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 +

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Suicides of the rich and famous.

We live in turbulent times, times so turbulent, in fact, that suicide is becoming almost fashionable among the rich and famous.

Patrick Rocca, Adolf Merckle and Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet are three men who may never have met, but whom each shared much in common with the others. All of them were very rich. All of them seem to have run into financial trouble with this global downturn - and all of them killed themselves.

Patrick Rocca built up a 500 million Euro real estate fortune, through investments in the UK and Ireland. He was a friend to Bill Clinton (to whom he used to lend his helicopter, to allow Bill to play golf when he was in town). His sister, Michelle, was a former Miss Ireland and is the partner of Van Morrisson. He seemed to have it all, until, one day, he put a gun to his head, and blew it all away. He was 42 - a husband and a father to three now fatherless children.

Patrick Rocca was recently joined by Adolf Merckle, a German billionaire who had lost a fortune on shorting Volkswagen shares. He lost one billion pounds and, not wishing to fall from 94th richest man in the world to virtually nothing, jumped in front of a train. He had once been the world's 44th richest man in the world (in 2006). He left a wife and four children.

Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet was a French investor from an ennobled shipping family. He had invested all of his personal fortune with Bernard Madoff - and a billion pounds of other people's money, too. On understanding that he had lost it all, he slashed his wrist and biceps. He left a wife but no children.

I understand that people can become depressed and dejected by great financial or other loss, but I still found myself shocked by the underlying philosophy of each of these three very rich men. For them, the attachment to things was greater than their attachment to life. They would rather lose their lives than face the loss of their things. This is the ultimate materialist philosophy…that their life is defined by material goods and without their material goods, they cannot live.

No doubt they must all have been intelligent men, in some way, to have become so rich in the first place - but nevertheless, their final acts, reflected a kind of resolute stupidity and lack of perspective. Most people in this world live modest lives in economic terms. Most people struggle by with various levels of discomfort, there being always something that cannot be readily afforded, something just out of reach. This limit will differ from person to person, but for most people on Earth it is true that there are limits of consumption and expenditure within which they must live. People become accustomed to this. People learn how not to wish so hard for the unattainable and live somewhere within (or perhaps just beyond) their means. This perennial minor discomfort common even to the world's middle classes, to a degree, does not lead people to suicide, it leads them to patience: patience to wait a little longer to be able to afford that which is just beyond reach, patience to plan how to acquire it, patience to grow the finances a little more.

Had Patrick Rocca, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet and Adolf Merckle a little more patience with life, they could have accepted their loss and done what most ordinary people would do in the circumstances: start again and rebuild. Yes, it would have taken years, maybe decades to recoup the family fortunes - but they would have been rebuilt eventually for one thing is sure: each of these three men had acquired the financial skills and understanding to build such fortunes in the first place. They had done it once, they could do it again. All they needed was something many people have a lot more of: resilience. If they had been poorer men, but stronger (in the sense of resilient) they would have survived this downturn to reemerge in another time, as good or better than before.

Their actions defy rationality. For they threw away the entirety of their lives, when faced with a loss that would have meant a few years' to a few decades' work to rebuild. It was not the downturn that cost them everything they had, but the actions of their own hands. The global crisis cost them nothing but money. Their deeds cost them their lives.

Their tales provide a lesson to us all. We should not place so high a value on material things that they seem more important than life itself. Two of these three men had children they should have loved enough to stay alive for. All of them had a wife who should have provided the same motivation.

There are more important things in life than money. In fact, all the important elements in life: family, love, companionship are more important than money. These men had everything, but misunderstood which of the things they had was truly important.

Now, of course, those who are left behind suffer a double loss: the loss of the wealth that supported them and the husband and father whose love they will never again know.

It never seemed to occur to Patrick Rocca Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet and Adolf Merckle that they were only making matters worse for their family, by dying in this way. Surely it would have been better to start again...perhaps from the equivalent of a middle class lifestyle and rebuild...than to throw their lives away?

My condolences to the families of Rocca, Villehuchet and Merckle - and all the other millionaires and ordinary investors who have and will decide that life without money is not worth living, before this crisis is over.

Perhaps, before it is too late, someone might let them know that there is such a thing as a happy life without great wealth. It is the life most of us know - and I don't see the typical person being that much less happy than the world's billionaires.

(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.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:42 PM 


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