The Gent's Lounge  
06 Dec 1998
Copyright © 1998-2002 by S. A. Joyce. Edited
09 Jun 2002


"a support group for the severely gifted" — Isaac Asimov




Early in 1980, my wife came across a sample IQ test in Reader's Digest magazine, and jokingly challenged me to take it.  So I jokingly took it, and was startled to discover that I was rated as a "very likely" candidate for Mensa.  I contacted American Mensa to inform them of the erroneous results of their test, and was told when and where I could take a supervised exam to verify the error.  And so here I am, in Mensa.  Scary.*




Some deride Mensa as an "elitist" organization.  Maybe it is, but that's not necessarily bad. After all, West Point and Yale are also elitist, and no one complains about them.  The difference is that, with a lot of coaching (and maybe some cash and connections to lubricate the process), it's theoretically possible for an imbecile to be admitted to West Point or Yale, but it's virtually impossible to get into Mensa without a fair number of functioning synapses.  On the other hand, should the aforementioned imbecile actually manage to graduate from West Point or Yale, at least he's an educated imbecile, whereas an uneducated genius who joins Mensa remains no better trained than before—just a little better entertained.

But even among the brainy crowd, Mensa isn't for everyone.  People who live and work in an intellectually stimulating environment, for example, may find their social needs entirely satisfied in the normal course of daily life.  Often they do not understand the desire of others to join an organization like Mensa, sometimes mistakenly assuming that the motivation must be "bragging rights."  But think about it:  Have you ever tried to win friends and influence people by bragging about your IQ?  Doesn't work too well, does it?  Moreover, once you're in a room full of other Mensans, to whom are you going to brag?  Forget that!  It must be something else.  (See? Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out!)

People join Mensa for a number of reasons, but isolating themselves from the rest of society isn't one of them.  To some extent, the highly intelligent already find themselves socially isolated by invisible barriers.  Their often curious ways and lack of "common sense" tend to make "normal" people uneasy.  They often find themselves excluded from the congenial company of coworkers, classmates, and neighbors by reason of subtle differences—from innovative viewpoints and ways of solving problems, to peculiar interests and sense of humor—which keep them from fitting in comfortably with the crowd.  They join Mensa to find a place where they do fit in, where they can be themselves without being regarded as "uppity" or weird, where the exercise of intelligence is celebrated and enjoyed, not feared and shamed.

What many fail to realize is that high intelligence does not always lead one into circles where animated discussions of Plato, Planck, Puccini, and Picasso, not to mention perplexing problems and preposterous puns, are the norm.  For those gifted folks, whose workaday lives offer scant opportunity for contact with others of elevated intellect, Mensa provides a desperately needed safety valve for all the smartness that threatens to build up and burst their skulls otherwise.  That's something to ponder the next time you're peacefully munching hot wings at the local sports bar, and another customer's head suddenly explodes.  You'll rub your chin thoughtfully and mutter to yourself, "Damn!  That fool should've joined Mensa!"

For information about what Mensa is, what it does, sample IQ tests, what scores qualify, how to join, how much dues are, and all that kind of stuff, please visit the official web site for Mensa International, where you can also find contact information for your own national Mensa organization.  And if you're getting a headache from reading this, maybe you'd better hurry.





 Undernet #mensa
 EFnet #mensa
(NOTE:  Surfers who have encountered the newsgroup "" may be disillusioned about Mensa.  Please be aware that this newsgroup is not operated or sanctioned by any official Mensa organization or group, but is in fact dominated by fanatical individuals posing as members of Mensa.  Though a few real Mensans occasionally post in, many attitudes and opinions expressed there are not representative of Mensans in general, and indeed are antithetical to Mensa's policy of welcoming qualified persons from all ethnic, religious, and social groups.)
 International High-Five Society 95 (1 person in 20)
 Mensa 98 (1 person in 50)
 Intertel 99 (1 person in 100)
 International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) 99.9 (1 person in 1000)
 Triple-Nine Society 99.9 (1 person in 1000)




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*SCARY:  It is a truly frightening thought, that the world is run mostly by people who are even dumber than I am.