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, November 23, 2011

The pain of brilliance.

I know a very bright young Professor, in his thirties, in a foreign University, in South America. I won’t give any more identifying details, because I think he should remain anonymous to protect him. Now, he is very much brighter than a typical person. He came first in a competitive examination to determine who would be selected for his academic position. He is publishing papers at a good rate and is making a name for himself in his discipline. He is even working with a very famous University, in Europe, on a special project. This is a mark of distinction indeed, for he is doing something for them, that they are not able to do themselves. In short, he is doing well in his academic career. He has come far for one so young. Yet, it doesn’t make him happy. Why, you wonder?

Well, it is simple. He is in pain. It brings him almost to tears to have to deal with his fellow academics in his University, because they are almost all mediocre, by comparison to him. Everyday, he must try to accommodate himself to the general “dumbness” that surrounds him. Everyday, he must struggle through conversations with people who are completely unable to follow his thoughts, should he allow himself to show them to others. He is suffocating. He is enveloped in a social bubble that prevents true communication to those around him, simply because it is impossible for them to understand him. Now, I understand him well. I know this situation. Perhaps that is why he discussed it with me.

My friend’s problem is the peculiar affliction of many gifted people all over the world. If one is truly gifted, then, in a very real sense, one is also truly cursed. For with the gifts of the mind, come the curses of the social world. It is essentially impossible for my friend, to fit in, in his present environment, because the disparity in intelligence, between him and those around him, is too marked. He is brilliant. They are not. Nothing that he, himself, can do, will ever change that. The only way he can accommodate to it, is by hiding himself, and nurturing a false public self, to be accepted. However, the real him is still there, inside, hidden away, quietly suffocating, quietly tortured by it all.

I have suggested to him that he find a more elite University to join, for the average intelligence of the staff should be greater, and there are likely to be more truly bright academics there. I hope he does so, for there can be nothing but misery in his future, if he stays where he is.

Everyone who is not truly gifted, imagines that life must be wonderful for those who are. The truth, however, is rather different. Great gift is a great burden, too. With every blessing it brings, there are concomitant curses that nothing the gifted person does, will ever change. It is still a blessing to be gifted – but a mixed blessing. It is not innately a gift that brings great happiness in its wake. Happiness, as a gifted person, must be worked for. Each gifted person must come to their own accommodation with the world and must find their own path within it, that satisfies whatever personal, professional and social needs they may have. Some, like myself, find that the best solution is to become accustomed to a quiet life. If one does not need constant social contact, or gives up that need, then life is easier – for there are many other ways to be fulfilled, that don’t involve people.

I am lucky. I have a good wife who complements me well. That fulfils my primary social needs. Anything else is a bonus. I enjoy the company of intelligent people, when I have the chance to spend time with them – but I have learnt not to need such company too often. Every now and again, is enough, to meet any social need I might have.

My friend does not deserve to be in pain. He did not ask to be the way he is. He did not make himself more intelligent than the people around him. That is just the way he is. Yet, he suffers all the same. Many gifted people suffer likewise – yet their pain goes unknown, it is something overlooked, marginalized and ignored. Rather than being understood, many gifted people are envied. So, not only do they have to put up with the pain of intellectual isolation – but they receive varying degrees of social hostility too, quite often. This is sad, because, like I said, they are the way they are, through no fault of their own. One cannot blame someone for their genetic inheritance.

I hope my friend manages to change his life for the better and finds a more intelligent milieu in which to live. I hope, too, that every significantly gifted person, in the world, finds at least one other, to relate to, at the level they would wish to, in an ideal world. That is all it takes, to make the pain go away: one person to talk to, freely. Do you have that?

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:12 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share your friend's pain. I don't suppose this will be any consolation to him, but ask him to imagine working in an admin support role while having an IQ off the top of the Wechsler scale.

I've now resorted to writing begging letters to people in my industry of choice, asking to be given a chance, because I have no money to go back to school. I suppose I must face up to the fact that even if I land a new career in that field, I still may be very isolated.

I thought that I had met a kindred soul, but it turned out to be an abusive relationship, despite his intellect. I belong to some of the more selective high-IQ societies, but because of their target membership they only have a handful of members worldwide and it is unlikely I will be catching a plane to go meet any of them soon.

On the positive side, I do have some religious friends who are quite deep thinkers. They're probably the closest thing I have to that sort of intellectual company.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It saddens me to hear that you have not, yet, found a situation to suit you, intellectually, 7Sigma. I do hope your letter writing will work out.

Re. isolation. It only takes ONE person to change all that. You don't need many intellectual companions to make your life better in that respect. All you need to do is find one person to share your thoughts with. For me, that is my wife. Perhaps, for you it will be your future husband. I hope so, for you.

I wish you luck on your career hunt. Perhaps that will also lead you to a like mind.

11:13 PM  

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