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The Child Prodigy

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The little girl sat at the piano. Her legs weren’t showing but there was no way she could reach the pedals. She either wouldn’t be using them at all or perhaps there were special constructs with extending rods or trained little gnomes pressing the pedals in her feet’s name. She wore a pink dress and a matching barrette, which drew her slick black hair back and let show the few baby tufts remaining above her temples. Her look was extremely serious. On the title, above the video, it read “three year old plays Beethoven” or something more catchy but along the same lines. On the comments underneath someone wrote: “A great talent combined with Asian discipline.” Again, I may be paraphrasing slightly, but the word “discipline” was definitely there and along with “three-year-old” in the title, it made me shudder.


You see, it’s this allergy that I have. If you’re allergic to prawns, for example, and someone mentions them in a random conversation, it is very likely that you will feel a tingling in your neck. Or, if you suffer from migraines, you may not be able to watch the movie Pi, because you’ll get a mnemic sensation of the pain you know too well. In the same way, myself and discipline don’t get along very well.


Discipline can be, of course, a number of things. One example of discipline is the above hard-line training (and not necessarily combined with talent or desire in part of the trainee). Also discipline, when e.g. you want your kids to stop shouting in a restaurant, is the difference between explaining to them why they shouldn’t shout and “because I say so.” In all dictionary entries discipline is defined through words such as “punishment,” “control,” “correction” and “obedience.”  Discipline is an authoritative value, vaguely connected to reasoning. It is rather something to showcase and take pride in. Discipline isn’t a survival skill that you have to pass on to your children. It is primarily meant to gratify the caretaker's thirst for power and is superficially attached to societal demands. We deem discipline cruel for circus animals, claiming it’s not in their nature to be trained so they can jump through burning hoops in order to amuse people. Well, guess what: Discipline is equally against human nature, and you can witness that in the emotional difficulties and anxiety disorders around (and probably inside) you.


I looked at my three year old. In principle and in contrast to how I was raised, I don’t discipline. I communicate. I don’t impose. I negotiate. In fact, he has asked me to ground him, to see how it is. He didn’t like it, so we never played that game again. My boy has the attention span of a dog in a room full of tennis balls. He loves life, is curious about everything and doesn’t appear to possess any great talents. He’s just a lad who likes building things, singing joyfully and generally not giving a damn.


At this point, I can only imagine him doing this forever, even though I know there’s a world full of the things he hasn't discovered yet and those that he will rediscover, perhaps more than once. He may find something in there that he will feel passionate about and pursue with rigor. Or not. He may have an unexceptional life and his name may never be commemorated outside his circle of family and friends. Yet, he will have a good chance at happiness.


I looked again at the little piano girl. I imagined her grown up, bowing in front of a full theater in standing ovation. Her parents would be in the first row bursting with pride. Tears would glisten in the corners of her mother’s eyes, and daddy’s chin would be trembling. On the bright stage, perhaps there would be red roses scattered around her black recital dress. I could picture that. But my cliché wasn’t meant to reach its climax. I just couldn’t picture her smile.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 07:17
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