Mensa: Food for thought


When I entered the room at my very first Mensa meeting, I didn’t expect the topic to be colonoscopies.

After all, these people represent the top two percent of intelligence in the world.

“That just happened to be what we were talking about,” explained Larry Arnold, one of five members at the monthly Mensa Gab and Grub luncheon in Kerrville.

Actually, I’m not sure what I expected. I first heard about Mensa in my college days, but never pursued member-ship. At the time, it seemed akin to belonging to the Red Headed League. That is, creating a group based on one physical trait you had no role in obtaining, such as being bald, people named Bob, or being a twin (those are all real clubs).

These five were a diverse lot, with no common trait other than getting a sufficient score on one of the tests sanctioned by the international organization. Gary Ramsey is retired Air Force; Larry Arnold is a journalist and gun instructor; Polly Holmes is a real estate associate broker who used to raise goats; John Holmes is a retired engineer, and Dennis Fedak is a businessman.

So exactly what is Mensa?

They all prompted Arnold to give his answer:

“Mensa is an organization for people who do very well on tests they are not smart enough to get out of.”

Okay, so they do have one other trait in common — a self-deprecating sense of humor.

As someone who has studied and taught in the gifted and talented field, the matter of intelligence has always seemed a conundrum. In our society, we admire athletic prowess, physical beauty, artistic talent and creativity. But superior intelligence is often ignored or even mocked. Smart kids get labeled brainiac, or nerd or poindexter.

In some cultures, good students go to great lengths to hide their intellectual ability to avoid being teased. These Mensans have heard all the myths.

“If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich?” Ramsey said as an example of one he hears all the time.

“None of us is rich.” Fedak had a quick answer.

“Because that is not the goal.” What is the goal? “To learn something,” Arnold said. “My philosophy is to learn something every day.”

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