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, January 15, 2008

Prince Charles on Human Achievement.

In 2004, Prince Charles commented on the aspirations of young people today. His comments were widely reported and were critically attacked. Many people thought he was trying to say that people shouldn't try to rise above their station, in life. They thought he was being, in some way, feudal. However, I don't think he really intended that. Let us look at what he is quoted to have said:

"What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of child-centred system which admits no failure. People think they can all be pop stars, High Court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability. This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history."

He is observing what is evident in young people in the Western world (and perhaps elsewhere, too): they seem to think they are going to be great. By this, I mean, that a typical teenager believes he or she is going to be one of the things that Prince Charles refers to: a pop star, a TV personality, a High Court Judge, a Head of State. One could extend the categories: a film star, a footballer, a millionaire (a billionaire), a model...etc, etc...Young people of today think their success is assured. They think that they stand above others now and ever will in the future. From the perspective of an experienced adult, who has actually seen the world in action, such an abundance of exuberant ambition is sobering to witness. It is sobering precisely because it is unrealistic.

What Prince Charles was grappling with is the simple fact that all of these aspirations that the children hold, require something most of the children will not have: natural ability, for one, and often a degree of willingness to work hard towards one's goals. For instance, any child can kick a ball. Many a child can dream of being the next David Beckham - but how many of those children actually have a significant athletic ability? How many of them have signicantly greater an athletic ability than their fellow children? How many of them, furthermore, are willing to hone their skills and their bodies through long years of training? Very, very few, indeed, I expect. They see the glamourous end: the famous footballer jetting about the world, from game to game, enchanted fans in hot pursuit. What they don't see is what that footballer had to go through to get there. They are able to envisage the beautiful life they would have, as a famous footballer, but not the life that is actually led to reach those goals.

Prince Charles was much criticized for his views - but I don't think that people were right to do so. I think that the media, in general, failed to understand what he was trying to say. He was saying that the youth of today had aspirations beyond their ability to achieve them. They aspired to be famous film stars, when they couldn't act and were not beautiful. They aspired to be pop stars, when they could neither dance nor sing, and did not delight the eye. They aspired to be High Court judges, when their academic prowess was only mediocre at best. His view is that the children had unrealistic expectations. His view was that the school system, which never chastised the children for mediocrity, never used the word "failure" in their general direction, did not acquaint the children with the idea that failure was possible. While this is good for self-esteem, it may lead to children who have unjustifiably high self-esteem. These are children who really, really, really, believe in themselves - but who really, really, really, lack justification for that self-belief. It was Prince Charle's implicit view that this situation was not rare, but common. Most youngsters of today fell into that trap. Most of them thought of themselves as great people, for whom great success was assured. Sadly, of course, almost all of them are going to fail. Statistics alone guarantee it. If you have a nation of 60 million people of whom 20 million aspire to be film stars and that nation only has enough room for 20 such film stars in that many are going to fail in their aspiration? 999,999 out of every 1,000,000. Only one in a million will see their dream come true. It is the same for all their other aspirations. So many people will be aspiring to their positions of success than there are places in those respective realms. The result is, of course, that almost all of them are destined for failure in their primary goals. Almost all of them will have to revise their goals, along the way, and settle for something else.

This is the reality of which they are unaware that, I think, Prince Charles was trying to awaken them to. The modern media world has conditioned people to believe that great success is available to all. The modern media creates stars out of nobodies, through reality shows. The modern media creates the belief in people that celebrity and wealth and a life of ease, are available to all, when in fact that they have always been and always shall be available only to the few. This is the "lesson of history" to which I think he refers. Great success has always been a rarity and always will be.

Prince Charles is not saying that people should not rise above their station - as some media criticized him. He is saying that they should have a realistic understanding of who they are, so that they might aspire to something they can actually achieve. A life spent chasing pop stardom when one doesn't have the requisite and multiple, native abilities, is going to be a life wasted. What if that person has, instead, other skills that might be better employed as a nurse or a doctor? Then that person really should look at the medical field. It is a question of finding a good match, in terms of career, for who you are. Too many people waste their lives aspiring to dreams that have no realistic possibily of coming true, simply because the people in question lack the requisite abilities.

