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, June 16, 2009

The privileges of the old.

In Asian societies, traditionally, the old are looked up to - even when they are very short, if you know what I mean. However, do they always deserve this automatic respect? Two days ago, I encountered someone that made me think otherwise.

I was in the queue to get on the morning bus, there being three people in front of me and quite a few behind. Suddenly, someone elbowed me to the left, pushing me to one side, as they thrust forward. I turned to see who it was: to my surprise my eyes alighted on a very elderly woman of, I estimate somewhere between 85 and 95 years old. She looked very fit and spry - but there was something fierce and cold in her face. She didn't look to be a "nice old lady" at all.

I wasn't the only person she pushed out of the way. She pushed past all three people ahead of me, to the front of the queue. All who saw what she had done stared at her - but no-one spoke out. Perhaps they were all mentally making "allowances for her age". Well, I really don't think that any allowance should be made. It was a very simple matter of a rude, ill-mannered, uncouth person who just happened to be elderly.

In the whole incident, the old Chinese lady didn't say a word. She just held her fierce, dark expression on her face and kind of dared anyone to challenge her.

The event had rather an effect on me. Why, I wondered, should such behaviour be allowed, by all in the queue, simply because she was old? What she was doing broke all the social rules - and it wasn't as if she was frail, or anything: she was fit, aggressive and had physically pushed everyone out of the way. Here was an elderly person abusing her status as an old person. She was taking advantage of the Asian tendency to revere the old - to actually misbehave. I wasn't impressed. Her action made me reflect that, perhaps the elderly don't deserve the respect they are automatically given. They don't, necessarily, deserve any more respect than anyone else. They are, most definitely, not certain to be any better than anyone else - and therefore not deserving of a different attitude towards them.

Then again, I wondered, sometime later: what kind of life made this old lady so fierce, so aggressive and so unpleasant to her fellow man? Perhaps far from respecting her, we should pity her the kind of life that engenders the kind of attitude she showed. Surely, there was something wrong with her.

However, her age did save her from my rebuke. Had she been younger, I would have remonstrated with her for the elbow and insisted on her return to the back of the queue. The sight of her silver hair shocked me into silence. I was too busy being surprised to actually do anything about her rudeness.

The next time, however, I would probably speak up - and resist - for it wouldn't be a surprise anymore. It would just be one more rude elderly person who should know better.

(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 @ 10:56 PM 


Blogger  said...

How sad but true. I have experienced my fair share of such unruly old folks who bulldoze their way through human queues, and squeeze through almost anyone to get to that 'comfortable spot'.

Luckily they are a not a common sight and there are 'nice old elderly' out there.

I hope you'll never come across such people again ^^

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha are you serious? you got shoved aside by a 95 year old woman? thats pathetic and funny at the same time. But i really do agree with what you say, all the people i know expect me to look up to my elders and even though i dont agree always, i cant do anything because i would then become a " rude brat"

1:16 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

She wasn't frail at all. She was fit and wiry. I am estimating her age because she had one of the most wrinkled faces I have ever seen: it was just covered in deep crevasses. She could, of course, have been a younger, old lady with exceptionally bad skin.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have - on occasion - experienced such a situation myself. Two possible reasons for this behavior come to mind. Either this person has had such a hard life, living through war(s) and famine that s/he only knows how to fight or s/he feels privileged because of her age. Both reasons would be upsetting. Number 1 would make me sad, number 2 would make me angry.

-- Maria --

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. The heading "the egotist" from your more recent post could apply here too...

-- Maria --

5:27 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

There is a third potential reason, Maria. Perhaps she just has an utter disregard for her fellow beings: this would arise out of a profound selfishness. This is, in fact, the most likely answer, I feel, given how long ago the war was...and how much time she would have had to recover her equilibrium.

There are words for such people...but they are not printable in a family blog!

7:52 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, only an egotist could act as she had...putting herself before all others. Imagine how ugly a world we would live in if ALL thought that way. (Though come to think of it, in some ways Singapore is creeping in that direction...)

7:53 AM  

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