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 +

Friday, August 31, 2012

Self-deprecating humour of a child prodigy.

Some able people praise themselves, a few others do what Ainan does: be self-deprecating.

About a month ago, Ainan remarked: “If people learn from their mistakes, I must be the most knowledgeable person in the world.”

He smiled at the end, and snorted a little laugh. His eyes twinkled at me.

I laughed with him.

Now, it must be said that this is Ainan’s style – to underplay or downplay himself. It must also be said that his remark is not true – for he does not make an unusual number of mistakes, in fact, he seems to make many fewer than most. Yet, this remark of his, is certainly typical of the way he refers to himself. He is even able to bring humour into how he describes himself.

I suppose that this self-deprecating humour of his may actually endear him to people. There is nothing more irritating than someone who spends their days boasting about themselves. By the same measure, there is something disarming about someone who downplays their many achievements and abilities and even speaks of them in a humorous way.

I do worry sometimes, though, that Ainan is a little too self-deprecating, on occasion. It makes me wonder whether he is actually being humorous – or, in fact, cannot see himself as he is, in relation to others. I think a clear vision of one’s place in the world and relation to others, is most helpful in guiding one’s choices in life. I do hope that Ainan’s tendency to self-deprecate won’t get in the way of that.

Having said that, Ainan’s approach will probably win him more friends than the opposite tack would garner. He is not one to push people away with a massive ego...he simply doesn’t have one. If anything he has the opposite of an ego. He is a quiet boy, who does not impose a self-image on the world, but holds it in reserve. When he speaks of himself, it is occasionally to disarm what others might think of him. He also manages to do it with humour. Indeed, humour is one of his more notable characteristics and it leaks into most areas of his life. He even began to make scientific jokes as early as six years old – but that is another tale.

I like this new wittiness that I see growing in Ainan. He has become a fashioner of one-liners. Most of them are not self-deprecating however, and are neutral in content. I shall keep an eye on the self-deprecating side of him, though, because I would not like to see that become too dominant. It is dangerous to do that too much – for one day the person uttering such lines, might come to believe in them – and that wouldn’t be healthy.

In the meantime, I shall enjoy Ainan’s spontaneous humour and learn from the glimpses it reveals, of how he thinks about himself, and the world.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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