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dreamed 2009/10/15 by Wayan.
I read Terman's Kids by Joel Shurkin, on Louis Terman's lifelong study of over a thousand gifted kids. Shurkin got access to data held private for decades, and I have a strong personal interest in his findings: I was a child prodigy. So what happened to others who scored off the top of the scale, how'd they end up?
For academic degrees, income, scientific prizes and patents, Terman (and Shurkin) have quantitative data. But for what I care about, creativity (and happiness) he has only a few sample biographies--the writer for "I Love Lucy", the inventor of the K ration, the photographic reporter couple, the writing/editing team of L. Sprague de Camp and Anthony Boucher. Not all his fault: the rules allowing Shurkin access to Terman's files forbade him to list or discuss the books, music and art that Termites created, unless they'd already come out of the closet.
Shurkin flames Terman's racism, sexism, and genetic determinism--but his own biases lead him to skimp on details when he thinks a subtopic (like genius) is silly old Terman; we aren't allowed to judge for ourselves. But what little there is on the very brightest Termites undermines Terman's claim that prodigies are well-adjusted; as Grady Towers argued in The Outsiders, most of the bios of the over-170 group are disappointing to tragic. More women had serious careers than was typical for that generation, but still, most of them never have the opportunity to exercise their full talents. Half the geniuses dreaming their lives away...
Turquoise vault after-hours in school:
the concrete lip of an indoor pool
where an aquabatic dance team
damp-runs a sleek chorale.
A coach singles out the smallest girl,
fishes her out to a far quiet pool.
Too young to keep up? Oh, not at all!
An elegant wriggler, if anchovy small,
she'll solo in their show. Ottery,
peculiar body, disproportionate,
a tiny eel-baby torso, but
legs heron-long. And she
(daring red bikini) bares her flanks:
all wiggling adolescent look-at-me.
Yet energy is neither kid nor teen:
gestures forceful, taciturn,
adult. She knows exactly where
she's going--every move is pure.
Her wiggle's cute. But she's not yet
seriously sex--she's all about
attention, crush, standing out, curiosity.
Emotional dry runs--the only place
her behavior fits that mild child's face
masking her blaze of fierce precocity.
Think I read too much from scant
far quirks? Exactly why this rant!
Body and heart out of sync with mind,
patchwork prodigy--I read my kind.
- big head, kid's torso, teen legs, adult soul: this image recurs in my dreams--a child prodigy with disparate maturity-levels made visible, physical. A sculpted example: Cambodian Girl.
- I see she's a prodigy at a glance: literal. Child prodigies have a distinct body language from growing up so strangely: each facet matures at its own rate. The weird proportions of this kid often apear in my figure drawings, especially figures from dreams, and those distortions are my unconscious way of physicalizing the different energy of prodigies:
Prodigies' Oddities details why I think these traits develop.
- Big but childlike head (the prodigy's brain, far ahead of the developing body; but retaining a child's fantasy and play into adulthood. It's how we invent.)
- Small torso and breasts (socialization and nurturance less advanced--and often stay that way. I'm still shy and wary.)
- Big hands (builders and makers. Can be masked by teachers calling you clumsy or sloppy--they forget you're younger than your classmates, forget your agemates can't write or draw at all.)
- Larger hips than breasts (strong/early sex drive, though slower/later than the brain, so it may seem retarded to others. Masked, again. My sisters & I hit puberty age 8-9)
- bright skimpy clothes (lifelong adolescents! Playful showoffs--though abuse, shunning and bashing can mask it. I still find tasteful clothes boring. Gimme loud, sexy and goofy.)
- large legs/feet (early, obstinate independence; grounded and comfortable in nature; not at all the wimps we're portrayed as. I was bookish but climbed mountains too. Only humans scared me.)
- Terman claimed the highly gifted are well-adjusted but the dream sides with Leta Hollingworth and Grady Towers that a child prodigy's intellectual, emotional, social, sexual, and physical maturation can be years out of sync, making it impossible to fit in.
- What to do about it? For most gifted, a good school with advanced placement courses may be enough to let a kid find like-minded peers; but for true child prodigies, say IQ 170 and up, skipping way ahead may be the least bad option. Send us early to a university full of older gifteds, and cross your fingers. Risky, but... we'll never fit in. No peer group to fit in to, at any age. The other strategy that may work: a very diverse community, with unconventional gifted friends of all ages.
- Girl, mentor, solo: I'm male but my life's more closely resembled the female "Termites"; comfortable on a daily level but creative ambitions channeled into hobbies since we lack connections and support. I needed mentors who'd pull me from the chorus line and make me go solo, dare to bare myself before an audience. On the other hand, Grady Towers argues that between the Scylla of conformist success and Charybdis of total isolation, being an eccentric with a hobby may be the best way for prodigies to freely innovate (like Darwin, Dickinson & Einstein).
- Prodigies, this decoupling is normal! You can waste years trying to fix psychological quirks and social problems that are, for those of us off the IQ scale, optimal maladjustment--as good as you'll ever get, given that swim in a sea of people profoundly unlike you. So let that be your mantra:
Remember: ya read it here first.
- Does the dream want me to mentor child prodigies? Dunno. I was just a witness. But I'll post the insight here for other prodigies hunting the web.
- This is Dreamverse #60. Every week, a dream-poem!
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