I Want to Know What Cool Is? (Sarcasm?)

So I've been promising a post on infidelity. Said post has now been worked on for five days and is 12 singlespaced typewritten pages. I need advice on what parts I should and shouldn't post, so I am now having a few people help me through the content of it. Yesterday I posted this while I was working on it, "The blog I'm working on about infidelity is like giving birth and having an episiotomy. Although I don't know what an episiotomy or giving birth is like." If I were to continue with the childbirth analogy today…  I have to go to the operating room. It's time to get this thing out of me with a C-section. Gross, huh?

So, today I am going a completely different direction… "I want to know what cool is?" There may be a touch of hidden sarcasm in that comment, and there might not be. I'm saying that to keep those of you who think you're too cool to to discuss what cool is on your toes. I might be one step ahead of you. Or I might be the nerdiest quadriplegic you've ever heard of.

Before you go on, you need to start playing one of the four songs of above. They are pretty freaking cool, and some of us base our coolness in music. Some of us base our coolness in our clothes. Some of us base our coolness in our lingo.  Some of us based coolness in our attitude.

But regardless, at some point in our lives, be it in junior high or be it when we are 51, we start to ask ourselves questions. Am I cool? Who is cool? If I'm not cool, what do I need to do to be cool? Should I try to be cool? Is it cool to not be cool?

So now this is my question… In which one of these pictures am I cool?

I know I know… It's not a fair question because I look so stinking preppy in the picture on the left. Preppie might not be cool to you. But you have to remember that I was in law school when that picture was taken. And I do look rather Dead Poet society, don't I?

My body has changed so much since the accident. One of the annoying things is that since I no longer have abdominal muscles, my stomach pooches out into an annoying thing that they call "Quad Belly." I had a very flat stomach before the accident, but three weeks later I looked down and I asked my therapist, "what the freak is this?" She said "that's just quad belly. It's your internal organs just not being held in buy your abs anymore." As if it were no big deal. I wanted to cry. Since I have this belly, I can't wear the medium or large T-shirts that I wore before. Now I have to wear double X or triple X even though I've only gained 3 pounds. This limits the stores I can shop at, so Old Navy is my go to. My hairline has also receded the point that I just wanted to shave it off. Since I don't have abdominal muscles, I can't quite talk as loud or as full as I did before. Then there are the obvious ones… I can't walk so my legs are thin from atrophied muscles. I can't use my hands so they look funny in the gloves I have to wear so I can still grip things.

You'd think with all these changes that my self-esteem might have taken some hits. That's really not the case. Sure, I've definitely been humbled, but that's more through my life situations then through my changed body. Almost losing my wife and family was much more humbling then not being able to walk. God has given me so much grace … at the end of the day, I still just feel like me. I have learned a lot about pain, overcoming, frustration, loyalty, grace, forgiveness, patience, determination, and organization since my accident.

This brings us to some questions on cool. Who is cooler, an organized person or an unorganized person? Before my accident (and before my increased need to make sure things around me were organized because I can't just wing things anymore) I thought being unorganized was cooler. I thought being spontaneous and being unorganized went hand-in-hand, and I love my spontaneity. But when I make a plan, things unfold accordingly, and I have everything in place so that all my bases are covered, organization feels way cooler than disorganization.

Think about how American capitalism appeals to consumers. Cool is king. Providing crushing pressure from a multibillion-dollar marketing machine for us to try to be a standout, be a star, be an individual is the ultimate marketing strategy. You don't need to listen to the album that artist made, customize your own playlist. Get the phone that you can customize all the buttons, screen, and trim on. New phone! New phone! New phone! New tablet...bam! New laptop...bam!

It's the same with fashion. Be a one of a kind.. Wear these $190 jeans (that 25 million other people have). Do you like whiskey? Drink this kind of whiskey. It is for people who know who they are… Top people… Original people… Cool people.

The obvious irony is that when millions of people are all being original in the same way… No one is original.

An unusual twist to this is the hipster (scenester) ironic (anti)cool. It goes something like this, "we are going to show you (convention) that you don't control us. We are going to pick clothes that don't look good (guys in painted on skinny jeans) and facial hair that makes us look like sex offenders and we are going to prove to you that we're not afraid to go out in public like that. But all that this does is provide a counterculture that is just as exclusionary as culture is.


Two hipsters walk into a bar. The first one did it before it was cool, and the second one did it ironically.
Real 2013 American Apparel model

Real 2013 American Apparel model

So maybe you have a greasy ironic mustache. Maybe you spent $300 last week at Urban Outfitters buying jeans and a pair shoes. Maybe your American Apparel T-shirt is a little bit softer than my Fruit of the Loom. But have you seen the American Apparel models?

When it comes down to it, the older I get, I see people desperately trying to fit in, desperately trying to be cool as some of the least cool people I know. I'll stick with my six-year-old Old Navy hoodie.

But before I get too big for my thrift store britches, I have to remember that if I love Jesus, I'm also responsible to these passages…

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
— Romans 12:3
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
— Luke 9:25
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
— Luke 14:7-14

So… Even though I've been a little bit sarcastic in this post, how do we as Christians deal with "cool"? At various ages we all have the need and desire to fit in and be cool. Hopefully as we mature that need fades into the background more and more.

Hopefully we can get to the point as a culture (or at least as the Kingdom) that we all just wear the clothes that we like and we all listen to the music we like we all use the lingo that we we like without paying so much attention to Madison Avenue or to the culture (or the counterculture) around us.

Posted on December 23, 2013 .