Thus there is wisdom, not foolishness, in Prince Charles' advice.

Aim for what is a reasonable choice, for you. Do not aim for iconic cultural roles such as footballer or film star - unless you really have what it takes to succeed in such fields.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and six months, and Tiarnan, twenty-three months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, 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 @ 12:48 PM 


Anonymous TUG said...

The quote was Charles' response to an ex-PA's suggestion that "personal assistants with University degrees should be given an opportunity to train to become private secretaries".

In my opinion, his view is elitist and emotional at best. It seemed that he was threatened that an outsider(a servant, basically) could have the audacity to suggest changes within the royal household. I'm surprised that you chose to present his side of the story in good light instead of Elaine Day's(the ex-PA).

Charles speaking from a lofty position has little to do with talent, intelligence or hard work, but more due to the fact that he is born of blue blood. Ms Day on the other hand challenged convention "to rise above her station", something that she didn't manage to do, not because of a lack of competency or drive.

We shouldn't just be contented with what is realistically possible to achieve. To be special we have to break norms and expectations. This starts with a big dream. I feel it's always better to aim for excellence than to settle with mediocrity, regardless of your capabilities(and we never know the true extent of our capabilities until we try). It is ok to dream and have your dreams crushed by reality than to not dream at all.

People like Erik Weihenmayer, a blind man, and Mark Inglis, a double amputee, climbed the highest of mountains not with their physical qualities, but with their unbending resolves.

PS: Someone once said to me, dream your wildest dreams, but let them not be solely dictated by money, fame or power. A good advice, if you ask me.


1:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Tug

Firstly, thank you for your comment.

I think your understanding of the situation - and other readers, too, I suppose - would be enhanced by an understanding of British culture, what it was and what it has become.

I don't for a minute think that Prince Charles' comment was restricted to the Elaine Day situation. It was an internal memo written at the time of a lawsuit against him by Elaine Day for various matters that upset her - but it was not, I think, limited to her situation. It was, I believe, a general response to the general situation in Britain.

You see, Britain has become a place where it IS possible to become instantly famous and instantly wealthy - but only if you are exceptionally lucky. It happens to very few. However, this feeds the delusions of many youngsters - and they are delusions - that they are destined for greatness with the talent or effort required to get them there. Why do they think this? Because they have seen others of no talent and no effort "achieve" it.

The Prince Charles quote was taken from an internal memo. It did not address the Elaine Day matter did address however the propensity of people to think they could be pop stars, TV personalities, High Court Judges and the like, without any evidence of the requisite abilities. This is a very real phenomenon in Britain today - and long has been so (though it has become worse in recent years).

I agree with you that people should have dreams and reach out for them. However, I disagree with you over the kinds of dreams that they should have. Perhaps you are not acquainted with the kinds of dreams Western youngsters have. They are really, really, out of proportion to their gifts. Singaporeans are very sensible. Perhaps too sensible. They don't dream big dreams - and so you are not likely to be acquainted with the phenomenon of dreamers without hope of success.

I have met many young people in England with big dreams. They want to be movie stars, pop stars or billionaires. They pursue their dreams aggressively, persistently for year after year - and get absolutely nowhere. Why? Because they didn't have any of the requisite abilities.

I have personally come across "actors" who can't act, at all - who dream that they are going to be the next big film star. They have no gift, no contacts, no experience and no money. Yet, they are convinced that they are going to be the next big film star. I have seen this so many times. It doesn't really happen in Singapore - so you won't be familiar with it. They refuse to do anything else. They refuse to develop any skills - because a big star doesn't need such things. What happens to them? Well, they enter their thirties with not even the beginnings of a career. Slowly, their self-belief begins to fade...then they enter their forties and look around at the wreckage of their lives. They have no career. They have no money. They have no family. They have no skills. They have no job. Suddenly, they realize that they have ruined their lives. Do you know what some of them then do? They kill themselves.

That TUG is the reality of the situation that Prince Charles is referring to. I have seen it. I have known people who have killed themselves over their crushed dreams. The first thing these people should have done is evaluate whether they had the requisite ability to give them a chance to succeed. They didn't - and it ruins them.

