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 +

Monday, December 17, 2007

Life purpose for a genius.

Someone arrived on my blog today with the search terms: "What should a genius do with their life?"

This is an interesting question - not only for the question itself, but for why it might have been asked.

The notion of genius connotes creativity and originality. Bound up in the idea of genius is the understanding that such a person is capable of doing something unique, something which no other could do, at that time, and place, in History. Therefore, the obvious answer to the question is that the genius must do what only the genius can do.

Yet, it might not be entirely clear. It is possible to be a person of many gifts and not know which one to adhere to, which one to express. There are, here, no clear answers. We each have lives presently circumscribed by a finite number of years. I would say that the task of a polymathic genius must be to choose worthy things to do, at each stage of life, that appeal to the person enough to actually carry them out, at those times. Thus, the matters to which the genius gives attention may change over time - as they did with Leonardo da Vinci, the archtype of all polymathic geniuses. Yet, though his interests and focus evolved over time, there was always Art present in his life, in some way. So, although he did change activities, he also maintained interests for the long term.

A genius must look at themselves and ask: what is it that I can best do? What can I contribute which no other (or perhaps few others) can? It is in answering these questions, that a purpose may be found.

I think a genius must never be tempted to succumb to the easy option. By this I mean do not be led into a conventional life of highly rewarding jobs that do not allow the application of genius. There are many such jobs. The professions abound with them. Yet, in most instances, such roles do not allow the genius to truly express their gifts. There is something of the traditional about these roles.

The genius must first answer the question: who am I? For therein will lie the answer to the question of "What must I do?" Then the genius must find a place in society that allows that activity to occur. It may in fact be, as with many geniuses, that there is NO place in society that will allow that activity to occur. By this I mean that only isolation and a solitary life will allow the intended activity to unfold and become. If that is the case, the genius must make the choice between the intended activity and a more social, "normal" life. That is often not an easy choice and perhaps many who could have contributed in some way, choose not to, when faced with the sacrifices that would be entailed.

Another matter to ponder is this: is the person, in question, actually a genius in the first place? By this I mean by what measure has this description been arrived at? If the measurement is one of IQ alone, I would suggest that that, in itself, is not enough to ensure that the description is accurate. The reason for this, as I have detailed in prior posts, is that genius invokes many more qualities than are encompassed by IQ. There are many people of high IQ who do not seem to manifest genius in the course of their lives. Correspondingly, there are people of more modest IQ (such as the fabled physicist Richard P. Feynman, whose IQ was measured in youth at just 126), who DO demonstrate genius. Therefore there is more at work, than just IQ.

If however, the label of genius is appropriate, and not based on a misunderstanding of what a genius is, I would say that the most important thing of all, is not to waste the ability. Do something: any expression of the gift, is better than no expression. The chosen expression of genius may not be ideal, it may not be the best that the person could do - but it is better to begin expressing the quality of genius, than to leave it forever postponed.

Genius is so rare, that no person of genius should go unfulfilled. So, if you are a genius - get creating!

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:46 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is this genius (as claimed by his father) whose life purpose is to fix and buy things. His intelligence has been put to good use.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

There are many gifts and skills in this world. It is right and proper that they should find expression and not be wasted.

I am glad to hear that this is the case.

Best wishes

10:54 PM  
Anonymous averral said...

The purpose of life is to serve humanity.

6:55 AM  

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