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, May 19, 2008

Chicken Soup for a Singaporean Soul

On one of the stalls at the "market" at the Art Museum a couple of weeks ago, was a pile of Chicken Soup for the Soul, books. I duly picked them up, one by one and browsed through them. As I did so, I appraised the seller, who seemed very eager that I should buy one. She sat forward in her chair and peered closely at me.

Then, I came upon something which gave me pause. In the front of one of them was written: "To Daddy, with love...2002" It was Chicken Soup for a Father's Soul.

"How much are these?" I asked her.

"Five dollars. They are all five dollars".

So, a gift from a daughter to a father was worth only five dollars. I looked at her again. She was quite young - about 20. Thus, her Chicken Soup gift to her father had been given when she was in her early teens. It seemed to me a soulless thing to sell a gift between daughter and father, at any price, never mind five dollars.

I thought it ironic that a series of books intended to make one take a deeper look at life and its possibilities had passed her by, entirely. She had them all: Chicken Soups for teenagers, mothers, fathers, living your dreams...the lot. She had a Chicken Soup for everything. Yet, they had not taught her the value of sentiment, of memories of times past, of the gifts between child and parent. She had, it seemed, not learnt anything by reading them. Perhaps she had never read them. Perhaps she had just bought them as "things to have and to show to others that you have".

I bought one of her Chicken Soups for the Soul - though not the one for fathers, though that was perhaps the most apt. I couldn't bring myself to acquire a gift made between another man's daughter and himself: it seemed somehow intrusive. That gift should have been treasured by both as a reminder of a time past - but it wasn't. It ended up being sold for five dollars.

That market stall girl had learnt the value of money, but not the value of life. One day her father will be no more. Will she have sold off all reminders of his life and presence, by then? Will she have nothing to remember him by?

With a girl like her, I would think a gift should not be given - for what she wants is simply hard cash. No-one should need to think of something unique for her, therefore, to demonstrate their thoughtfulness - for whatever it is will be sold off in exchange for a few dollars.

I wonder how common her attitude is? Are young Singaporeans of today people of no sentiment? Is the dollar the only thing valued?

Comments please.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven 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, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:20 PM 


Blogger Jamie said...

I own a secondhand English bookstore in Madrid and it's staggering to me the number of books that have something sentimental written inside. Books from lovers claiming their devotion, to mothers,fathers, grandmothers. Childrens books for little Tommy from grandma (who's probably dead now). I guess you can't hold onto everything, but there is something sad about seeing the book go.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is sad, indeed, Jamie, that people don't value emotional ties and sentimental attachments more than the few dollars they get for selling a book.

Thank you for showing me that this phenomenon is not just a local one - sad though that is.

I would like to think that if I gave a book (or anything else) with an inscription to someone I loved that they would hold onto it. That, after all, is the significance of writing in the first place: the words are forever.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it's terribly sad. However, there is always hope.

Some ppl see beyond things, others don't as it's one way of sharing in experience.

One of the most heart rendering gifts I received earlier this year was from a stranger in the net who delivered a Bo plant to my office.

It sits on my sill.

He didn't leave a note or anything and by the time, I made to the lobby, he was already gone.

I wondered why Mr Cawley.

But it all comes back Mr Cawley, it always does, as I discovered here

You see there is hope after all.

We just need to read to discover the meaning in things.


12:37 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

I once came across a blog whose author wrote about one of his trips to a second-hand bookstore. A few years ago he gave one of his closest friends a book with his own name signed in it - "To XX, from Bernard." But somehow they drifted apart after that. As he was browsing through the second-hand bookstore, he happened to flip open the very same book that he had given as a gift to his friend a few years ago - the minute he flipped to the first page, his own handwriting greeted him: "To XX, from Bernard."

I'd feel hurt if I were him, but I suppose sometimes that's the way things go. Perhaps as time passes we realise who are the people we'd like to forget (or wouldn't mind not remembering) and who are the ones whose memory we'd like to hold on to.

I think the fact that she was selling a book that was meant as a present from a daughter to her father speaks as much about the father as it does about the daughter - perhaps the father didn't cherish it, and the daughter, saddened by her father's indifference, decided to sell it, so that she wouldn't have to see that book ever again.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I rather got the impression, Miao, that she was selling anything that could be sold, irrespective of its sentimental value (to her, none I would think), merit or purpose.

One cannot know, of course, precisely what she thought of the book - but that she didn't value its continued possession was clear.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Miao, I would be appalled if I were Bernard. What a sad moment.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Sarah, for the comment and the link. I read the article. I can't believe that the tree was not valued by those in KL enough to preserve. They are going the way of Singapore (which knocks down its old buildings) time, neither country will have a physical memory of their pasts.

It was sweet that you were given a tree.

1:13 PM  

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