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 +

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston's death and a hollow life.

Whitney Houston is dead. Everyone knows this by now. To me, however, her death, from undeclared causes at just 48, is emblematic of a profound problem some people seem to have, even though they have “made it”. They live hollow lives. I shall explain.

Whitney Houston seemingly had everything. She had wealth, fame, success (at least formerly) and the respect that goes with it. She also had a daughter by Bobby Brown. Yet, for her all of this – which to most people would have been plenty – was not enough. She needed the exquisite pleasures of drugs too...and by all accounts lots of them. She became, for many years, consumed by them. This, to me, indicates that her life, for all its seeming fullness, was hollow. She must have felt there was something profound missing, for her to have to seek solace in chemical pleasures. Only a deep dissatisfaction with her life, its totality and meaning could lead someone down the path of a drugged self-destruction. Happy lives don’t end with drugs. They don’t even begin to take drugs. So, hers, in some way, was not a happy, fulfilled, pleasing life – she needed chemical support to feel what she felt she must feel.

Now, I am not going to single Whitney Houston out for this particular foolishness. Amy Winehouse is another recent example of the phenomenon. She too had a life that would seem to have been full and rich in many ways. She too, however, sought drugged oblivion, though her favourite was alcohol. Both died young, probably for much the same reasons...either the drugs themselves or the health consequences of having taken them, too long, too often.

The history of entertainment and culture in general is littered with examples of the same phenomenon – drug induced or associated deaths of famous, successful people. I should note that we do not know if Whitney Houston’s death was caused by drugs, but it does seem likely that they played a role, even if only as inducers of general ill health. Whatever the case, it doesn’t affect my argument. All of these people led what seem to the outside, to be full, interesting, rich, complete lives, filled with opportunities and experiences few have the chance to have. Yet all of these people were somehow hollow. Their lives were empty of real meaning, because they sought to fill them with the temporary pleasures of chemically enhanced delights. Had their lives been truly meaningful to them, they would not have needed such stimulation and would have avoided it, out of respect for the lives they had.

To me, it seems, that there is a profound failure here, a profound artistic and creative failure. If their artistic work had been pursued as intently as it could have been, then, it seems to me, it should have given their lives the meaning and the rewards they, in fact, sought elsewhere. Had they been absorbed enough in their creative work, then they would have had no need for drugs, because the work itself would have given them all the pleasure, meaning and reward they sought. Thus, their flight into drugs is a kind of artistic failure – a failure of absorption in work, a failure of personal intensity, a failure of drive, and a failure to respect their work and the ability to do it, itself.

So however many people come out to say how “great” Whitney Houston was – just as they said how “great” Amy Winehouse was, there is something which really should not be denied or ignored: they failed as artists and as human beings, because they neither respected and valued their work and themselves enough to avoid seeking self-destruction in drugs. Had they been more fully involved in their artistic work, they would not have craved such artificial pleasures. That they did, means that for all the “greatness” they achieved, that whatever they achieved was less than they could have achieved, had they been more fully focussed on their work.

So what we have with Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse and the many others before them, are people who probably never reached their true potential as artists, because they were focussed more on passing pleasures than the more profound (one hopes) rewards of their creative work. They could have been so much more than they were, had they had that self-respect and fuller absorption in their work.

However “great” therefore it is decided Whitney Houston was, I cannot help but feel, that the work we saw from her, was not as great as she could have achieved, had she been undistracted by the need for chemical pleasure. It should also be remembered that almost all such drugs induce brain damage of various kinds. Whitney Houston (and Amy Winehouse etc), became much less than they could have. That is the greater pity here, than Whitney’s passing. She could have made an even greater mark on the world, than she did. How much greater, we will never know...for the version we have of her, is the drug damaged one. We don’t know what a dedicated, drug-free Whitney Houston might have achieved. I am sure of this would have been a whole lot more.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:28 AM 


Blogger gladye said...

I agree that Whitney had a hollow in her soul and died because it was unfilled. She was indeed trying to fill her void with the wrong things. I don't know that she needed to be more true to her craft and that that would have "healed" her. We humans keep seeking but will never be truly be fulfilled until we fill that void with what it really needs and that is God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Gladye, for your comment.

For some people, particularly artists, greater dedication to their craft is, indeed, most healing. For many of them, it would be enough. Perhaps for others a recourse to God and such comforts would achieve the same end. It seems that Whitney Houston found neither solution, however. She found a third...which proved unwise.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I wish that she gave up drugs for good. Her daughter should have been a good-enough reason not to use drugs.
Using illicit drugs has never helped anyone. It's a shame that so many great talents have died from them. Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and many others.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, we have all lost by their abuse of drugs. They lost their lives...and we lost decades of great work, that would have meant much to us all. Sad.

11:22 AM  

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