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 +

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reaction to an "intellectual".

Many years ago, when I was barely out of my teens, I was on a train to a place unremembered, reading a book, never forgotten. It was one of Samuel Beckett’s novels, from his trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable. As I read, quietly, in an end seat in the subdivided train compartment, I annotated the book, writing my thoughts in response to Beckett’s, my understandings of his understandings and ideas of my own that emerged as I read. I wrote in very small writing with a biro. I was very intent.

A voice interrupted me.

“You think you are so intelligent.”, sneered a middle aged woman across from me.

I looked up at her, somewhat surprised, but more puzzled at what she had said.

“I am just reading a book.”, I said, matter of factly, trying not to rise to her provocation.

“You think you are SO intelligent.”, she said again, with even more of a sneer.

Now, I thought this most odd, since I wasn’t thinking of myself at all, but of the book I was reading and the place it had taken me to.

“You know nothing about me.”, I began softly, but with an intensity that made it seem hard, “I have said nothing about my intelligence, to you. So, why are you attacking me for it? I am just reading a book on a train – what is wrong with that?”

Her mouth, if anything, looked even more sour than before.

“You are writing in your book.”, she said, as if that was proof of her view of my self-image.

“I am writing, because I am recording my thoughts in response to the book. That is all.”

Her sourness condensed further.

“You are just showing off.” Her sneer was well on the way to becoming a scar, by now.

“I am not showing anything. I am not writing for your consumption and entertainment, I am writing so that I am able to look at my thoughts again, later. It is not for you that I write.”

She didn’t know what to say, but there was a strange kind of hate cum envy in her eyes. She looked out of the train window. The conversation was at an end.

I returned to my reading and my writing. Aware that she was observing me from across the carriage, but not paying her any more attention. I had become accustomed to hostility from people less bright than myself, but I hadn’t expected to be attacked for reading on a train. I thought it odd that a middle aged lady should be so hateful of intellectual interest. It was odder still that she should assume to know what I thought about myself, from me quietly reading and saying nothing to anyone. Looking back, I do wonder if she were a little mad – and whether she projected her own evaluation of me – that I was “so intelligent” – onto me and ascribed it to me. This would be paranoid thinking and it seems quite possible now that that explains her behaviour.

Yet, there is another explanation that requires far less supposition: that she was hateful of any intellectual activity – that she was “giftist” as I call it. If so, then that attitude was alive and strong about a quarter of a century ago. Even now it is a toxic memory. At the time it was rather like being awoken to the sensation of sandpaper on one’s skin – a rasping reality that could not be ignored.

I have never forgotten her strange action – but was only reminded of it, today, after long years, on sighting the word “annotate”. Suddenly the event flooded into memory again.

It is a wonder that giftism is not more widely spoken of. I even had to create the word myself, some years ago, since at the time, there was not a single hit for it, on the Internet. Attitudes such as this unknown lady’s are truly corrosive, in society and make life difficult for more intellectually minded individuals. It seems likely that she behaved toxically towards any seeming intellectual she met. How many people would she bully in a lifetime? Hundreds, certainly...Imagine if she were a teacher, then there would be thousands of victims. These people are very harmful to society and to the health of a culture – yet she is not alone, there are many people who hate the “gifted”, the “smart”, the “intellectuals”...and even pride themselves on their hate. They think it “trendy” to attack the bookish, the thoughtful, the preoccupied. That woman wouldn’t even leave a young man to read in peace on a train, without trying to poison the experience.

I used to read a lot. I don’t read much these days. Life seems to take up too much time to leave enough time to read as much as I would like. Yet, I am now middle aged and I still see her words to me as foreign. I couldn’t possibly imagine saying them to a youngster reading on a train. I am more likely to feel glad they were reading and just to sneak a peek at the book title, to see how weighty it might be. I would be happiest if it were a complex and rich work. That is what I would like to see in the young today...intellectual preoccupations, thoughtfulness and a desire to learn. I certainly can’t imagine attacking anyone for it.

The UK has gone into a cultural and intellectual decline in recent decades. No doubt that lady, who would now be a pensioner, would be quite happy with the way things are going. I, however, are not. Here’s to a future world in which every youngster reads on trains and thinks in public. How much better a world that would be.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

(If you would like to support my continued writing of this blog and my ongoing campaign to raise awareness about giftedness and all issues pertaining to it, please donate, by clicking on the gold button to the left of the page.

To read about my fundraising campaign, please go to: and here:

If you would like to read any of our scientific research papers, there are links to some of them, here:

If you would like to see an online summary of my academic achievements to date, please go here: learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 and Tiarnan, 5, 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.

There is a review of my blog, on the respected The Kindle Report here:

Please have a read, if you would like a critic's view of this blog. Thanks.

You can get my blog on your Kindle, for easy reading, wherever you are, by going to:

Please let all your fellow Kindlers know about my blog availability - and if you know my blog well enough, please be so kind as to write a thoughtful review of what you like about it. Thanks.

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

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:17 PM 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape