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 +

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fintan and the secrets of the Sun

I like Fintan's outlook on the world. It is one crafted of reason and imagination - and one that is uniquely his own. He has his own means of expression which I have tried, occasionally, to capture, but perhaps have not yet fully succeeded: I call it Fintanism. By this I mean that he says things in ways that others wouldn't. It is his own outlook, his own vision that speaks. I think is important - for everyone who becomes an artist - as he promises to do, with the way he sees the world and the way he interacts with it - must have their own point of view. This is the defining characteristic - more than any technical skill or ability to produce art - the defining, foundational attribute is that of a unique viewpoint. If there is no uniqueness, there can be no original art. The work would just be as others' is. It would say nothing new and be nothing interesting. Thus, when seeing if a child can be an artist, we must first look to the question: are they different, somehow? Are they moved in different ways? Do they see the world differently? Are their responses their own? Are their utterances unique, in some way - do they, basically, have their own personality and their own outlook?

If the answer to these questions is yes and they show an additional interest in creative production in some artistic medium - then there is promise for them. If, however, they just show production in a medium - without any uniqueness in their responses - I would argue that there is little artistic promise at work. The first property of an artist is individuality - if it is not possessed then there is no artist - or artistry.

About three weeks ago, after we had been in the pool and I had managed to coax them through the sometimes long process of actually leaving the pool, Fintan, three, took it upon himself to stand under a palm tree.

"Look Daddy!" he said, excitedly, "The tree doesn't make me hot."

I was struck by the quirkiness of this way of looking at things: that the tree should not be the giver of heat, entertained the thought that it might have been.

There was Fintan, standing in the shade of the palm tree, by the pool, observing that, in the shade, he was not hot.

Then he did something that any scientist might. He moved to another tree, and stood under it, to see the effect of this one.

Again he pronounced his verdict: "The tree doesn't make me hot."

He was quite pleased with this - not alone because the observation was correct, in its own oddly expressed way - but because Singapore is hot, from his stocky perspective, and thus finding a place that isn't so hot is quite a pleasant discovery.

He did it once more, with a final, larger tree, before leaving the environs of the pool.

"The tree doesn't make me hot." He announced, finally, his observation most thoroughly investigated.

What is interesting about this, besides the quirkiness of his way of thinking and expressing himself, is what it says of his awareness of his environment. These palm trees let quite a lot of light through their leaves - for there are large gaps between them, and few leaves - so the difference in temperature is marginal. Yet, Fintan was sensitive to the change which he had first noticed simply because he had walked under the tree and felt the difference - then stopped and made his observation.

So, Fintan is not only visually aware. He is aware of temperature as well. I would say that it is becoming likely that Fintan is very aware in ALL of his senses. Being aware is part of his nature. If there is something to observe, in his surroundings, it is characteristic of Fintan that he does not fail to observe it. This too is the mark of an artist in the budding.

Who knows, perhaps he will draw beneath the shade of a palm tree. There are certainly plenty to choose from, around here.

(If you would like to learn more of Fintan, three, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and four months, or Tiarnan, fifteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:10 AM 


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