What they should do is first try out the area of their ambition. See if they are good at it. Measure the competition. Evaluate realistically their chances of success - and then make an informed decision. Too many of them rush in, unprepared, with no idea of who they really are - and make a mess of everything - as described above.

Dreams are necessary to us all. But they must be informed with knowledge of who we are and who we can be. Unrealistic dreams can kill.

I am not saying aim for mediocrity. I believe you should aim for excellence. But that should be in area you can actually be excellent in. I, for instance, could never be a world champion long distance runner. I don't have the build for it. If I was an unrealistic dreamer I might set myself the task of being so - and so ruin my life with inevitable failure. Dream a dream that can be.

Yes, Prince Charles' greatest achievement was to have been born. Some would say it was his only achievement. That doesn't, however, deprive his comment, when set in the context of what Britain has become, of its rightful meaning.

The prerequisites for climbing Mount Everest are determination, courage, the ability to move, a tolerance for discomfort. As your examples prove these are mostly mental qualities - which may be present in virtually anyone. However, it would be a different story if their personal dream was to be the FASTEST climber of Mount Everest. That would be an unrealistic dream - and an unachievable one.

The problem that Prince Charles wrote of is, actually, precisely the exclusion you make. The dreams of young people, today, in Britain are SOLELY about money, fame and power. That is what makes them unrealistic. Not everyone can be a billionaire, not everyone can be a film star, not everyone can be Prime Minister - yet Britain is a nation filled with young dreamers who think they can. That is one hell of a lot of people destined to be disappointed.

Singaporeans are not a good guide to the nature of young people elsewhere. The rest of the world is very different - particularly in the matter of what they aspire to.

Your comments, as always, are interesting. Thanks.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The comment above should read: "Destined for greatness WITHOUT the talent or effort needed required to get them there."

3:32 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

TUG, another thought, which I failed to mention.

Prince Charles formed a charity thirty years ago called the Prince's Trust, which seeks to give opportunities for advancement to disadvantaged youth. He has other enterprises which feed profits towards this charity. Therefore, it is not consistent to view him as an elitist who feels threatened that people should seek to "rise above their station". That is an inaccurate interpretation of his intent. He has devoted his energies to giving young people who had no other hope, a chance to make it. That seems to speak of another attitude and set of beliefs altogether.

Elaine Day is someone who sued for wrongful dismissal. There are two sides to every case. We don't know the fullness of it. Given Prince Charles' efforts to give youths a chance to succeed, I think it is consistent that if Elaine Day had actually had the ability required to do the job she aspired to, she would more than likely have been given a chance to do it. That view is consistent with the rest of Prince Charles' life and charity work.

I hope that puts a perspective on matters.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

From Sarah: This was sent by Darkness, who gazzumped by mail”

“Why doesn’t this surprise me? Charles Windsor - Britain's future head of state - believes "One should know one’s station in life”.

Mmmh…let’s just pause here and put Charlie Windsor in a Petri dish and take a closer look; Oh dear, what do I see? Wasn't he raised in a family obsessed with the belief that worth is based on birth, birth, birth, birth and birth.

No? Wasn't he sorrounded since birth with a small retinue of "low-born" servants and parvenu "high-born" aristocrats who have been on hand all his life to reinforce the belief that there is an intricate, mystical class pyramid in Britain loosely based on the order of the Knight Templars (who incidentally wore hair vest and chastity belts!), and that Charles was born from the same lineage. Oh, here comes the kicker, Sacre blue! How can we ever forget Lord Mountbatten, his mentor - and the closest thing he ever had to a real father figure – mmmmh, didn’t he once write a postcard to Herr Hitler with the opening words, “Mein furher," a man so obsessed with genealogy that he even had an autographed photo of Mengel. Yes, imagine if you will impressionable Charles bobbing on the knees of this old school psychopath hoover cum Mc Carthy along with endless tales of lebensraum and Aryan supremacy!

The damage to mind and spirit can only be fathomed!

Really why does it not come as any surprised to find that Charles is one of the last people to take the real world seriously?

With his rarified background, how could he really?

