In the final chapter of Beyond Reason, I describe my friendship with Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of the groundbreaking bestseller, Magical Child. Now if there is anyone on the planet who could help me understand a magical child like Brian, it is Joe Pearce—and explain he did. "We need to listen to the children," Joe exhorts. "They are our teachers!" I describe some of what he taught me and then share stories of how children I have known have shown a great natural intelligence:
When our second son, Matthew, was four years old, I was taking an IQ test I found in a magazine. There was one question (by far the hardest, requiring a one-in-a-million IQ above 150) that I could not figure out, even after seeing the correct answer. It was a complicated geometrical progression of colors and proportions. So, as Matthew walked by, I asked him to look at the problem and its six possible answers. He glanced over at it and said matter-of-factly, “B” (the correct answer).
“How did you know that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
A few weeks later, I was filling out a school application for Matthew and asked him to weigh himself on the bathroom scale. He disappeared for a few minutes and then came back with the information, “a three and a zero,” he said. (He could not count to thirty.) A few hours later, I was filling out an insurance application as Matthew came by and watched me write down my weight as 180 pounds. “Oh, six Matthews,” he said. Yet, two years later, he still did not know how to perform multiplication or division.
When Matthew was in kindergarten, I used to visit his class to tell stories and play games with the children. Sometimes I would play intuition games, just to let the kids know that—with me at least—it was okay to express this part of themselves. To prepare a game, I took a childhood picture of a mass murderer, circled it, and put it in an envelope marked with an “A” on the outside. Then I took pictures of Matthew and Brian (I always try to create links to Brian; it helps me get better results), circled Matthew’s picture, and put it into an envelope with “B” on the outside.
I then told the children the story of how the founder of Sony Electronics used his intuition to make better business decisions. After he used his brain to make the best possible deal, he would use his belly to make his final decision. He would imagine “eating” the deal and see how it felt in his belly. If it felt good, he would take the deal, and if it felt bad, he would refuse it. Next, I told the children to imagine that they had two offers to have a play date with two kids that they did not know well, both for the same time. They were going to use their bellies to decide which one to play with. I told them that the two kids’ pictures were circled inside the two sealed envelopes, which I then showed them.
“Now close your eyes, and imagine you are eating envelope A.” After a few seconds, I told them to keep their eyes closed and raise their hand if it felt good. Two hands went up out of thirteen children. Then I asked for the hands of those whose bellies felt bad. Nine hands went up. I repeated the same process with envelope B (Matthew’s picture) and got twelve “goods” and one “bad.” When I opened the envelopes and explained whom the pictures were of, the teacher put her hands to her face and said, “Oh, my goodness!” But the children just asked for another story; it was no surprise to them.
My final example of child wisdom occurred when Kathryn and I returned home one evening after having dinner out. Our babysitter, a wonderful girl of twelve whose father is a fundamentalist Christian minister, had told the children Bible stories and about how you go to hell when you are bad. “Things come out and grab you!” she said proudly, pinching her fingers together. I did not like this, so I told her in front of the children that some stories are okay with me, but I do not want the children to hear stories, watch TV shows, or be around people who are trying to make them afraid. It was a little awkward, but I did not speak in anger, which helped get the idea across.
A few minutes later, after Kathryn left to take the sitter home, Matthew asked, “Is hell real?”
“Yes,” I answered, “it is a real thought, a real possibility, maybe even a real dream. Not a place I care to spend my time, though.”
Then Matthew pointed to his hand and said, “I see a hook trying to stick into my hand.”
“I call that a daydream,” I said.
“How do I make it go away?” Matthew asked.
“If you push it away, it will just push back. It is trying to teach you something. Make it feel welcome, and ask what it wants.”
After a few seconds, Matthew spoke, “It says don’t get hooked by a dream—and now it’s gone.”
“Kid,” I said, “you’re good.”