How gifted do you have you be before they say you are crazy?

A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind

Have people ever told you that you are gifted? Do you have a gifted child? What does that mean; and how gifted do you have to be before they call you crazy?

I got excited when I watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Based on the true story of the Nobel Prize winner, John Nash, I totally understood his obsessive drawing on windows to try to visualize deep mathematical problems that he hoped would explain the universe.

I use big sheets of paper on the wall myself and am in no danger of winning a Nobel Prize, but when I pointed out that I use the same technique as John Nash, my friend put her hand gently on mine, looked into my eyes with concern and said, “But John Nash was schizophrenic.” Which is true.

I have been told that I am gifted and even “brilliant.” I don’t like that; if I’m so brilliant, why do I do such dang fool things?  I have been told more often that I am “quirky” or “loony” (but in a good way, they add.)  For some reason, I like that better. I figure if the world is such a mess, then it needs a few “creatively maladjusted” people, as Martin Luther King said. If what you’re doing is not working, world, do something different! Maybe I can help!

I have gifted children. They are quite hard to raise well. We humans are not happy if we are too different from other humans. We are social creatures, after all. So what do I do about a three year-old who, despite my best efforts to keep her “normal,” teaches herself to read? Or a son who perceives all sides of an object at once? Because they did not fit into a regular classroom, I became a pioneer home schooler, back when it was considered child abuse. By the way, they are grown now and doing fine.

I, and one of my daughters have synesthesia. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It means “to sense together.” For example:

“Guitar music doesn’t just tickle Carol Crane’s fancy, it also brushes softly against her ankles. When she hears violins, she feels them on her face…Sean Day, PhD, tastes in Technicolor.” Well, is that gifted or sick? Synesthetes do not know that other people lack these senses until someone tells them and they do not want to be cured.

My synesthesia involves good and evil and the sense of smell. When I read or hear things that are really evil, I smell a bad smell-I call it the “whiff of sulphur.” The smell precedes the awareness. In other words, as I am reading I smell something nasty, then read more carefully. “Wait, is this person saying (in a very reasonable and scientific way) that certain “racial groups” are inferior and should be eliminated? For the good of humanity?

When I think of “The South” where I have lived for many years, I see live oak branches hanging over a porch and smell jasmine and roadkill, sweetness and violence simultaneously, fried chicken in a wicker picnic basket; dinner on the grounds in the cool, cool shade of the hanging tree.

Yup. Still crazy after all these years.-Simon and Garfunkel

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