Saturday, April 09, 2016

Calvin Openshaw, MD,

...Of Hutchinson, KS, years ago.

I was emptying an old filing cabinet with an eye to getting it out of the house.  I don't know yet whether metal filing cabinets are useful to anyone or just go to the dump now, but in either case, it is not useful here. There is a lot of pre-internet reference material here: menus of local restaurants, driving maps, chords and lyrics to songs, handouts from Bible studies.

A few surprises:  I had gotten rid of what I had thought was an enormous amount of Dungeons & Dragons material a few years ago:  Cities with sketch information on hundreds of shops and shopkeepers, calendars of made up saints days for clerics to choose from, lists of library titles from wizards' castles.  I found an equal or greater amount again, and chucked it all.  When I look back over my life and wonder what I have spent my time on and where it all went, I am again reminded that in the early 80's I spent hours every week creating alternate worlds.  Not especially good ones, but about as good as those that were commercially available, and more detailed.  I am good at naming things, or was.

Surprise #2 was correspondence from small Christian publications that had published my stuff in that era.  I have always regarded myself as someone who didn't write for publication until I had a blog site.  That's almost true, but I was reminded it's not quite true.

Surprise #3 was all my 1980's material from IQ societies.  I had thought I had only kept some back issues of Gift of Fire and offloaded the rest to Goffstown recycling twenty years ago.  Apparently not. Conceit or nostalgia kept them in Drawer 2.  This time I did trash a lot more.  I still may keep back issues, as they are hard to replace. Though I have to think that if even I don't want to browse them again no one else is going to either.

What struck to the heart was the correspondence. There were a few letters from Grady Towers.  Grady is still remembered in IQ circles for his essay The Outsiders. I agreed with much of it at the time but have since become more suspicious.  He relies too heavily on the biography of supposed IQ record-holder William James Sidis, who I have discussed at length here. Still, there's something to it.I lost touch with him in the 1990's, and he seemed to be growing paranoid.  In the last few years I learned he had been strangely and horribly murdered in 2000. Reading his odd handwriting and odd ideas gave that shiver we experience when we encounter the uncanny.

Sadder but more comforting were the many letters from Cal Openshaw who was an enormous encouragement to me in those years.  I had not yet made my peace with not being famous and admired and felt very much a failure. Dr. Openshaw was a generation older, a member of the same societies, and admired my writing. This encouragement came at its most needed time, I still quote some to the things he wrote, even though it was not his intent to give me advice. When I think of him it reminds me to be encouraging, especially to those younger than myself.  I used to be good at it.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 1990 and died the next year. I have long held onto his statement after receiving the diagnosis: "Let's see if I can do myself what I have been telling my patients to do all these years."  I quoted that to a physician friend who had his own cancer diagnosis this year.

I see no need to keep the letters - I wrote to his widow years ago telling her how much Cal had meant to me, asking her to pass this on to his children as well.  She replied graciously, thanking me for remembering. I think of him in certain contexts anyway, even without the physical reminders. Yet I can't quite put them in the recycling bin with the imaginary countries and 2002 maps of Kentucky.  They may live to see another weeding at a later date.


herfsi said...

hutchinson KS is half an hour from my house - it has an "n" in it, though in KS it's pronounced exactly the way you spelled it:) you did it the authentic way. now we know you really did live in KS!

as you know, no one can have an IQ as high as Sidis - the tables top out (depending on age) at around 4 1/2 standard deviations above the mean - upper 160s. I've tested a few 160s. eventually they become PhD/MD/Lawyer or some combination of those. i imagine he was tested by some not very psychometrically adept test put out by the prometheus society. my apologies if they actually have something psychometrically sophisticated! i'm just so used to silliness in this area (marilyn vos savant comes to mind:)

not being able to throw out those letters is itself a quite touching tribute to your friend.

soon, we'll start worrying about what our kids will have to throw out when we die.
my son would be proud & impressed with your D & D prowess, btw:)
PS - i wish i'd met you when you were in KS - i moved here in 1990, you were probably gone by then!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thank you for the correction. I have never been to Kansas, so I also edited to remove the ambiguity in my post. (I meant to dart over the border when I was in Kansas City 15 months ago, but didn't have the time.)

As for testing, I partially agree. The estimates on Sidis were post hoc estimates based on his childhood accomplishments. As claimed by his mother and father, who had theories of childhood development they were trying to prove, so they had incentive to misrember, if not fib outright. You can read my discussion of it at the link.

Ron Hoeflin's test did match up nicely with people's scores on their SAT's or on Raven's Matrices, or so his charts said, but I always felt it overestimated my IQ by about 10 points. However, I've had a range of scores on different tests over the years, so maybe it was correct. I'm not sure what Cal used, but I think it was something older. He had been in IQ societies for some years, and I am wondering whether he mentioned originally taking a Cattell. I lost contact with all of those societies around 1990, so I don't know what they are doing now.

james said...

After reading the Outsiders I conclude that Aldous Huxley does not sound like someone I'd care to hang around with. "The only true men"?

The rest of the essay reminded me of "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

But we don't need to be "fish out of water" to be evil.

I have to work on some file cleanup too. I don't think scholars a century from now will be writing dissertations on my notes or the influences on my thought. (I'm torn between "unfortunately" and "influence papers are the last refuge of the desperate for topics.")

james said...

Typo--for "evil" read "broken"

Sigmas said...

Fred Britton (current Prometheus Society President) is trying to scan those old Gift of Fire issues and make them available online. Can you please mail the old Gift of Fire issues to him instead of throwing them out?