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, August 18, 2008

On Silence and Self-expression.

Someone I know, whom I shall not name, is very keen on silence. That is, as a life philosophy, they prefer the silence of the tongue and the pen, to their use.

I shall explain. I enjoy blogging. I like to write. I have much to say. Daily, thoughts come to me, which I wish to share. So, I write them down and send them out into the world. I find great personal satisfaction in doing this, for it gives me the chance to communicate my world view in a way that did not exist a handful of years ago. Yet, this person would prefer that I stopped writing and maintained a stoic silence to the end of my days.

Now, what would be gained by being silent? Would the world be a better place for my silence? I am not sure that it would, but not for any egoistic reason. You see, everyone who has ever lived, lived a unique life. They came into the world with a unique set of genes and dispositions, they encountered unique circumstances, learnt unique things, experienced things no-one else ever experienced - and came to understand things no-one else will ever understand. This is the story of all humans, from the very first cave dwellers or savannah roamers, to the newest of newborns. We are all undeniably unique. So, what is gained if one of these unique human beings falls silent? Nothing. However, a great thing is lost: a unique set of experiences, world views, understandings and thoughts is never shared, never known and therefore forever lost when the bearer passes away.

Were I to stop writing, all my understandings of the world may as well never have been understood, for they will be lost with me, when my time comes. The same is true for us all. On a personal level we probably only share our thoughts with very few people - but those people, too, are mortal. So, in time, even if we share our thoughts on a personal level, all will be lost when those we shared them with, pass away. Therefore, it becomes our individual responsibility to ensure that we share our thoughts in a permanent fashion, that our world views and understandings become embodied in something more durable than another person's mind.

Different people share themselves - or express themselves - in different ways. Some design buildings, and show their views in how they are constructed. Some manage companies, and do so with a particular personality that shapes those companies. Some paint and draw and literally show the world their viewpoint. There are many ways to express the uniqueness of oneself. For me, it is writing: I express my thoughts in words. Were I not to write, I would feel somehow lessened. For in not writing, I am not speaking, in not speaking I am not communicating, in not communicating, I am not ensuring that what I learn from life has some afterlife, as it were.

I could heed this person's repeated request - to stop blogging. Yet, were I to do so, a particular kind of record, of a particular set of experiences and understandings would be forever lost to the world. However one judges the merit or quality of this contribution doesn't matter - what does matter is its essential uniqueness. No life lived will ever be as the one I know, is. Thus, if it is not recorded, the world is somehow impoverished by that. There would be no record of it - so that if anything I have learnt or understood is of any value, that value would be forever lost.

I don't see any benefit in that. Silence is the kind of outcome that leads nowhere and has no descendants. Silence produces nothing, creates nothing, achieves nothing. Silence is either for those with nothing to say, or too afraid to say it. I come into neither category at this time.

Some of my blog posts have stimulated quite an interesting reaction in the Singaporean blogosphere. I act as an outside voice, whose comments are informed by many years of direct experience. That voice, therefore, has a certain value because it contributes opinions that might not otherwise be uttered. Were I not to write, there are, perhaps, conversations that would never be, ideas that would never form, understandings that would never be understood. It is, therefore, important that I continue to write, for, in my small single-voiced way, I contribute to the ongoing debate that is the Singaporean blogosphere.

Were I not to record my children's antics, I would not have them to hand, when I am old, and my memory is fading. I choose to record them on a public blog, for I feel that family offers the greatest of rewards a human can know and I like to share my pleasure in those joys. Some readers have indicated that they, too, enjoy my tales of childhood. Would the world be better off without those tales of childhood? I don't think so - for while all childhoods have certain things in common, all childhoods also have unique elements, too. My writing constitutes a record of that uniqueness. Again, I don't think the world is better off without it - and my family is certainly not better off without it. This record will be precious to my children, when they are adults, for they will be able to see glimpses of their childhood here.

In all there are many reasons to write and only one reason not to write: because my relative believes in self-containment, rather than self-expression. They believe that silence, itself, is a value and has value. They believe that I should be, as they are - and maintain a silence in the world. Sadly, I think they could not be more wrong. Their world view, if adopted universally, would mean the end of all Art, all literature, all music, all public debate, all culture, all communication between people - and, ultimately, the end of all societies. You see, a society that has people who maintain a silence, among themselves, cannot survive - for without communication, there is no evolution of that society, no ability to grow, to deepen, to understand. It is a society that can only function at the level of clockwork programming and automaticity.

This person believes that it is better to say nothing, than to say anything at all. The act of communication is regarded as to be avoided. I understand why they think this. They value a certain kind of life, which does not admit the idea of a public presence. They believe in not leaving a mark, in not being noted, in not interacting with the public. Yet, that stance is completely at odds with the idea of any public self-expression - be it artistic, or social commentary, or even scientific (for an idea that is had, but not communicated cannot enter the public world of science). The idea of silence as a virtue means the end of all and any career which actually affects the world in any way, at all. To be silent, is not to exist, from the point of view of society and history.

The only effect on the world that is left to those who believe in silence, is to have children. I believe that there is more to life than just creating children. One must also create what one may, oneself. However, the creating of children is of great importance, too. One should ensure that both types of creation are part of life.

If you have read this far, then you must have some interest in the matter of self-expression, or perhaps silence. If so, feel free to express your thoughts in the comments.

I believe that if everyone were to believe in self-expression, the world would be much enriched, thereby, for the uniqueness of us all would leave some imprint upon the world, to be found and read, understood and appreciated. This imprint would mean that mankind could better accumulate understandings, insights, viewpoints and experiences (or records of them, anyway). It would all contribute to the wisdom of Man.

Singapore is one place that has, in recent years, through the internet, discovered this capacity to express itself. I am heartened to see that quite a few voices are contributing their understandings of life, to the global view of Mankind.

Long may it continue - and may silence never befall those with something to say and the means to say it.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight 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.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:22 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone once said that "no man should fear another".

True, but in Singapore, LKY is God.

Fear him.

*Just kidding*

The local gods\demi-gods dare not touch almighty white boys(who kept their passports).


11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear mr cawley..,

long time ago,i was a talkative person,..but then,i knew that some of them(my friends n others) didnt like it..about a hard year of trying to keep silent,now i becomes less talkative than usual.

but i cant totally be a silent people..i keep talking,,but not to people,myelf instead! i dunno what's wrong with me,but i like to talk to myself..not even in my heart,but i orally talk like i chat with someone..
i know it's not healthy,,but i simply love that.

i dun have close friends in uni,also dun have lover.. i dunno who can i rely on to express my feeling.

that's it..jz wanna share with u.. thanx 4 reading..

1:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Gifted people tend to become familiar with their own company, especially when young and they have yet to find their place in the world.

I wouldn't call talking to yourself unhealthy. I would call it an adaptation to circumstance - though others might not understand so readily.

Good luck on whatever you choose to do and be in life.

Best wishes.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear mr cawley,

thanx 4 replying my comment n ur opinion.for ur information, i really happy to see ur comment on me. :)

u were right bout i have to find a friend like myself.

it is normal that,nobody wanna hears my ideas. they keep telling im not right, 'use the simple one', 'dun think too far', 'crazy idea'..

sometime i get upset..but it's ok. i always tell to myself, nobody understand me.

im not that complicated, i just one somebody to hear my thought, my idea.seems like it is too dificult to find that kind of people.

anyway,thanx 4 spending ur time to read my comment..

send my best regards to ur wife, ainan,fintan n tiarnan. (n_n)

all the best!

7:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

No problem.

Yes, it is important to find someone to listen without criticism...just one person will do. Best of luck on finding them.

7:55 PM  

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