What is the difference between being
ordinary or being extraordinary? Sometimes they are one and the same.
I once wrote about the gifted child’s
viewpoint of others, in a post, “Gifted or Impaired?”. My basic contention in
that post was that a gifted child may not conceive of themselves as gifted, but
of everyone else as “impaired”. I had an interesting conversation with Ainan a
couple of days ago, which called to mind that post.
I had come to understand that Ainan had a
strange view of his gifts. So, I tried to make him see that what he could do was
“It is all ordinary.”, he retorted. “Everything is ordinary.”
There was an expansiveness in his “everything”
that led me to understand something. For Ainan, there are NO extraordinary
achievements, in this world – everything is lumped under the “ordinary” title
he was bestowing on it.
I tried to counter him, but it was no use.
He left the conversation with the same view he had held at the beginning: that
everything he had been able to do in his life was “ordinary” – and that,
perhaps, everything everyone else had proven able to do was “ordinary” too.
Ainan’s inner standard for what would amount to “extraordinary” was so high
that nothing and no-one – except perhaps comic book fictional superheroes –
could possibly qualify as “extraordinary”.
In a way, I see Ainan’s viewpoint on the
matter of what constitutes a special gift, as a defence mechanism. By
conceiving all that he has done and can do as “ordinary”, he does not separate
himself from others – he can be one among all. I suppose that there is some
psychological security in that. He can feel that he belongs, in a way that, perhaps,
to an objective outsider, he might not seem to belong at all.
I didn’t press the point. I am comfortable
with Ainan’s conception of himself, if it makes him feel more comfortable being
who he is, as it seems to. Indeed, his view of himself does rather agree with
my understanding that gifted children might not necessarily be able to see
their own gifts. Should they try to understand them, they might, instead, come
to view others as “less than ordinary” or “impaired”. Ainan has, indeed, come
to a version of this understanding. Ainan has come to the view that there is no
such thing as extraordinary accomplishment – because he is, of course,
benchmarking all such accomplishments against what he can do himself. Given the
level of what he can do and does quite casually, nothing, by comparison, seems
extraordinary anymore. Hence, he conceives of a very ordinary world, in which
there is nothing special in a child being the youngest in the world to have
passed O level, or being in College – as he was – at 8 years old. To Ainan,
that is all very ordinary.
At this time, therefore, I have a truer
understanding of Ainan than he does himself. He does not see the wider world
just yet. He has seen only a small sliver of that world – a small, very
academic sliver. So, he cannot yet see his place in the fullness of the world.
I wonder, now, how he will feel when he comes to the realization - which is pretty certain to come, one day –
that he is very far from ordinary. Will he be able to adjust to such an
understanding? Will he live in denial and try to hold onto his view that “everything
is ordinary”. We shall see. In the meantime, I won’t raise the matter, again,
but will watch, instead, for signs of how his world view is developing.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: being true to oneself, child genius, genius' view of their work, know thyself, lack of self-knowledge, personality characteristics of genius, recognition of genius, self-awareness, self-esteem