I would have you know sir, for the rest of Britain the world of aristocracy and monarchy has long since been reduced to a shambolic show of carpet baggers and tangled sheets, Charles has tried desperately to reassert the case for natural hierarchy, and railed against a meritocratic system where the "ordinary think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities" this is hardly his first attempt to shore up his fav bug bear. For more than two decades now, he has been trying to build an intellectual case based largely on unmitigated diatribe for these beliefs. Charlie’s interest in the environment and causes such as GM food is deceptive. In fact, it smacks of feudalistic zoo keeping, a vignette even to a disease brain of a man who has lost all touch with reality and longs for a world where everybody knows "their place" under nature and nobody is troubled by "dangerous ideas like progress" and science.

I would have you know Sir, his entire life can at best be described as being a slow immersion into this quaint magna carta ideal. If the truth be known Charlie is both inepth and out of touch with the common Joe Blogs of his land, feted by his inner circle of royal time warped plank brains he has obviously allowed their universe of olde Englande to permeate and color his impression of reality. It would not be all together wrong to say from an early age his was a mind almost saturated completely with the ideals of empire which was redolent with the text of ruling over child like savages in the colonies. Is it such a wonder that he and only he alone is convince that the sum of all his thoughts can possibly amount to more than a hill of beans? Consider Sir, the mystical purpose of monarchy, his near obsession with classical form and symmetry that he applies to architecture, organic veggies and even his wife of some ten years (Diana) who obviously considered him a lost case.

How I wonder sir could a man raised with such wanton cruelty bear to acknowledge that the class-pyramid ideology that justifies it all is worthless? Rather than face these hard truths that the world has changed, Charlie con’t to assert his supremacy on elected politicians harrying them no end with his ridiculous snipes all I might add is based solely on the premise of birth right. The monarchist indoctrination may well have succeeded had it not been for those who didn’t know him better. Darkness 2008”

Sarah – (This has been sent by Darkness, he sounded irate and I have taken the liberty of editing his post. However, he did go on to mention this was a most interesting post)

6:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Darkness for your comment.

I note, however, that you have attacked Prince Charles, himself, rather than his statement. As for his statement, he didn't actually say that "people shouldn't rise above their station". That was the interpretation put on his words by others - but nowhere in his statement is he actually saying that. What he is saying is that it defies belief (for him) that people aspire to succeed, in a significant way, in areas in which they have no ability, experience or training. He was commenting on the tendency of people of the time to want instant, effortless success usually in the form of money,fame and power. His comment, in that context, is supported by what is actually happening on the ground in England. It is an attitude widely held, that the young feel entitled to great success in absurdly rarified areas, without having the requisite skills to support their ambitions. That was his comment.

I find it very interesting the way Prince Charles is reflexively attacked. Whenever he speaks, people attack him. It is odd - because people in Western democracies are generally encouraged to speak out. In his position, however, he can expect to be attacked no matter what he says. Also, he can expect to be accused of saying things he never said - because people expect him to have said them.

In some ways, the way people react to him is much more interesting than anything he actually says or does.

Send Darkness my regards, Sarah.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Sarah on behaf of Darkness said...

“……you have attacked Prince Charles, himself, rather than his statement.”

Let me put it this way, the remit of your article displays considerable confusion as to why you find it at odds that so many have decided to rile him once again.

No mystrey really. Hence my historical litany on the persona – Charlie Windsor – Sir, I am merely giving you the historical account as to why those who choose to disagree with him in the past and on this occasion are not entirely without merit.

In an ideal world, I agree, one should perhaps confine critique to only the ambit of the statement and if possible suppress the temptation for barbed repartees, but au contraire on this occasion this comes at the expense of adding to inaccuracies.

What I believe is the real issue here is not whether Charles Windsor is able to beacon the murk on the affairs of British youths, he may or may not be right, but what I and many who actually use our brain find morally reprehensible is that he regularly holds himself out as being a paragon of moral rectitude and virtue which he has no justifiable claim to assert. That I believe is the main bone.

