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, June 23, 2012

The brevity of life.

Recently, Ainan has taken to considering the brevity of life. It troubles him, somewhat, to look ahead and see so few years to come.

“Life is SO short,” Ainan, said, a few days ago, without preamble. He almost seemed to be cursing its brevity.

“I am 12.”, he continued, a little too soberly, “...and that took no time at all, to reach.”

I kept quiet at that point. I held in my mind a thought I knew he wouldn’t want to hear: that I am 44 – and that took no time at all, to reach either. However old a human gets, they will still feel the same: that it took no time at all to reach their present age. It is one of the odd facts of our existence – that we would feel even the infinite were but an instant.

“Your generation should live a lot longer than mine.”, I said, to comfort him.

“I don’t know about that.”, he countered, a little too sure of himself.

“You think the world is going to have a catastrophic future?”

He just nodded in answer. Ainan didn’t think much of the way the world was being managed by its “leaders” – and was well aware of the steadily accumulating environmental issues, energy problems, pollution, species loss, potential ecosystem collapse and the generally apocalyptic trend of human mismanagement of nature. He didn’t see much hope in the face of it, primarily because he didn’t think much of the competence of those making the relevant decisions.

“No. It won’t.” I said, not quite certain of it, myself.

He just shook his head, deflecting my words and walked off, his thoughts a little too sombre.

Not for the first time, I considered the connection between high intelligence and a sobering view of reality. Smart people tend to understand, too well, the problems Mankind faces and see, too clearly, the limits those could place on their own places – so they can tend to be a little pessimistic as to what is to come.  Dumber types, however, are quite content to be happily ignorant and dismissive of all the darker possibilities. They will live quite happily...until they finally realize how wrong they were to be so content about it all.

Ainan, however, cannot know the ease of the dumb. He sees what might lie ahead and knows the enormity of the challenges Mankind faces. He also knows, the collective dumbness of those charged with navigating what lies ahead. It is not a happy realization.

Think back to what you were like at 12. Were you concerned at the brevity of life and convinced of hard times ahead for the human race? Let me know what you thought, below, so that I might compare your perspectives to Ainan’s.

Thank you.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:54 PM 


Blogger Mrs Boysis said...

When I was 12... I woke up one morning to a thunderstorm at about 4 a.m. My mother was leaving for work and I was so worried, I prayed till I fell asleep again, and had a dream... it was God talking to me. He assured me that my mom will be ok, and that my mom will get to know God. She was against my religion. She did, one decade later.

My son just turned 12, and he is attending an Ivy League now as an undergrad. I am not sure if he is better off with the kind of anxiety he gets over everything. Using your words, I think it is much better to be 'dumb' if being 'dumb' gives us the ability to enjoy life a little better and makes things a little simpler. It is not fun worrying about SARS and the world financial crisis at three. Remember? Ainan is just a little older than him.

My youngest is 9. He reads the newspaper everyday, recording every flood and natural disaster, analyzing which war might breakout soon. What kind of fear is that? I just wished he would go out and play and not worry about what might strike him.

It is a blessing to be oblivious, even for a little while. I watch my husband. He has no worries, no anxiety. He makes good money, and I think he is smart, too. But in a different and much better way. All of us are given different gifts, I have come to realize that intellectual gifts are not necessarily the best. Looking at my hubby, I think it is so much more blessed to be able to put wads of cash on the table, and not have to worry about anything, just eat, sleep, play with the kids and chat with many, many friends. Tomorrow, this repeats itself. I am trying to learn to be simpler. And, I am teaching my kids to think simpler, letting other people do the worrying about disasters, government inefficiencies, and the Greece crisis. Fixing big things comes with so much sacrifice, I have come to conclude that it is better to be do smaller things and use our gifts and resources for simpler ambitions. A warm pocket is no inferior to a glorious epitaph, though having both is definitely a bonus.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Anxiety is never pleasant and, unfortunately, it can accompany a certain kind of intelligence and awareness of the world. Only the blessed are able to combine awareness of the world's issues, with calmness before them.

It is interesting to hear that your son is in the same position as Ainan. My son, too, is at University. However, he is happier there than the alternative would make him. He much prefers Uni to primary school, having experienced both.

Yes. The oblivious find it easier to know happiness and contentment. With intelligence, can come many a worry and concern for the world that simply would not occur to someone less bright. The secret is to harness that concern to drive one forward to productive action. It would not take many intelligent people to answer many of the world's ills...if only they moved themselves to do so (then were able to move others to act on their thoughts...which is, of course, much the harder part).

I wish you well in life...and yes, a warm pocket and a glorious epitaph is a good and admirable combination!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Mrs Boysis said...

Actually, my son is not in the same position as Ainan. I believe Ainan should be graduating soon. Mine has only finished one semester, so a long way to go!

From your posts, it looks like Ainan is more than just gifted, he seems to be gifted without the usual difficulties of such kids. Mine has sensitivities, normally called Dabrowski excitabilities, so things get complicated and there are many challenges.

Nevertheless, we love our kids no matter what. Gifted or not, perfect or not.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I meant that both of our sons are at University. You can therefore relate to our issues, and us to yours. I wish your son well on his future studies. He has quite an adventure ahead of him.

You are right. I had not considered it but Ainan has a great calmness about him,in general and is not given to the many problems that commonly befall the gifted. I suppose he is gifted in another sense,therefore. We are lucky.

Best wishes on raising your gifted son.

I agree that parents should love their children, whatever their gifts. Though I believe some parents can be conditional about such matters.

Take care.

10:04 PM  

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