The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Creativity, self-expression, and time pressure

Today, an uncle-in-law died. He was a very sweet natured and humble man, a quiet presence in any crowded room, but one who seemed always to mean well. At the time of writing I do not know his age, but it was not great. No greater than mine, perhaps.

His death reminded me of a story. When I was at Cambridge University, amidst the dullness of a place which largely ignores its students, I was told the life story of a young man at my College. Well, not the man himself, but his father. You see, his father had always harboured the wish to be a writer: it was his special love. He would think literary thoughts, jot notes, and ponder plots. Then he met a woman, a woman who became the mother of my fellow Cambridge student. Meeting the woman was a wonderful thing - but it soon led to a complication: pregnancy. My friend had been conceived. This led to a scramble for a "serious" job, by his father, who had to shelve, for the time being, the dream of becoming a writer. He found work at a carpet company: a steady, if somewhat less than interesting job. He was good at the work, however, but found himself rather busy, what with being employed, and being a new father. The writing was still in his mind, ideas still bubbled over, to be set aside, "for now". Years passed, and he was no less busy than before. He was good at his job, and received promotion after promotion. Yet, with them came ever more work. There never seemed to be time to write, but he consoled himself with the thought that when he was older, and his child was grown, there would be time. That child grew up and one day, his father was promoted to President of the company. Suddenly, he found himself able to delegate. His work load slackened and he actually found that, though he now had the highest position in the company, he had plenty of free time. He began to write, to let well up a lifetime of longing to be a writer. The words came aplenty and all looked good.

Then he had a heart attack and died.

He had not finished a single literary work in his lifetime. He had lived a life postponed.

His son, who was telling me this story, had resolved never to let the same thing happen to him. He had decided to be a comedian. So, instead of postponing this wish, he was working in a pizza restaurant to support himself, (this was after he had left Cambridge) and was doing comedy gigs the rest of the time. He was not about to postpone his life away. I lost contact with him, and do not know what became of him. That he did not become famous is clear - but that he had also lived his dream, instead of dreaming his life away, is also clear. He did not become as his father had been: nor should you - or your children. If you have a desire to create something, or indeed to be anything, the best time to start is now. There is never a better time than that.

(For an overview of the blog site, and an introduction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and nascent genius, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:32 PM 


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