Let us not forget that Charlie firstly by virtue of his hereditary métier is hardly the best the person to speak on the affairs of youths and has even less qualification to draw the valence between talent and success – Monarchism automatically limits his persuasive powers to the intelligent as he has almost unlimited material scope. His personal fortune stands in excess of £300 Million. When Charlie travels, he demands seven bedrooms to himself and one for his teddy bear. So really, it’s hardly a case of another G.Washington chucking a silver dollar into the Delaware Sir – not by a long shot!

It is so hard then to miss the irony when Charles proclaimed apropos of Elaine Day, ‘What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things yadda yadda yadda.’ He remains an affront to the internationale thinking community at large only because he seems to elide whole sale the very idea the institution of monarchy imposes upon him – can he not understand it is impossible for him or anyone belonging to any hereditary oligarchy to acknowledge the obvious – they should not talk abt such issues – it is hardly an issue of freedom of speech as it is curiously and paradoxically the same that he asserts = to know one’s limits! Touche!

As for Charlie the scholar? What can I say, he leaves a lot to be desired, a 2.2 grade in archaeology (cough and down the hatch) - and even this is widely considered a polite grade which hardly gives him the status of a would be oracle pontificator. Since then, he has consistently demonstrated no particular skills except declaring in public his only wish is to aspire to be a wonder bra or why he believes brick houses are superior to energy efficient buildings.

Indeed you are right Sir, a trifle harsh I may have been on him, after all the humane response to all this is to simply understand the man for who he has to become if he to be Charles the future head of state of the commonwealth – his only saving grace being we should ascribe blame the institution rather than to a man who simply wished to grow organic veggies – Charlie Windsor if only your mother loved you. If only…..Thank you this was a most interesting piece, I rarely reply, but on this occasion, I was must - Darkness 2008”


This time he actually said sorry for breaking in. That's nice. he does this to be at least 3 times a year.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I will let Darkness' words speak for themselves except to make one observation. In the case of Prince Charles, himself, it seems that it is impossible for many, the world over, to separate his sentiments from his history. That is, his comments are not evaluated on their own but in the context of his entire life.

That would seem to be an impediment in his future role as King (if he is ever King which may not in fact be the case). It seems that it would be very difficult for Prince Charles to be taken seriously. Can he, therefore, ever be effective in his possible future role?

11:29 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Another thought, Darkness. I find no confusion in my article. At least, there is none in my mind. My basic point is that his point actually has a point: young people in Britain are like he describes them. They do aspire to absurdly inappropriate goals given their limitations. If another person had made the observation, we would have entertained the idea without any verbal attacks. However, since it is Prince Charles who has made the observation - he is deluged with vitriole. It is very interesting.

Sarah, tell Darkness I am pleased that he found the article of interest - even if he didn't agree with it!

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

“It’s very easy to buy into the phrase “oh they should know better shouldn’t they?” and nod approvingly. It provides comfort food for our moral instincts, a simple sugary homily we can all agree without too much fuss. But really what really lies at the heart of this appeal? Have you really asked yourself the deeper philosophical question? (is this even the right word to use? I am not sure).

Not really when we consider Charlie’s lament is hardly novel, it was registered as far back by the greats notably Plato in his republic when he rebuked wholesale the class of intelligentsia of his time for being bovine about the pursuit of knowledge – so really, every age suffers from same ‘moral’ / ‘search for vindication’ / ‘return to Avalon’ affliction and where else is it starkest? Except when juxtaposed against the whole idea of talent and ‘performance’ the whole struggle for ‘vindication’ against hegemony really goes back further that what Charlie alludes, he merely scratched the surface – do I believe British youths are unrealistic? Yes, but I don’t really consider it condition that’s specific to the isle as much as I choose to regard it as a condition that’s largely a function of having to live in any modern society – and what really is life in a modern society like? It’s contrived in every practical definition of the word!; reality TV, chemically enhanced fast food to artificially planned corporate communities to the whole idea of boom and bust – if I had to finger it, we are living in a world increasingly distanced from and devoid of spontaneous human contact and action. Against the face of such dizzying postmodern pulls something has to give; reality. Or rather our sense of being able to make sense of who we are in relation to what we can reasonably accomplish or how long we should continue smiling at a stranger in the train without coming across as suicide bomber – where does this new realism come from? It has to come from somewhere and that’s really where Charles falls flat, he doesn’t supply the bacon, it doesn’t come around –central to the whole issue is. What does it really mean to live in such an age? Will it be dystopian or utopian? I really don’t know, but I know that every age, has a way of hammering our their set of beliefs and defining organizational and personal success in the face of change that throws out the old because the new just made it so irrelevant that’s it’s no longer an economic proposition – it may even be screwy in so far as what we term the best may not even be the best elements to guarantee aspiring to the top, only because in a time of endless hype and spin accidental heroes such as Forest Gump and William Hung may actually be better placed to assume primacy – Question: does this mean we are headed for some sort of social Chernobyl? Hardly when you consider concurrent to such pulls there must also be some counter weight that always tries to struggle for genuine experiences, be it real talent in the form of slow food vs fast food / handmade vs Wallmartian etc. So the short answer is so form of equilibrium has to kick in eventually and make everyone smarter – may be a function of age, experience or even both, my point is, it has to happen!

