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 +

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Daddy and the King

Today, I asked Fintan to consider a matter of status.

“Who is more important: Daddy, or the King?”, I asked Fintan, as we sat talking together, during lunch.

His eyes considered mine, suddenly curious.

“Which Daddy? Which King?”, he enquired, quickly and pointedly.

“This Daddy.”, I said, gesturing towards myself – “and that King.”, I clarified, pointing in the direction of a palace, that I knew Fintan would know was that way.

Certitude condensed in his eyes. “Daddy.”, he said, as if my name had all the weight in the world, “Because you are MY Daddy!”

His words to me were as the warmest hug. I felt the love he has for me, in his expressiveness – and it was good to feel.

He had no doubt at all, as to whom was the more important. For Fintan, it was clear: no-one, not even the King, could be more important than his own Daddy.

I find this interesting for what it says about Fintan. He is clearly categorizing the importance of elements of the world, in terms of its personal significance. His reference markers are internal, not external. I am important to Fintan in a way no impersonal, unknown King could ever be, no matter how much social and political status he might truly have in the world.

Yet, there was another voice in the background, that had piped up, when I had asked the question of Fintan, seven. Tiarnan, my four year old son, had also answered the question. His answer, however, was not so reassuring: “The King!”, he had said.

So, Tiarnan, is Fintan’s opposite. For Tiarnan the external social value of a person is what matters. In those terms, I cannot match the significance of a King, because society values a King, more than it does me (even if, in truth, I am a more intellectually valuable person, than any King is likely to be). Tiarnan is taking his cues from the external world, not from the personal one. Yes, I am Tiarnan’s Daddy, but Tiarnan is measuring my importance, not by my value to him, personally, but by my value to the world, or, more precisely, how much the world values me.

Fintan’s view is more touching but, perhaps, Tiarnan’s view is more truthful to the society, as it is. At this time, in this era, the particular King in question, is valued more than I am. Tiarnan sees this and says it, without pausing to reflect that I might not wish to hear such a sentiment. Yet, Tiarnan is being honest and open in so doing, so I have to respect that. He is also making it clear how he comes to value judgements: he is thinking more like a scientist, in that he is trying to be objective. Fintan is thinking more like an artist, in that his view is subjective and tied inextricably to the personal.

Who is right? Fintan, or Tiarnan? Am I more or less important than a King? Well, the world, now, would say that the King is more important…but posterity is likely to take a different view. In time, the importance of a particular King, passes and fades. When a King dies, so does their power and influence. All that they did and were, becomes history…and, after a time, it comes to be seen to be less and less important. However, I am a creative person. I am engaged in creating various types of intellectual product. The value of these products will outlast me. They will not fade so much, nor will they be superseded, so much, since they will still have value as part of the history of ideas, or creativity, in the domain created. Thus, it is that the “importance” of a creative person, may be maintained, as I see it, in a way that the importance of a King is not. Indeed, a creative person may grow in importance, over time, even long after they have died – as has happened with many historical figures, who were creative.

Then again, time is not needed to determine the relative importance of King and creator, or King and Daddy. The true, absolute relative importance, should be clear. Anyone who creates, even in a little way, is more important and more valuable to Mankind, than any King, who does not create. This is an eternal truth: the creator outshines the King, in history, for the creator makes history in a way that the King never can. A creator changes the world, by opening up new possibilities and understandings, Kings usually do nothing of the kind. Their domain is that of power and influence, social status and prestige – but, generally, what they do does not change the world in a fundamental way. Kings are replaceable and interchangeable in a way that creators are not. It is possible that the role of a King might be performed, were it allowed, by any moderately adequate person – but the role of a creator, may be so demanding, depending on discipline, that no other person is truly suited to creating those particular works, in that particular domain. Creativity is unique, Kingship is not.

The question, of course, was not whether a creator was more important than a King…but whether Daddy was. It just so happened, that this particular Daddy creates, so I have had to extend the question, to answer it fully.

