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, September 08, 2012

Optimism vs. pessimism

A few days ago, Ainan observed:

Negative thinking: you are never disappointed.”

His remark came in the midst of a conversation about attitudes on life.

He seemed to be endorsing negative thinking as the way to go. For him, it seemed self-evident that one who thinks negatively, is going to have less of a problem in life than one who thinks positively. Personally, I disagree. You see, in my household, I am the optimist, and my wife is somewhat of a pessimist. It seems, however, that Ainan has inherited more of my wife’s disposition, on the matter, if he spoke autobiographically. I think this is a bit of a pity since there is something about optimism or positive thinking that my son has overlooked: an optimist will always give something a try because he or she believes there is a good chance of success, if one does so. The pessimist, on the other hand, may not try some particular endeavour having convinced themselves that they will not succeed, so why bother?

Luckily, Ainan’s devotion to “negative thinking” does not appear to be strong. In fact, I wonder if he was endorsing it in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. You see, Ainan is always trying new things and creating new things. So, he is certainly not held back by the typical pessimist’s attitude to such efforts. I think, therefore, Ainan was just observing that if you think negatively then you avoid one potential consequence, each and every time: disappointment. I don’t think, given the way he actually behaves, that he was relating how he actually thought.

With Ainan, now, there is a tendency to coin punchy phrases and one liners. Yet, these may not actually describe his personal view on the world, but more of his perception of certain understandings that appeal to him, in an aesthetic way. By this I mean that he likes the sound of the thought he has expressed, but doesn’t necessarily hold it for himself. He is playing with thoughts and ideas and seeing which appeal to the mind.

I shall enquire more as to this attitude to negative thinking, in time. For now, I will say only this: if he holds some degree of negativity, it could be allied to his tendency to be self-deprecating. It is another part of his tendency to downplay things. In this case, downplaying the possibility of a positive outcome.  In all, it adds up to a more sober less exuberant view of the future and the world. Perhaps, actually, this leads to a certain “level-headedness”, in that he won’t get carried away with possibilities, but will seek to estimate actualities instead...or perhaps even underestimate them. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on his choices in life. At this time, it does not seem to hamper him from experimentation and growth in any way. I remain watchful.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:01 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting... I came to a similar conclusion when I was about 13 or so. I thought that optimists are constantly disappointed since they have such an idealistic perspective and pessimists are therefore always pleasantly surprised at what happens. But now that I have grown and actually met people who are optimistic and pessimistic, I notice that true optimists, no matter what happens, instead of being disappointed are always able to put things into a more possitive light ('Oh well, I'll just try again next time') but pessimists will treat even positive events with scorn and cynicism. ('It's probably just a mistake, I probably really failed...). So true pessimists are never pleasantly surprised. They are always unhappy.

2:52 AM  

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