So I do see it as a real problem that society cannot redress? Allow me to paraphrase; Q: do I believe someone who has carrot fingers will ever be able to play Rachmaninoff in Carnegie hall? Nope, but I would rather he believes he can and throw the cusp to the wind and even if he failed, he would have succeeded – that in my view is far better than a society that’s soaked in apathy or worst still pragmatism that venerates the trite and sameness – where will we really be without dreamers, sounds hared, I know but if I had to place my bets the kid with the carrot fingers takes the cake any day than the one who keeps to the yellow brick road. Darkness 2008”


12:38 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Darkness, for your thoughts on the modern world.

It seems to me that the society "steeped in apathy and pragmatism" could only be Singapore. So much of what you have said in your three comments really alludes to that other smaller isle.

Yes, in Singapore, it is the "yellow brick road" that everyone travels. There is also a veneration of the trite and that which is the same.

There is only one answer to this tendency: people like yourself who are thinking for themselves, must continue to express themselves, in the hope, perhaps, of awakening others to thought.

Do not mistake my attitude to dreamers. I hold them in high esteem - but only if their dream is one they have carefully thought through. Some who dream of being film stars can indeed be so: they have the gifts required. Some who dream of becoming billionaires, have the requisite business brain. Some who aspire to power, have political in such cases I have the greatest respect. It is only in the case of the self-deluded that I urge them to re-evaluate their aims to spare them from inevitable and sometimes ruinous failure.

Singapore, however, is another case altogether. Here no-one really aspires to much of any significance. Their "dreams" are pallid affairs. It is a place of pedestrian ambitions. Here, there is room, most definitely, for rather more of the tendency to dream for something better.

I wish you luck, Darkness. Thank you for your thought provoking words.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a thought about dreams and aspirations- I do sometimes think that they will have a pernicious quality and tend to fester like feelings of unrequited love if they are not given a trial against reality...a person will always wonder "could it have been?" could I have been (whatever it was)?" I think most children who have reasonably caring parents (and this will include even the working poor who sometimes have a sharper eye for opportunities for their young, and more support for any sort of talent they witness in their children and therefore, curiously, more gumption about aiding their children any way they can in spite of economic difficulties) will also be children whose parents will encourage them in "the inclination/interest of the moment" in which case, alot of children get to do several things in earlier childhood to test their abilities and the limits of those abilities when they are still at an age to enjoy excelling at what they do best. This is also the ideal time to "get it out of their system" or if nothing else, having tried a little of everything, growing up as something that is nowadays not valued but is important-that is, as "well-rounded" individuals. In evolutionary terms, we do see that our species has prevailed not by over-specialization for the better part of our history (seen any saber-toothed tigers lately?) but by being (to modify an old saying slightly) "jacks of all trades and masters of at least one" since this is what life takes-after all, who respects the average Joe/Jo who can go to an office and do great things but can't feed their children by their own hand once they get home without either poisoning them or resorting to the pre-packaged "pocket/packet" type food that takes 2 minutes to microwave? I come from a family of educators childhood Saturdays involved a trip to the library to get a book, a trip to the YWCA for swimming lessons. Weekdays i had ballet and home economics and cooking class at the girls club and they too had a library from which I would read books along with my library fare. I had music in school and learned not only to write musical notation but had perfect pitch and could sing without ANY accompaniment-i learned standard music notation, shape notes and some tablature...I also had violin lessons, i took drama in school and performed, I learned a foreign language; i was encouraged and instructed in poetry and prose-I was a good writer at an early age. And I was after all of that, not destined earn my living at any of those things-it's all part of what they now call cryptically "personal development". I can however, if required for entertainment or family or party gatherings, still carry a tune; i have always been complimented on my posture; i can feed myself without getting ptomaine poisoning; I can converse intelligently on a wide range of subjects and i can swim-because having the exposure so early made these things more deeply a part of me-being younger there was more "room" inside and "upstairs" (so to speak)for that type of learning It was considered natural in my era to develop ALL of your talents, no matter the degree and as one of you said, not just with the idea of fame or money in mind.My mother always said and she was right (and also an educator) that everything you learn will come in handy at least once in your life. This is also how you find out who you are and what your capabilities are before the heartbreaking scenario you described can occur at around 30-40 years of age-9se next)

