The Global City of Mensa

This article appeared in the Mensa World Journal in September 2013. It was written by Therese Moodie-Bloom, then Director of Administration. The article is still relevant today and is reprinted here, as it might be of interest for new members.

A former chairman and Honorary President of Mensa International, the late Victor Serebriakoff, used to speak of his golden vision of Mensa as a global village. Mensa did indeed become that but with the technological facilities of our time, the realm of Mensa has grown far beyond a village and is more akin to a small city. With approximately 120,000 inhabitants, this global city exists in a parallel dimension, and has a portal in every part of the world.

Some candidates who receive letters of acceptance are happy just to have the visa to this global city in their pockets for possible use one day. Others actually join and get their passports, but are content just to go to the airport to be able to say, “I’ve been there, I am a member.” Some even set foot outside the airport and start to explore the city, but after a first encounter – good, bad or indifferent – think that this typifies Mensa.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As in every city, there is a wide gamut of people, areas, cultures and events. Every city has its Left Bank of artists, its Greenwich Village of writers; its Wall Street of investors, its Fleet Street of Journalists. So, too, does Mensa.

But one needs to seek out these areas; knowledge of the city comes through exploration, wandering down winding alleys, cul de sacs, retracking from deadends and not being distracted by difficult people and other obstacles. And when found, what riches! The Mensa Greenwich Village, for example, includes Jean Aeul, creator of the Clan of the Cave Bear, Dr Jack Cohen, scientific writer, SciFi writers such as Arthur C Clarke, and many, many more. We have hundreds of writers who write magazine articles, short stories, romantic novels, poetry, academic tracts … and we have thousands of writers who have yet to put pen to paper. Who knows what will emanate from their pens and word processors? Mensan Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, didn’t write his first novel until the age of 53. Now he is a household name.

Every city also has its ethnic centres: its Chinatowns, its Bohemian quarters; these are easiest to find in Mensa, because of our real-life geographical divisions into national Mensas. Your citizenship in our Mensan realm gives you entry to all quarters; meetings in every part of the world; all enjoying a slightly different flavour and emphasis. And best yet, you can visit several at once: EMAG (European Mensa Annual Gathering) introduces one to Mensans in Europe; AMAG to Mensans in Asia. Last year the AMAG, for example, was held in Bali. Despite this being a popular holiday destination, the theme was a serious one: ‘Global Brains for the Poor’ and three days of combined M energy was directed towards means of ensuring education for those who couldn’t yet afford to access even the most basic of the three Rs.

And, just as in real-world cities, we have a wide range of socio-economic strata and members have a wide range of educational levels (some not having completed grade school but ably self-educated, others heads of their academic fields in universities around the world) - with widely divergent occupations, and personalities.

While this global city of Mensa lies in a very accessible notional dimension, with entry tests and IQ scores as portals, it sometimes seems that we have slipped through a different portal – a looking-glass - and ended up in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland! Like Alice, we meet weird and wonderful people. And, as in Wonderland, our Mensa global city inhabitants can be fascinating, extremely clever, eccentric, odd, rude at times, strident or gentle and kindly; they often appear to speak in riddles, and can be quite unconventional.

In my twenty years of Mensa membership I have met them all. I have empathized with some members who have been turned away by the more strident characters who sometimes seem to dominate a meeting, but Mensa is far bigger and greater than any local group. Explore the Mensa realm as you would any new city – you will find wonderful surprises if you keep seeking.

Prior to joining Mensa I had enjoyed a variety of occupations and lifestyles: a magic childhood on a sunny Sydney beach, as a rebellious university student, a musician in Viet Nam and SE Asia during the war, a teacher of classical music in Europe, an English language teacher in the Middle East, and a puzzles columnist for a national newspaper. I lived and worked in both first and third world countries, I experienced Islamic, Bhuddist and Christian religious environments, and lived under many types of government. Yet Mensa has further enriched my life immeasurably, in innumerable ways.

I am proud to have this opportunity to give something back to Mensa, as Director of Administration.

Therese Moodie-Bloom
September 2013