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 +

Friday, February 19, 2010

What did Patrick Swayze do for a living?

Bizarrely, someone arrived on my blog having asked that very question. Now, where do you think this person came from? Togo, perhaps? Outer Mongolia? Pitcairn Island? Have a good think. Please come up with your own idea of where someone who didn't know what Patrick Swayze did with his life, might have come from.

Well, the answer is the United States of America. That is right, the person who asked that question was surfing from Indiana, in particular the Indiana Department of Education.

Now, personally, I was surprised that a US citizen would not know what Patrick Swayze was known for. Yet, it made me think. I don't think that this is Patrick Swayze's particular problem. I think he exemplified a simple phenomena that we might wish to forget about: most people, no matter how prominent at one time, are going to be forgotten.

Patrick Swayze was most famous for "Ghost" in 1990 and "Dirty Dancing" in 1987. He was, at that time, a "big name"...everyone knew who he was. Now, of course, that is not so. Many people - perhaps the one who searched - have been born since his heyday. These young people may never have seen his work. They may have heard the name, but not known any work to which the name was attached. Then again, others who did see his work, may have since forgotten him, or have reached the state of "not being able to quite place him". In time, this will happen to almost all film stars and similar people. They are able to attain intense fame, over a period of years, or decades, but that fame simply may not endure. The people who know them, grow old, they forget, and the young never know. In time, all who knew that person's work, directly, pass on - and those that are left probably never encounter the work of an "antique" actor.

So, the most famous of the famous, now, are almost all destined to be forgotten, before even this century is out. Very few will be remembered in centuries to come. Perhaps, not even the greatest film stars, will be remembered. Their fame is bright, but brief. It is not the kind that endures. That latter type subsists on work that future generations have reason to revisit, again, and again across the centuries and millenia. Modern film is unlikely to "fit the bill". Few people trouble themselves to watch films even twenty or thirty years old - so how many would bother to watch work that was a hundred or five hundred years old? Only historians would do so. Thus, in a remarkably short time, the people we now see as most famous, will be forgotten, known only to experts in the field.

The people who are remembered longest are not, paradoxically, I think, the ones whose work is most intensely regarded, necessarily, in their lifetimes. It is the work that offers most complexity, most difficulty. Thus, the less popular contributors, may, in the end, be the most famous, to posterity.

To those who doubt this, I invite them to name one actor from the time of Aristotle. It is not possible for anyone who is not a specialist dramatic historian, to do so. Yet, the average man can name at least three philosophers of the time: Socrates and Plato being the other two. Anyone even slightly knowledgeable about the era, can name a dozen more. Yet, none of these people would be able to name an actor, or a singer, or any other of those kinds, most given to attracting attention DURING their lifetime.

Thus, it is, that those whose work is more complex, and deeper, proves more enduring. This is so, because later man has REASON to revisit the earlier work: it still has something to offer.

To understand this, is to realize that attention is given to the wrong people, in our time. The ones least likely to be of interest to future generations, receive most attention. The ones most likely to be researched by future generations, live relatively quiet lives, perhaps in academe, or on the shelves of bookshops. They are not, necessarily, the "stars" of our time. The stars, on the other hand, are convinced of their own immortality based on their fulgurant public presences. Yet, that dazzling brightness will fade remarkably fast and this is something of which they are delusively unaware.

Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are now, known to all - but once they pass on, their memories will fade catastrophically fast. A century from now, only film specialists will ever have heard of any of them. There may even come a time, when they are too obscure even for film specialists to have heard of. Their "fame" is, in some ways, an illusion of our own, foreshortened view of time. We live brief lives, so it is difficult for us to conceive of what happens beyond the scale of a lifetime. To understand this phenomenon, however, we can just look up some old films, online...something from the 1930s perhaps. Doing this is a sobering experience, since the "stars" of the day, largely consist of forgotten names. So many of them, who might, in their day, have been "names" are now nothing more than arbitrary collections of letters, alongside each other. They have already become lost to the awareness of the common man. So, too, will it be for modern "stars". They won't shine brightly, for long.

If you want to know who will be remembered, by future generations, you need to look to thinkers and creators, whose work does something new. These people have a habit of being discovered, considered and respected by times to come. I can't tell you who they are, however, because their work can take some while to come to be appreciated. Yet, they are out there, perhaps sitting in a cinema, watching the "stars" unaware that future generations might think of them, more highly, than the people they spend their money to watch.

Yet, Patrick Swayze is not without a kind of victory, despite the fact that it is possible for an American not to know he was an actor. At least, they still know his name. One day, of course, not too long in the future, they won't even know that. Yet, he shouldn't despair - because alongside him will be almost all the other "stars" too.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:26 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the number of assumptions you make cause me to doubt your logic and intelligence.
people have to find out about a person one way or another.. he may have heard of this guy and googled him which is simple.
Your method of ip tracking is very unreliable and can be overcome by proxies which some people use without knowledge of.
The internet is a common source of information nowadays and the fact he googled shows how famous he is as he is known by people who dont know what he does presumably through conversation.

You cannot support a phenomena on one search result leading to your blog

10:57 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is amusing to note that you doubt my “logic and intelligence” whilst demonstrating a basic inability to read. Do all functional illiterates in your acquaintance go around calling other people stupid, because they don’t understand what they read?

