Maybe John had inadvertently given me an answer when, as we walked down Nicollet Mall, he offered his theory that every profession is in some way a mirror image of a physical or mental disease.
I had mentioned to him a remark once made by Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, that he saw himself presiding over a news staff of some 350 reporters who all suffered from advanced Attention Deficit Disorder.
Oddly, he said this in a confident and even proud tone, one that anticipated he would receive not the slightest disapprobation, but instead the good-natured agreement, of every colleague whom he had just labeled as mentally ill.
John's response to this anecdote was that he'd long believed that academics often conducted themselves like high-functioning sufferers of Asperger's Syndrome. That is, he said, they have a freakish talent for conducting prolonged, abstract discussions within themselves. They gravitated to professorships because the academy values the literary renderings of such inner conversations, if conducted at a high enough level.
As we walked down Nicollet Mall that misty, drizzly Minneapolis Monday morning, I suddenly saw in my mind's eye that what was happening that very moment was that an ADD victim was having a jolly good time in conversation with an Asperger's sufferer. And that in addition to having fun, we seemed to be learning from each other.
Hope for the world, I thought!