I remember the first time I visited Paul's site. Like many others, I was drawn to his tests: both in the way they were created, and in the variety of test items, reflecting the diversity and depth of Paul's mind. However, it was Paul Cooijmans' creativity that stood out the most among all aspects of his work.
The following interview is a compilation of questions with Paul's responses. My original goal was to write a mini-biography of Paul, highlighting the various life experiences and contributions to the development of his creativity and his life path. However, I have determined that it is better to allow Paul to express his opinions and viewpoints in this interview without censure or interpretation. Censure is, after all, one of the things that Paul dislikes the most. It is the reason he created the Glia, Giga and Grail Societies, so that there would be a medium where he could express himself without limitation.
The questions focus on understanding Paul's life and how his views transformed to be as they are today. Therefore, this is a developmental approach to understanding the life experiences of a creative individual who has made his presence known through his hard work. In order to understand Paul, it is necessary to take a step back and attempt to see the beauty in his creations, as varied as they may be. Hopefully, by learning more about his life and background, one can begin to comprehend and appreciate the work of this creative genius.
"What have you learned from leading the Glia, Giga and Grail societies?"
I learned that it makes sense to select people by IQ test scores. Also that measuring intelligence is not very hard, as it is a rather omnipresent trait that expresses itself in almost everything a person does. So it would actually be hard to make a test that does not measure it.
Still, there are bad tests. Problems are the presence of too short a time limit. That reduces the test's effectiveness greatly. Also bad is the lack of hard items in some tests. This makes it impossible to discriminate at higher levels, so that highly intelligent people are not recognized for what they are. This problem may come forth from the use of multiple-choice, and the selection of items by statistical methods, for example, excluding certain items because they are solved by less than a certain percentage of testees, which results in tests that cannot discriminate at high levels.
About people joining societies and taking tests, there seem to be two groups, probably with some overlap: the "mainstream" and the "outsiders." The latter are the ones who initiate things like IQ societies. The first start coming in once a group is growing well, and when the group gets to be a certain size - maybe like 300 to 400 - the "mainstream" tends to take over, maybe because of their better persuasive/manipulative skills which do well in democratic and group processes.
Once the "mainstream" is in power, which I think is the case in larger Mensa chapters, the ISPE and Triple Nine in some of its periods, the freedom goes and the censorship comes. The "mainstream" want things like a journal that is suitable for the whole family, professionalism, official status, tax exemption, etc. They keep adversary things out of the journal, without ever admitting to censorship, they use euphemisms like "editing for length and civility." (This was a Triple Nine term.) Perhaps a certain organizational structure could avoid the "mainstream" from getting into power.
"What are your most creative accomplishments?"
My music theory system (explained in The Hidden World of Intervals), my compositions (or at least some of them are very good), my guitar playing, my tests (some more than others), and the Glia Society.
"What is your typical day like?"
I get up around 7:30 or 8:00.
I eat breakfast and read email.
I walk to the supermarket to buy food and collect mail from my P.O. Box at 8:45.
I go to my mother's to read the newspaper and drink coffee.
I go home to handle the mail, score tests, and enter new Glia members and so.
If there's still time left I work on the current projects, like the web site, new tests, articles etc.
I cook and eat dinner at about 11:00 to 12:00.
I lay on the couch watching TV and read for about an hour after dinner.
I start to work on the current projects again at 13:00.
Around 14:30 to 15:00 I sometimes go running, or walk to the library and/or to the bank or other stores if needed.
After that I eat "lunch."
I either rest a bit after lunch or continue with the current projects.
At 17:00 I again visit my mother and drink coffee.
At 18:00 I walk home again and do the dishes.
I start working on the current projects again.
I spend the evening working, watching TV, reading, and on some evenings visiting my mother.
I go to bed around 24:00 to 1:00.
"When did you first express interest in music/guitar? How has music affected your life?"
Around age 13. The first album I bought was Bat out of Hell, by Meatloaf. I played it a lot and knew the entire record by heart soon. About a year later I bought The Wall (Pink Floyd) and Women and Children First (Van Halen). Shortly after The Wall, so early 1980, I began playing guitar.
It has affected my life in that I spent years learning to play, composing, and trying to form a band and so. Later I went to study at a conservatory. I put extreme amounts of time and energy into it. Therefore it also kept me from developing myself in more scientific areas, where I probably have greater aptitude. I have, as it were, taken the wrong path somewhere.
"What were your parents like?"
My parents are about 40-45 years older than I am. My father worked in a textile factory, and before that he had been a chauffeur and some other things too. He painted as a hobby. Paintings. He died in 1996. My mother is a housewife.
"When growing up, who were your closest friends? What were they like?"
I didn't have close friends until age 16. At 16 when I went to 4th grade in secondary school, I got to know a boy who was one year older and shared two interests with me: chemistry and music. He was a drummer, and we later, after finishing school, started a band called Catweazle. We did chemistry things; I had been doing that for a few years when I was about 11, mainly trying to make explosives. With this boy and a few others of our class I also made a short movie, color and with sound, based on a short story written by me, directed by me, with me in the main part. It is called Liquidatie. Someone is dissolved in sulfuric acid in it.
