Ten Year Old Genius
Everybody has one. If you lived to be ten you were once a genius. At ten your magical thinking synchronized into a mighty imagination. You were Dorothy in
The Wizard of Oz. You were Harry Potter. You were Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. You were the young Richard Wright in Black Boy and the Claudia in The Bluest Eye. You were amazing, every other word falls short. You were a Magician ready and waiting for anything the Universe had in store.
Except puberty. All of a sudden you were pecking your way up the pecking order peck by peck. You were preening your immature plumage, posing and strutting or hiding aghast at the human barnyard carnival. You became a Yes or a No, a Boy or a Girl, Straight or Gay, a Winner or a Loser, or maybe you just disappeared in clever camouflage. Maybe you became an actor, an expert at being other than your truth. Maybe it was much too much. Or maybe you were queen of the prom or quarterback of champions. Whoever you were you were not you, not fully, not without of the encroaching opinions of others: peers, parents, priests and teachers.
You were judged and won prizes or you stopped trying. If you were successful you got to go to college. If you were not you went to work or joined the military. Marriage came sooner or later or not at all. Children too or maybe none. You became a parent whose job description was to ensure your child’s social trajectory was as good as yours or better or a childless adult focused more on making money and mundane pleasures. You forgot about your ten year old. You had supper to cook or the oil to change or the books to balance. You had your social life and your community service. You had no time to be a genius. You forgot you ever were one.
So your kids grew up or you forgot you didn’t have kids. You rose to success in the bank or grocery store or drifted from job to job. Your marriage failed or survived if you ever got married at all. Your parents and siblings lived and died. You held your own or lost you shirt. At the end of the day you were too tired to consider much less remember what was lost when that ten year old genius was swept away in the tides of adolescent hormones.
Let us imagine she or he was deposited on the shore of a congenial island in a tranquil sea. There s/he had everything needed to thrive: abundant food, balmy climate, friendly inhabitants. First you build a sandcastle, a perfect reflection of your personal utopia. You carve roof lines and minarets, pools and secret gardens, and a courtyard in the round. Soon from your imagination spring minstrels and mimes, Ferris wheels and carousels. Your own festival begins to swirl abound you. You relapse into gales of laughter and your feet of their own will dance a jig. How nice, how very nice to paint the night fantastic! Your lungs are the pumps of the swelling music and your feet are dancing to a rhythm that originates at the tip of your spine. Your arms fling open and up pumping the air like wings and the next thing you know you are flying, soaring, at one with the wind your wings spread wide as time and space allow.
No wonder you see everything anew, fresh, resplendent in its tumble and exclamation! No wonder your imagination empowers whatever happens next, come what may. Come what may, the ten year old genius, tumbles into the world out of the giant lapidary of adolescence. Life polishes us, how can we deny that? Around and around we go. Isn’t that the truth? And the ten year old genius? What was rough becomes smooth, what was smooth begins to shimmer, what shimmered begins to shine and what shines is particular and unique, the light of it has never been seen before. If you look real close it is the sparkle in everyone’s eyes. Even your own.
11 August 2015
I first heard the term “ten year old genius” in a recorded talk by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “The Red Shoes.”