In practical terms, however, Fintan is right, of course. To any child, their Daddy is more important than a distant King. The King does not love the child, does not nurture them or cherish them. The King does not sustain the child, teach the child, or raise them. The King is a distant figure, of social meaning, but no personal meaning, to a child. Only a child like Tiarnan, who is looking out into the world, and ascertaining what society thinks and values, could ever say that their Daddy was less important than a King.

I am not a King. Nor am I ever likely to be a King (unless the world changes significantly in how it operates!). I do not have a Palace, nor kingly wealth. However, I have much that the King may not. I have three sons, who are very special to me, and special in themselves. I have a wife, who is most definitely unusual in her own way, and agelessly beautiful. Then again, I have my own personal gifts – the ability to write, to think and to create. The King has none of these things. I know whom I would much rather be. I would not be a King, if it meant giving up what I have and what I am now. I would much rather just be Daddy, to my three sons and Hubby to my wife. That, to me, seems like a good fate to have. If only the King knew, he would be jealous of the “riches” that I have. As for him: I am not jealous at all, for he has nothing of substance, that I would want…or that anyone who actually thought about the situation, meaningfully, could ever want either.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 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.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:10 PM 


Blogger tearsunderstars said...

At four, "societal perspective" is a completely alien concept to me, as far as I know. Tiarnan's amazing.

On the other hand, he might be playful and curious so he wanted to test your reaction with a not-so-touching answer. (I'd do that kind of thing, I'm so evil.)

I'd go with Fintan's answer though, personally.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. Tiarnan has interesting thoughts. I don't think he was testing my reaction though...I think he was assessing the situation, objectively...and that was the answer he came up with.

Thanks for supporting Fintan's answer! (What are your reasons for doing so?)

7:14 PM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

I'm so sorry for my late reply. Had school exams these days (oh, the horror...).

Like Fintan, my stance is somewhat personal. Who else in the world, would fight and care for you like a father? Though, on the surface, a king may be important to society, by setting policies/rules in place, but I think the father is more important.

Without a father, who is to guide the child? Like you, you provide your children with an environment to thrive and grow. Children are the future of the society. Without fathers, they'd probably do not have someone to look up to, have ideas which will guide them, and they will be lost (psychologically), having to fight for themselves. A society like that is very sad. A king cannot support the individual like the father can. Like in your recent post Congratulations from a stranger, a stranger did not overlook the fact that you've also put in the necessary effort to let Ainan to become what he can be. I don't think the king will care much for an individual. Like LKY, the "king" of Singapore, he makes remarks which mean "If anything happens, then it is your problem." with variations. I'm not one interested in politics, but I think kings of other societies can't be very much different. Yes, the king will put in place what society needs as a whole, but fathers also play an important role in meeting needs of individuals in the society.

A society without king with great fathers to me, is better than a society with a great king without fathers.

I can't say I had a smooth relationship with my father, but without him, I would not have an image of "the ideal man." What I mean is, as his child, I can observe his values, his ideas, his role in society, his actions and observe, reflect and think upon them. Without that, I would have lost a reference to base my values upon. Of course, there are other ways in which fathers are important...but it's quite a feat to fully describe them.


4:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Tearsunderstars...I agree that the importance of a Daddy to an individual far outweighs that of a mere King. Answer this: who do you truly mourn, in passing? One's Daddy or a distant King you never met?

In a way, a good Daddy does something more important for society than a good King for the intensity of impact on individual lives is greater for the Daddy than the King.

Thanks for your thoughts.

4:27 AM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

Answer this: who do you truly mourn, in passing? One's Daddy or a distant King you never met?

The answer would be Daddy, of course. Though in my case, my relationship with my Daddy wasn't smooth, in his own way, he tries to look out for my best interests. Frankly speaking I really cannot imagine his passing though it'll definitely happen, because of his importance to me in many ways.

As for the distant King, well, he is too distant, and too far-fetched, and is likely to be a power monger with much wealth than someone truly great with inspirational ideas, so...nope, very unlikely.


7:58 PM  

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