Tuesday, December 14, 2010

knowing smart people

Last year, the professor wandered across the university campus to meet with a Biomedical Engineering professor to talk about a collaborative grant proposal. They hit it off and became friends. This friend invited us to his house for a Sunday night discussion group. Originally, we based our discussions on college courses on DVD. We'd watch a lecture and then we'd discuss it. Invariably, one of us knew more than the introductory lecture. Others learned the material for the first time. This was all pretty interesting.

As time passed, we found we didn't need to start with someone else's lecture. Someone would come in with a short video clip or an idea, and we'd be off to the races, thick in discussion. Since then, things have blossomed. We make world-cuisine potluck meals (bring whatever you feel like, while respecting people's dietary issues) and we enjoy hanging out. In the summer time, we rotated houses and went to outdoor concerts. In the fall, a few folks went off to watch the bird migrations together.

Although most of us have some academic affiliation, we try not to get bogged down in "shop" talk. We are so different in some ways that conversation is inevitable. Our ages range from the mid-30s to mid-60s. The people in the group were born all over the world: Iran, Australia, Egypt, Canada, US, etc. Our religious backgrounds are really different, too. This all makes for rich conversation.

The tendency, as we get older, is to get comfortable in our peer groups. Maybe people hang out with family, friends with common interests, or people from their religious community. These habits tend to keep us from meeting amazing people who might not be just like us. For some, it's just hard to get up off the couch to try something new. The chance for intellectual growth is so great when we push ourselves to reach beyond those usual circles.

Today I was proud to know some of these people. This article about their important Alzheimer's research came out in the local paper. The researchers (my friends) were interviewed on TV news as well. In big ways, some of our friends are making a difference in the world. In small ways, we're helping each other move furniture, cope with job issues, or sharing recipes.

I don't think I could underestimate how it feels to know such clever, intellectually curious people. It's amazing...and, although I often bring my knitting on Sunday nights, sometimes I am just too immersed in stimulating conversation to knit as well. Now, that's saying something.

So, did you know that intellectual growth and activities (like knitting) help prevent Alzheimer's? What are you doing to keep mentally active?

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Blogger Willow said...

What a fascinating article! Thanks for the link.

Because my husband and I have moved quite a lot during our adulthood and have changed careers a couple of times,I think we are a little more gregerious about meeting new people. But you are correct, it is easy to get too comfortable in our little circles. Our neighbors have been a great source of stimulation and social outlet for us.

December 14, 2010 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger k.thedoula said...

I shoved needles and yarn in to my mothers hands once she was strong enough to do it.
The Doctors figure it is why she has conquered as much of the dementia as she has.
A woman who HATED and SWORE she'd never knit another sock when she was 12.
I think she knits out a pair every couple days. It is good.

December 14, 2010 at 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful group. We had something similar happen on a smaller scale when we met our best friend Mel's sister & her husband (without Mel being around). They're both opera singers, she focuses more on teaching, but it was so much fun to be able to hang out with such smart, interesting people that we didn't already know closely, if that makes sense.

December 15, 2010 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Freyalyn said...

Thoughtful and interesting. Thank you for sharing.

December 15, 2010 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I love it! The mixture of people, ideas, and cultures is part of why my husband and I moved to a university town in California.

December 16, 2010 at 1:30 PM  

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