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 +

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Clint Eastwood is not the only one.

Fintan, 8, can be a rather cool kid, sometimes. By this I mean, cool in the way that certain iconic film stars have been, in my lifetime – with their pithy lines and their meaningful expressions, saying so much more than the words they have used. I mean the kind of cool that makes an impression on the viewer that is still remembered many years later. Fintan has that kind of cool, without really being aware of it.

A week or so ago, Fintan was playing Team Fortress 2 – a “shoot em up” style computer game.

He played with an easy flair of one accustomed to such things. At one point he shot a rocket at the feet of an opponent, which blasted the intact man far into the air.

You don’t want to have a dead man’s body falling from the sky!” he remarked to his elder brother Ainan.

Then he fired again at the man, in mid air, catching him in a direct hit.

You want pieces of him!

The man exploded scattering chunks of redness everywhere.

His action and attendant words were so deft, so skilled, so well timed, that Ainan laughed to see him do it. When I heard the story, it immediately called to mind the pithy sayings of Clint Eastwood’s, or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmic alter egos, in which they would, in a few words, make comic what is, in fact, disagreeable to anyone of any sensitivity.

I don’t expect that Fintan is aware of what he is doing when he speaks in such a way, but actually he is being quite comically skilled. He creates an expectation with one statement – in this case that he disagreed with the idea that a dead man should be falling from the sky – and then follows it up with an even worse fate for the dead man. That is a structure which evokes laughter in the unprepared. What strikes me about it is that a young boy can be aware of and make use of such a structure, without perhaps being conscious that he is doing so. Comedy seems to emerge spontaneously in child development, humour being one of the more interesting manifestations of a developing personality. What is particularly interesting about it is that it appears spontaneously in some children, but not, it seems, in all children. What is it, I wonder that allows for the development of humour in some but not others? Why are some children simply funnier than their fellows? One aspect, I believe is the ability to consider the unexpected and the unlikely and bring them into the conversation. Some children do that readily, it being, perhaps, a property of imagination. Other children are stuck in the real, in what is, and what is before them, and cannot readily do this – so they are not funny.

All three of our sons are funny in their own ways. This humour often depends on the bizarre quality of their thought. In seeing them in action, I am often moved to consider the nature of their parents, and the origins of such a tendency to the bizarre. In that, I would say both their parents are to blame to some extent. It is funny though, to see these attributes reincarnated in the next generation and see them manifest in different ways. Few things in life are more interesting than observing how elements of oneself are reborn in the subsequent generations. My children’s style of humour is one of them. I look forward to much enjoyment to come.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:59 PM 


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