that the work was quite stressful, even for his mind, and in times that he found his position to be too stressful, he found that Charles would always be there to confine in. One such instance came when he accepted a job for the CIA. Something to do with those meddling Russians. Of course if was very top secret, and it left John feeling paranoid, and at times isolated. Everyone became concerned for John, for no one other than Charles, and his daughter knew about the matter: As for Charles, he encouraged John as always.

It wasn’t long after that when I was enrolled in the Professor’s class. I’ll never forget the first time I encountered his brilliance, because it was just prior to his class, and I had still to learn of who he was. I saw him on the campus quad, conversing with Charles, and Amy, his daughter, and I found the situation so very curious. For the individuals to whom he was speaking to, existed only inside his head, and as I watched, I watched as the man talked only to himself. Imagine my surprise when I found that he was my instructor later that day.

This happened right before John’s psychiatric break of course. He went away for a while; taken away by the men in white coats to whom studied their practice on the campus. No one knew quite what to think at that time. John had always been known for his brilliance, and for his mind; a mind to which was now presented John with the greatest problem of his entire life. How does one solve a problem, when the very source of it resides in the mind itself? However, John remained optimistic. He was a genius mathematician after all, and it was just another puzzle for him to solve; one that had no solutions.

Things did not go the way that John had hoped for quite some time. This was seen in a variety of ways, such as how he still believed that he had been kidnapped by soviet spies for quite awhile; spies that had given the professor a diagnosis of schizophrenia. But, his wife could no longer bear to watch the treatment the the doctor’s where administering to him, and so she took him home with hopes that he would feel better once he got back into his regular routine.

Finding a solution to the dilemma at hand proved to be a challenging task for John, especially when considering that the medications that he was having to take for his condition dulled his mind, at least in his opinion. He was no longer able to simply visualize the answer to any problem put before him, and as a result life began to become quite difficult.

John went through cycles in which he hoped that in stopping his medications, that he would be able to sharpen his mind back to what it used to be, but to no avail. That was seemingly not the answer, for each time he did so, he relapsed and became a government agent once more.

To make matters worse, Charles, Amy, and all of John’s friends that had supported him were growing frustrated at him, in that in treating his illness, that he was making them go away. They all begged him to stop, and to go back to the way that things use to be. This inward battle eventually manifested itself in outward ways, and made John’s family feel as if they were unsafe around him. It was in this moment of desperation that John’s truly remarkable mind stumbled upon a solution. Charles, Amy, all of the people that distorted John’s sense of reality, never aged; they were not real, and in this realization, he could distinguish between what was a reality, and what was merely a delusion, and in so doing he would cope with it by avoiding the things that obscured his sense of reality.

John’s family and his community gave him a chance, in that they decided the best way to give him any sense of normalcy was to try and implement him back into society. This proved to be an extremely difficult task, for they all knew that John’s condition got worse when he was stressed, and he had made the decision that he would do it without the medication.

When John returned to the campus, he was not the same arrogant, know-it-all professor that everyone knew him to be. His lectures were not the same, and it was as if he was afraid of people. Every so often he would stop his students and ask them if the person that he was speaking to was actually their. When he was not teaching, he became somewhat of a ghost, and found solace in solving his equations in the campus library. He avoided all students and faculty, and for this reason he became known as the phantom of the campus. Still, every so often, John would be removed from campus when students and faculty found him shouting at the air, saying such things as, “you’re not real, I know it, I know it, you’re not real.”

Prior to John’s death he finally got the peace that he deserved, as was exemplified when he was presented a nobel peace prize for how his theory of competition revolutionized economics. Not even John’s brilliance knew the impact that it would have.

We all lost something special the day that John and his wife died. We all knew his brilliance, courage, resilience, and belief that he could truly matter. All John ever wanted was to formulate a truly original idea, to make a difference, and to matter. You’ve exceeded your expectations John; you’ve succeeded.

A.W.

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