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Our grandson and Lady Gaga

BY Jerry Pattengale

Our grandson, Titus, looked a bit perplexed when he saw Lady Gaga on TV. He turned to my wife and said, “I just saw her eyes and she was thinking about something . . . She worships herself.”

Cindy about fell over. He’s only five years old!

At that age, I was preoccupied with my K-Mart bags of green plastic army soldiers. Making bows and arrows from willow branches near the Wabash River. How to catch rats in our repurposed house – formerly a bakery near Buck Creek, Indiana. Catching soft crawls in Sugar Creek, which fetched a cent each at a bait shop at the Wabash-Tippecanoe confluence. Or, pouring warm water on dry ground to prompt night crawlers to surface – they also fetched a penny.

But evaluating character behind cosmetics was beyond my years, actually, beyond even my junior-high world. I suppose Cher was the closest thing to Lady Gaga with her “Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves.” The only thing I was thinking was where is the guy that sings with her “I Got You Babe?”

The depth of Titus’s observation was out of my pre-school grasp. He noticed her eyes as conveying character. That she was contemplative. That her eyes were a window to her worship. Last, that she was worshipping herself. At least he didn’t use the word narcissist, which likely would have given his Nina a heart attack.

His seven-year brother, Malachi, is just as smart. He’s in a Spanish-emersion school and is already bilingual. Last Easter, he also surprised us during our traditional time before the meal. We ask the kids to share Bible verses they have learned. Malachi stood on our ottoman and quoted verses twenty minutes before we stopped him – dinner was getting cold! Now he can do them in Spanish, so we’ll set the oven timer.

How do kids get so smart?

Part of it is, for lack of better words, is genetic fortune. For example, my sisters are silly smart – one graduated from Harrison High School at 16. Another had only on “B” her whole life, including college. My three younger brothers are just plain intelligent. One graduated from Marion High School at age 15. Yeah, the gene pool must have strengthened over time and skipped me! Another just finished a cool house out of a grain bin – every angle, every board, even various metal parts, personally made. They’re all smarter than I (which might not be saying much). My grandsons come from a different gene pool, however, since I adopted their dad after his father died. He was gifted, and so is his father.

All people are “created equal” isn’t talking about intellectual capacity. For example, my mentor, the renowned Dr. Edwin Yamauchi (Emeritus History Professor at Miami University, OH), knows around 30 languages. Likewise, my friend Ryan has a memory like a vault – as friends at Taylor University learned when he recently showed them the Museum of the Bible in D.C. His brilliance parted their hair, manifest in his non-stop, rapid-fire details about a mélange of biblical artifacts. Then they learned about his high-finance exploits while still in his 20s. This left us scratching our heads thinking – “How is that possible?” Well, then we remembered his brilliance.

Yeah, some people like my siblings, grandkids, mentor, and Ryan are silly smart.

However, add to that great parenting and you find some well-developed minds for life – like our grandsons. It’s hard not to think of Malcolm Gladwell’s “ten thousand hours” here, that is, what he found to be a common trait among most people we call geniuses. Time-on-task matters.

The daily routines of Titus and Malachi have them easily on the 10,000-hour trajectory. Their parents are brainy (in medical professions) and their grandparents on their mother’s side (retired ministers) live close and are part of their educational routine. Lengthy reading time every night. Scripture memory each morning. A 30-minute daily limit for TV. Regular story-time with their dad. A routine with their Nina (Cindy) involving road trips.

“I just saw her eyes and she was thinking about something . . . She worships herself.”

Whether Lady Gaga actually is self-absorbed is a discussion for another day, and for people who actually know her. That is, those who know her as “Stefani Germanotta” (her real name). What we do know is that her name change and creative music approach – obviously accented by her amazing voice – has worked for business. Just Google her real name and around 2.8 million hits show (which can be for many reasons unrelated to the person you’re Googling). Then, Google “Lady Gaga” and you’ll see 318 million hits.

The scary thing about smart grandkids is they also are assessing us! Perhaps Titus looks into my eyes and deduces, “He wasn’t thinking . . . lights are on and nobody’s home.” Or, “Nothing going on there . . . he’s a few heatshields short of reentry.” Regardless of his cognitive assessments, it’s nice to know he’s smart enough to look into my eyes and conclude “He worships me, in a palatable way.”

Jerry Pattengale is author of more than 30 books, including most recently: Is the Bible at Fault? He is currently working on a six-part TV series, 2020/State of Faith (TBN), and a companion book, along with The New Book of Christian Martyrs (Tyndale House) and Public Intellectuals and the Common Good (IVP). He serves as University Professor at Indiana Wesleyan University.