Someone Please Explain John P. to Me

May 25, 2010

(Above: Somewhere there’s a five-year-old who can solve this.)

I often find myself thinking about a kid I knew in grade school. Outside of PE, he wasn’t at all remarkable. In fact, I can’t remember ever having another class with him (though I must have had many–we lived in a small town with a small elementary school). On Fridays, our PE coach stopped forcing us to do things like square dance (oh, the horror!) and let us enjoy free play. John P. would put on the only record he owned  (Another One Bites the Dust by Queen) and make his way to the gymnastics mat.

Before most of us were able to complete a good somersault, John could perform the most amazing stunts I’d ever seen. Even in the first grade, he could execute perfect front flips, back flips, twists, and walkovers. I used to sit on the floor and watch in complete awe. He was totally fearless, and I was certain he’d be in the Olympics one day.

Now here’s the thing. I don’t know much about John (he disappeared from my life sometime before high school and I have no idea where he is today), but from what I’ve been told, he never had a minute of training. Not ONE. No one ever said, here’s how you can handspring across a gym floor without killing yourself or others. John just knew. One day he arrived in gym class and the show began.

When I first read about reincarnation in the fourth or fifth grade, I began to suspect that John had once been a member of a traveling circus.

I’ve heard a lot of people try to explain how some kids know how to do things before they’ve been taught. (Mozart being the most obvious example. He was composing music at the age of five.) But having seen a true child prodigy in action, all the explanations seem ridiculous. If there’s a logical reason John could do what he did, I certainly haven’t found it yet.

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