I have not, as you put it, based an argument on one search arriving at my blog. Nor have I made a heap of assumptions, as you state. I have, in fact, made OBSERVATIONS…not assumptions. It does concern me that you are unable to distinguish an observation from an assumption. It seems to indicate that you can’t differentiate a statement about the world as it is, from one about how someone believes the world to be. In other words, you are unable to distinguish reality and fantasy.

Let me remind you of the support of my observation:

1) No ordinary person can name an ancient actor. Every ordinary person can name an ancient thinker. Therefore, actors are forgotten, thinkers are remembered. (I have to put it simply for you).

2) Simply looking at the cast list of a film from the 1930s or earlier, will show you a surprising number of names you don’t know. Therefore, these actors, who were no doubt known in their day, have been utterly forgotten by now.

However, again, the thinkers of their time, will tend to be remembered.

3) The searcher did not know that Patrick Swayze had been an actor. The fame of film stars, at their height, is universal, in developed nations. Therefore the fact that this person did not even know that Swayze had been an actor, is a sure sign that Swayze’s fame is on the wane. You cannot be a famous actor, without people knowing that you are an actor. The idea is silly.

You state that Swayze is famous because the searcher knew his name, even if he didn’t know his occupation. Err…no. That is a sign that Swayze’s fame is on the decline, because he did not know what he did. Were Swayze’s fame solid, the searcher would know what he did. Not knowing his occupation, is the first step towards not knowing anything about him, not even his name. Give it a few more decades and almost no-one will know who Swayze was. He is destined, like almost all ‘stars’ to be utterly forgotten. If you doubt this, name me 10 stars for each decade back to 1900. Then name me 10 stars per century back to 500 B.C. You will not be able to do it. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to name ONE star, for the earlier centuries.

The searcher’s words were very clear about what he didn’t know. “What did Patrick Swayze do for a living?”. It could not be more clear that he didn’t know what Patrick Swayze had been. He only knew that he was dead. That is all.

As for “assumptions”, you have seemingly begun to suggest that the searcher wasn’t from the Indiana Department of Education, but was using it as a proxy server (at least that is what your unfinished sentence seems to be saying). Now, have you heard of Occam’s Razor? The most simple explanation is that it is someone from the Indiana Department of Education doing the searching. It is overwhelmingly UNLIKELY that it is someone using their server in an unauthorized manner. To state so, it is YOU who is “making assumptions”…not I.

Perhaps you should read what I have written, again, from the beginning and understand it this time, before calling me “stupid”.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous coldtoes said...

Hear hear, Valentine! And may I also compliment you on your excellent grammar and punctuation - as it is so rare to see in comment posts these days.
Just found your blog and will return often. I too am embarking on a new phase in life and teaching myself as I go, just as I did as a home educator.
I don't consider myself to have any level of genius, just an approach to learning that is different from the average. I have a current personal interest in autism, neuroscience and microbiology.
Keep blogging! I agree with one of your previous blog posts - some comments from others can discourage us in our writing, but keep it in perspective (and ignore if necessary!).
all the best

6:18 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your encouraging words re. my writing!

Good luck with your interests. Relatively few people, these days, seem to bother to develop intellectual interests, but I think the rewards, in doing so, are significant.

You are right about comments being discouraging. I find, sometimes, that the penalty for writing some of my posts is rather great. It somewhat takes away from the fun of having written them in the first place. The mystery of it, of course, is why people try to attack one for trying to express a thought: would they not be making the world a better place, if they, too, took similar troubles to write, rather than denouncing others for doing so?

Best wishes with your learning journey.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

A lot of the work that people do is dated. It dates to their time, and later few people read it. Many poets and writers wrote stuff that people read a lot in their era, and then later their stuff became no longer read. I did a little research on Lucy Larcom, I'm sure few have heard of that poetess.
The very early film stars had to give way to "talkies" and then few of them made the jump into the new era. Some just didn't know how to do the new acting, or other things happened. We know what happened with "Fatty" Arbuckle and Rudy Valentino. Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, and Theda Bara never made the jump into "talkies" like Buster Keaton and Alfred Hitchcock did. Bow did one or two sound films and quit because of her thick Brooklyn accent.
When I was a kid "Billy Idol" and "New Kids on the Block" were "in" and now they are just nostalgia. A few years ago the country fair new my US home had Mark Wahlberg for entertainment, and many people were walking out on him. I did too.

I think how we get remembered is by doing something that's more timeless and special. Swayze will be most remembered for his 80s films and buffs of the era will have the most interest in him.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I agree that much of what people do, dates very badly. It is really quite surprising that big "stars" - whether they be actors or writers, can become completely forgotten only a few decades later. This is very noticeable with some writers, who were major names in their lifetimes, but who are now not read at all, by anyone but the most dedicated of PhD students, in the narrowest of specialities!

The problem with timelessness, is that few people are able to separate themselves enough from their own era, to think of work that is going to be timeless: they are of their times, and so are lost, when their time has passed.

Swayze will be known by experts in 80s film, as long as there are such experts...but the time will come, when there is so much to know, that no-one will know much about that particular decade. Then, Swayze will be forgotten. His work was too much of its time, and not of all times. It is the fate of almost all modern "names".

Re. your certainly know of some rare matters!

3:14 PM  

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