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, June 20, 2007

Are geniuses ever satisfied?

What is it that drives a genius ever on, to deeper understandings, greater works, more complete statements? I would say that one key attribute is dissatisfaction.

Yet, dissatisfaction at the work already achieved, has a dark side to it, too. Perhaps the genius is unable to fully appreciate their own work, so high are their aims and, perhaps, so low are their achievements, in comparison.

I am led to the words of two great geniuses to support this view that they appear dissatisfied with their works.

Albert Einstein once said: "If I had my life to live over again, I would be a plumber."

Surely, only great dissatisfaction with what he had achieved - or the life that he had had to lead to achieve it - could ever have motivated such words. Looking back over his life, his personal assessment was that a life of manual labour would have been preferable.

Another, too, who expressed dissatisfaction with his creative life, was Leonardo da Vinci - whose last words I have elsewhere recorded: "I have offended God and Man by doing so little with my life."

These words, too, point to an essential dissatisfaction with his achievements: somehow, great though they appear to others, he felt that they didn't make the grade.

Are we to assess a genius on their own unachievably high standards - or on the external standards of others looking on, at their works. I think the latter is healthier. Einstein and da Vinci may not have thought much of their work - but to the rest of us, their lives seem little short of miraculous.

A genius may need that sense of dissatisfaction to drive them on to greater things. It may, in fact, be a key attribute of great minds - but we must not let their self-assessment provide us with our view of their works. The judgement should be by the standards of the rest of society - otherwise we may not be able to see geniuses for what they are at all. It doesn't seem that they see themselves as we see them. That, in itself, is interesting.

Perhaps a genius needs society to tell them just how significant their works are. That society may, of course, be one of a different time, since some geniuses are not recognized in their own times. Whenever it is, however, society should not be shy in rewarding a genius with recognition - because, more than others, perhaps, they need this positive feedback - since so many of them seem to be unable to see it in themselves.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and six months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, sixteen 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 @ 7:55 PM 


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