He (the drummer) had been a problematic student before he knew me, but improved once he knew me. He had a lot of chemicals in his room, and did absurd things like drinking concentrated sulfuric acid and so. Later his parents divorced and his father hung himself, and he joined an esoteric sect called Emin. I gradually lost contact with him from then on, although there was a period when he was trying to involve me in his esoteric things.
"What experiences as a child were memorable for you? Why were they memorable and how do you think they have impacted your creativity and life course?"
My first day of Kindergarten was memorable. I hated it because I thought no one had the right to take away my freedom to be boss over my own time. I have always hated school from then on up to when I left secondary school. This has certainly impacted my life course, in that it caused me to go to a lower form of secondary school than was recommended, and to not go to study after secondary school. So this partly was the cause that I did not develop myself in the areas where my greatest aptitude was, probably physics and chemistry.
I still have dreams every night that probably come forth from this nagging guilt of not having studied; in those dreams I wander around in school buildings with many stairs and hallways and doors, knowing I haven't done my homework for a long time.
At Kindergarten too I remember we once had a kind of sports day with games. One game was to roll a tree trunk as fast as you can. Unfortunately, mine had a protuberance somewhere so it didn't roll well. This concept would return often in my life; having the strength and ability to beat the others, but not succeeding because of some unfair irregularity somewhere.
I also have some memories from before Kindergarten, which I do not want to reveal for privacy reasons.
At primary school we once competed in a quiz for schools from all over the South of Netherlands. Four children from each school were allowed to take part as a team. We won. I was in our team. I was always very good at school, both at primary and secondary school. By far the best usually, in almost all subjects except music, gymnastics, drawing and so.
There are thousands of other memories I could mention of course.
"When were you diagnosed with Aspergers? How has Aspergers affected your life, and in what ways? How is it a part of your identity, and how has it affected (increased/decreased) your creativity and intellectual ability?"
Diagnosed June 2000. It has affected my life in that I have always been an outcast in almost every group from early childhood on. I was ignored, bullied, misunderstood etc. I did not understand the way in which others communicated and related to each other (but I did not know that then). I was not aware at all that I was different. I only found those things out a few years ago, which was extremely shocking.
How is it a part of my identity; well, it is expressed in extreme honesty, sense of justice, discipline, concentration, perseverance and so.
It sharpens intellectual ability and evokes creativity because I am always forced to do things "despite." I have to put anything I do in such a form that it can be dealt with verbally and always have to work around the nonverbal/social things. It is hard to explain. They say nonverbal communication is 93% of communication; I have to do with the other 7%. I have to put everything in such a form it can be pushed out that narrow window. I have to always work around the extreme limitations.
"Could you give a progression of your activity in the IQ world, and what events were the most significant to you?"
See below; I put * in front of the most significant ones.
*In August 1993 I passed the Mensa tests and joined. Immediately thereafter I started writing in the Dutch Mensa journal. My article "The true story of Mr. Pants, Mr. Young and Dr. Cageman" gives more details.
In 1994 I placed an ad in the Mensa International journal asking for people with first-year memories, and wrote a report on the results.
*In 1994 I started making IQ test items, all of the association type, without yet showing them to others.
Early 1995 I placed an ad in the Dutch Mensa journal asking for volunteers to try out IQ test items. I got about 10 responses.
*Mid 1995 I placed a similar ad in the Mensa International journal, which was repeated many times without me asking for that. It brought in over 100 responses over about 1.5 years.
*July 1995 I joined the One-in-A-Thousand Society, after qualifying on the Mega Test shortly before that, and immediately started writing in its journal OATH about my tests and also published some tests in the journal. This brought in responses of a clearly higher level than the Mensa ones. The journal allowed for the first time to write what I wanted without editorial changes, which was very important to me. This journal was my main channel to the high-IQ world for a few years (together with the Top One Percent Journal, to which I started subscribing in 1996 I think).
*June 1996 I joined the Triple Nine Society, which I left again November 1999. Immediately after joining I wrote an article in the TNS journal. A TNS member wrote to me in response to that, and I have been in correspondence with him ever since. This produced material for the Upperland Satires.
*July 1997 Darryl Miyaguchi started publishing my tests on his web site, which brought in many submissions and other responses over the years.
*In 1997 I founded the Glia Society, first journal issue published September, at the death of Princess Diana. I had been in contact with Bill Bultas and a few others in the months before that to decide if it would be worthwhile to start a society.
*Late 1997 I obtained an old computer with MS-DOS and Word Perfect, and used that to write articles and make tests. The Cooijmans Intelligence Test was created on that. Actually, from late 1997 to early 2001 I used three old computers; first a 80286 of 16 Mhz, then a 8088 of 4 Mhz (so that's one of the very first PC processors from the early 80's), then a 80486 of 33 Mhz. The CIT was made on the 8088.
Late 1997/early 1998 I scored and normed Bill Bultas' Chimera High Ability Riddle Test, because he was afraid of legal problems in his state scoring it himself.
In 1998 and 1999 the Glia Society kept growing and test submissions kept coming in. More and more via the Internet publications of Darryl and Bill. The Glia journal became my most important paper publication medium.
*In April 1999 I saw in one of Hoeflin's journals an article about Asperger Syndrome, which was the first time I heard of it, and recognized that I might have that.
In April 2000 I got depressed, which would last until August 2000. I reduced my activities in the IQ societies in that period.
*January 2001 I bought a new computer, a 700 Mhz, and put my own web site online in February 2001.