The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “child prodigy”

Great Expectations




My parents  did not have much formal education but they possessed a natural intellect and curiosity.  They read voraciously – books, several daily newspapers, news and educational magazines.  Our shelves were filled with literature and second hand books on politics, history, art, science.  I was encouraged to explore them all.

I was an only child by choice.  They both held civil service jobs which, while it provided steady income, their salaries were not high. They decided when they married that it was better to devote all their available resources to one child rather than spread the money thin over a larger brood.   I was the sole beneficiary of their time, their attention, and their assets.  My mother wore the same out-of-date cloth coat for a decade so there was enough money for me to take violin lessons.   When I was born, my father gave up cigarettes and drink to save for my higher education.  They did without restaurant dinners so I could go on class trips.  They took me to museums and free concerts and lectures by powerful speakers and to political rallies. Every week,  my mother took me to the library where we both chose a pile of books.

From the time I was a small child, I understood that I was expected to go to university.  It was my obligation to excel in life; to grab opportunities which had not been available to my parents in their youth. I was grateful to have such supportive parents.  Every part of my extra-curricular education was provided with the expectation that I would rise to the top both at school and in any endeavor I attempted.

Mostly, I fulfilled that expectation.  I was at the head of all my classes, and was accepted into a handful of well-respected universities, each of them offering a scholarship.

Nearly two decades of investment into my future was finally paying off.  I was gratified that I could make them proud.

One summer evening,  the month before I was set to go off to college,  I went out to meet some friends.    Down on the corner, there was a fight among some tough kids.  I knew them to be trouble and always gave them a wide berth.  I crossed the street to steer clear and set off in the other direction.  Behind me, the fight escalated and one of them pulled out a gun. Shots were fired and though I was some distance away, I was fatally hit.  I was gone before the ambulance even arrived.

My parents were inconsolable.

I am still trying to understand the point of my end.   Even to me, here, it seems like a tragic waste.  But I accept that this is how it was meant to be. I chose this going in, so there must be reason.  I’m beginning to consider that the lesson was not about achieving success, itself, but my giving myself over to the preparation for it. Or perhaps it was to teach me that no matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we devote ourselves to a goal, ultimately life is never within our control.



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A Rose Blossoms


child adult holding hands


I met her when she was very young, a perfect rose among the wilting asters. Even as a child she was poised and full of grace; wise beyond her years. Her natural talent was unmistakable, but it was more than that. She shone, as if a pure light passed through her, magnified.

Children such as this are gifts to the world. It is a rare privilege to teach one.

I did not normally take on students so young, but she needed to be trained properly. To be taught bad habits as a girl might destroy any hope of future perfection. She needed the best. I was the best. It was my duty.

Her parents recognized this. They considered it fortunate that their child had caught the attention of someone such as myself; someone both of deep knowledge and high influence. They believed she never would have been born with such remarkable abilities if they were not meant to be fully developed. And so, because they truly loved her and understood the needs of her soul, they abdicated their obligation and entrusted me to mold and shape her as I felt best.

Our dynamics were complex. One part parent-child, another part ego. Some of it was about legacy. A certain a measure was about need. One share was about wiping clean a tablet full of regrets. We had a mutual fear of abandonment and also shared the fear of being too needy. In this churning stew of high emotion, there was jealousy and suspicion of betrayal; there was anger and frustration; envy and longing. Sometimes, the teacher became the student. We fell in and out of love with each but never mutually at the same time, and never for the right reasons.

Such a relationship offered many opportunities for furthering my spiritual wisdom and deepening my self-knowledge – if I’d only looked deep enough. But even a dedicated seeker of Truth cannot possibly understand the lessons whilst in the thick of it. The emotions come spilling out in a jumble, too confused and fleeting to analyze.

From here, I am no longer lost in the minutia. From this height, I can see the broad strokes, the course of our individual paths on a map that was drawn before we were born.   They ran parallel, then diverged, crossed and forked, rose and fell, once again ran parallel only to diverge yet again.

It will take me a long time to understand this journey.



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