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March 2006 RVC Column

(Written and posted 2/3/06)

Northwest Passages

RVC Column for March Newsletters in Region 8
by John Recht, Region 8 RVC

The other day Scott Kauffman sent me a copy of his unpublished book, Everything Interesting Evolves. Scott is well known in Oregon Mensa for his whimsical and hilarious essays that frequently have appeared in the Omen, for which he was recognized with the PRP print award for Humor in 2003. Recently he has reached a national audience through his articles, "Think Fast!" and "Enthusiasm: Whether for Philately or Ant Farms - Just Get Something Going," which were published in the September, 2005, and November/December, 2005, issues of the Mensa Bulletin respectively.

The finely burnished humor in Scott's pieces reminds me a great deal of Robert Benchley, and I dare say Scott would have had a place at the Algonquin Round Table beside him, had he had the opportunity. For me, the test of a humorist is, can I read a piece or his or her work out loud without breaking up? Benchley definitely has passed my test, most especially with his essay, "Sporting Life in America-Turkish Bathing," which I have failed to read out loud any number of times. Scott has also a place in my personal pantheon of humorists, having passed my test on many occasions.

What I find particularly enjoyable about Scott's humor, however, is that he constantly sets his readers up for a deeper, personal truth about the human condition that he wishes to share, with humor as the vehicle. Oregon Mensa LocSec Kristina Bernette said much the same thing about Scott in her beautifully written column in the February Omen, and I want to go a bit further by sharing something from Scott's book, which I have promised to comment on. (Does this count, Scott?) After five convoluted pages of describing the condition of anomie that pervades our post-Modernist society, Scott offers his prescription for "leading a good life," to wit:

"1. Understand how the world works, physically and socially.

"2. If you're comfortable with things as they are, then be a happy part of it all.

"3. If things aren't as you'd have them, then work for change.

"4. Start over at step 1!

"That's it. All the secrets are there and the steps are spelled out: pay attention and understand, be happy where you can, try to improve what needs improving, and never feel as if you're done with the process. Everything else is just elaboration. Pretty simple, except for those elaborations."

Scott is absolutely right when he says that "everything interesting evolves," and our happiness depends upon our willingness to accept inevitable change. I became a Life Member of Mensa some time ago when I realized that this was a venue which I hoped would always afford me the opportunity to find joy in the company of my fellow members, and I will continue to work to make it the sort of society in which we all can find happiness with one another.

Speaking of happiness, I am delighted to report that the 2006 Mind Games in Portland, OR, on April 21-23, is heading for a sellout. We have 139 registrations as I write this, and there may be no spaces left by the time this is published at the beginning of March. If you are thinking of coming, I urge you not to wait even a moment; please go to http://mindgames.us.mensa.org and register. Whether or not you make it to Mind Games, be sure to come to Portland for the Oregon Mensa RG on April 28-30, as the more the merrier! RuthAnn Parvin has put together a stellar program, which you may preview at the Oregon Mensa website at www.oregon.us.mensa.org. Another delightful RG is coming up before either of those events, in Vancouver, BC, on March 17-19; information is available at http://van-mensa.info-x.ca. And the big one is coming: the World Gathering in Orlando, FL, on August 8-13, is not to be missed. Please go to www.wg06.us.mensa.org and become part of the greatest Mensa show on Earth, along with several thousand other Mensa friends from around the world. Be seeing you....