"GAdding About" Day 3, Part 2

Friday, June 22: Personality Test

Aphasic. That's the word. I've been staring at the ceiling of my hotel room trying to remember it for...how long now? A while.

If you've ever wondered whether you're an introvert or an extravert, GA will sort that out for you. After a day of worship services, lectures, interactive workshops, and trying to quickly recount the last three years of your life to old friends that you meet unexpectedly in the hallway, some people are so jazzed on Unitarian Universalism that they're ready to go out and found a new church single-handedly.

Those are the extraverts.

Then there are the introverts. They (we) lose a few more brain cells with each interaction, and lose them twice as fast when we're trying to follow one conversation out of four or five that are happening in the same time and place. By evening, catatonia starts to seem like a valid behavioral option.

My last event of the day was the panel session on blogs that ended at 5:45. I know some of the panelists and am naturally interested in the topic, so of course I had it circled in my program. But by the time it rolled around, my main fear was that I would temporarily forget how debilitated I was and stand up and say something stupid. (I didn't, and I'm proud of myself.)

This workshop was the natural gathering point for the annual Unitarian Universalist (UU) blogger dinner, which I had dithered about signing up for. I could still have gone, and I knew that in some abstract sense this was an important bit of social networking. But I pulled together enough wisdom to realize that if I was no smarter than the broccoli on my plate, sharing a meal with my fellow bloggers was not going to raise my standing in the community. Maybe, next year, a blogger breakfast?

Find the UU. At six when I went back to the hotel, the MAX light rail was packed. Eventually I woke up enough to realize that I recognized a voice, and discovered that I was wedged up against two people from my church. Making conversation, I told them about the game I play every morning on the train in to the Convention Center: Find the UU.

It goes like this: I look around the car as I get on and try to figure out who else is going to get off at the Convention Center. They're the UUs. Most people are street-wise enough not to wear their name tags outside the conference, so the game requires a certain amount of detective skill.

Some people are easy. A retired couple sitting together dressed in sensible, comfortable clothes, maybe with hats to protect against the sun — they're UUs. Middle-aged people are tougher to guess, and I seldom get the youth right. But one clue seems to be sure-fire: Anybody wearing New Balance shoes is a UU. Don't ask me why. So I explain this to the guy from my church as we stand elbow-to-elbow on the MAX. "I'm wearing New Balance shoes," he tells me.

Boomer elders. Speaking of people of retirement age, I attended David Korten's talk Navigating the Great Turning so that I can write it up for the GA web site. Korten himself was born in 1937, and one small part of his scenario for turning society around is for people over 60 to claim their role as wise elders and provide leadership. At one point in the talk he asked how many people in the room were over 60. Hands went up all over; it seemed like everybody, though it surely wasn't. (I'm 50. It's been a while since I felt like the youngster in the room.) As he briefly gave us the be-an-elder pep talk, I recalled the prediction from Strauss and Howe's 1992 book Generations that when the Boomers got old, elderhood would be in style again.

Korten is almost a decade too old to be a Boomer, but it's amazing how well his prescription fits with our lifelong tendency to write scripts that give our generation the starring role. Thinking about the younger people I know (UUs or otherwise) I can't believe they will let us get away with it again.

Saturday. I really have to get off of East Coast time tomorrow. (Today I was awake at six and wrote up some of the talks I went to yesterday.) Saturday's highlight is the Ware Lecture at 9 in the evening. The speaker is Rashid Khalidi, a specialist in Middle Eastern history and Palestine in particular. I read his latest book The Iron Cage last week, and I've added his previous Resurrecting Empire to my list. It would be nice to be awake and alert.

Reported by Doug Muder.