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

however, there is something I would like to say about your "ruined life at 40" scenario too-a midlife crisis and it's frequently attendant and deadly depression is no small thing either-you may have A career and A family but all of what you may have may not be your heart's desire and you may feel quite ruined inside which can be just as sad as your scenario of material paraphrase Robert Bly ("A Gathering of Men" and other writings on the inner emotionallife of the western male) "your father had a job and a house and a family; he had what he WANTED but did he ever really get what he DESIRED?" and these are 2 very different things...unmet desires (see my above reference to unrequited love as one example) can have far-reaching and profound negative effects on a life and its perceived worth by the person living it. I agree to some extent with several of you-yes, there must be ability; yes there must be VERY hard work to polish it to perfection; but also, you must be impelled by a tremendous DESIRE for it-this 3 part recipe is essential.(next)

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the actual doing of things, some may be content with simply a "George Plimpton" moment-a one-time Walter Mitty day that any of us would enjoy...which is usually thrilling for someone (tossing a ball with your favorite team or being with them for a day for instance after winning,say a contest of that kind or something) and in that most people would see that they ARE really more content to daydream about it, that it's ok for a day but that they would not want the early arthritis (again, using the "fantasy day" with your favorite sports team as an example),disruption of being traded by teams, the strain on family life due to travel, etc or the lonliness and grubbiness of cheap nightclubs (say for a young starting musician)-most people have already recognized these things and made decisions accordingly a long time ago, especially if they have had a "well-rounded"
education and gotten it all out of their systems and tested already any innate abilities to their limit in childhood. I think Prince Charles' comments were bad timing-why would they come up at a time like that? At a scheduled meeting for the purpose of Ms. Day having her situation examined, and considering that apparently there had been a blind eye turned for a while to her situation, why would he then allude to something that had to do with a specific request she had made (and NOT on her own behalf mind you, according to reports, but on behalf of other staffers)? Otherwise, the comment is a glaring non-sequitur during a sort of tribunal meeting about sexual harrassment (may have spelled that wrong just now) of an employee. At any rate, it has always been from ancient times that royalty have always been surrounded by more educated and intelligent people than themselves anyway-for the greater part of history, most of them thought it was beneath them to be able to read and write. Perhaps Prince Charles feels, when viewing history that in that respect, as monarchs go, he's come a long way or something. His work ethic, considering his previous personal secretary's sworn statement (yes there is one-google it-can't go into detail here) is somewhat lacking-his office is antiquated-which of course, he does not mind, since he doesn't really do the work. His staff don't even have computers. Personally I am SURE Ms. Day should not be working for someone so beneath her-it must feel like being a nanny to a turnip. She deserves an employer who is intelligent enough to deserve HER and so i think,dismissed or not, she's STILL better off.Now there's a real step upward mobility- to be free of a turnip for an employer so that you can go and get a a real human employer.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I agree that whatever one learns finds use, at some time. I have been surprised by what I have found use for, in recent years.

It sounds like you had a fulfilling childhood. You were lucky.

Best wishes on whatever you are doing now and thanks for your comment.

10:07 AM  

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