Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Element of Cool

I didn't coin the prase used in the subject line... I heard it from my friend Shanna. However, I would like to pose a question to the virtual world about what that phrase means.

I was talking with another friend of mine on Sunday... and she said that the idea of being "cool" is a huge lie that has been handed down in our society. I hope I quoted her correctly on that... at least that is what I got from what she said. That being said... here is my point: Who defines what cool is?

Donald Miller, in his book Searching for God Knows What talks about Life Boat Theory. Life Boat Theory essentially says that if you have a group of 7 people in a life boat that can only support 6 people... how do you determine who gets thrown out?

Miller says that all of our lives are spent trying to be of more value in society than someone else (and thus securing one of the 6 spots in the life boat). You see it very clearly in children... there is always one kid who gets picked on by everyone else. Then, on the other side of the coin is the "cool kid" who everyone looks up to. (see also Lord of the Flies by William Golding).

And so we all find ourselves in this spectrum... not everyone is at the top (the Donald Trumps of the world) and not everyone is at the bottom (the people whose names we don't care to learn). We are all in the middle... but we are always jockeying for a higher position.

The fundemental problem with this (as pointed out by Donald Miller) is that we are not to compare ourselves to other people... but rather we are to find our worth in Christ alone. Adam and Eve did this before they tasted of the fruit. From then on... the human race has been in this competition with itself... all the while losing site of Who truly gives us value.

So what does it mean to be cool?

34 comments:

Shanna said...

Ah, the element of cool. This is perhaps my favorite topic and one to which I have given much thought. So, I do have quite a few words to say about it. Cool just is. You are either cool or you aren’t. If you aren’t, you will never be and if you are, you will never cease to be. There's a great line in the film Backbeat. Paul McCartney is complaining that the bass player doesn't have any musical talent, that "he just stands there." John Lennon responds deadpan, "Yes. But it's the way he stands there." That is cool. It is just something one has.

My definition of coolness is as follows: coolness is a distinctive but intangible quality that seems to surround a person or thing. In essence, coolness is an aura.

The reason we know that coolness is just something one has and not something that can be created is because no matter where a cool person goes, he/she tends to rise back up to the “cool pack.” Cool people migrate to one another and are always cool no matter where they are or what circumstance they are in. The cool people are often in what is called “the popular crowd.” This is a strange thought because the popular crowd is usually a small, exclusive group of people who are not always liked by others. The uncool crowd far out numbers the cool crowd and thus could theoretically control, for example, who is elected president of an organization or cheerleader in high school. Yet, despite the fact that the uncool people have the numbers, they always elect the cool people to office? Why? Because they are intrigued by that which they cannot have. They are entranced by the coolness. Further, the uncool people believe that hanging out with the cool people will also make them cool, but this isn’t so. You can’t make someone cool. You can make a person look cool, talk cool, or act cool, but none of that will make the person cool.

So, in a nutshell, coolness is something everyone wants, but only those who were born with it have. I'm sure several of you will object to what I have said here. And you will probably right. I mean, what do I know? I’m not cool.

Todd Richards said...

Shanna... you just proved Donald Miller's argument with your post.

Erin said...

personally, i think coolness, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. or more specifically, secondary to the environment the beholder has been raised in. what's beautiful in texas is not necessary what's beautiful in another place like new york or italy or pakistan...same goes for coolness, i think. i see and meet people all the time who either are or are not "cool" by the ill-defined standard most of us accept in our subconscious. but i try not to pay attention to that...i hope i never do, too! see, i always find very cool things everyone i meet. cool, that is, by my definition...not the one my immediate environment/society or social convention gives.

bottom-line: uniqueness is cool...so my logic and experience tells me that since everyone is unique in their own way, everyone is cool in their own way. and beautiful, too.

Jessica said...

I think "coolness" is always relative because it is so dependent on what each individual values. If someone possesses what you value, that person is "cool". Whether that is in line with the world's standard of "cool" or Christ's standard I think is the real question we should answer as Christians.

I know my standard of what is "cool" has changed over time as my values have changed. Those that I look to now as examples of "coolness" in life are definitely not the same as 10 years ago... I pray that they will continue to be refined...

Troy said...

Cool is between 72 and 67 degrees Farhenheit.

Oh, and Shanna - cool people have blogs.

erin vanv said...

I disagree with Troy. It's about 5 deg C (40F) today and I think that's cool. I didn't have to wear mittens or a tuque today.

Thus, cool is a relative term...

Megan said...

My Todd says that if I call something "cool" it is the ultimate complement from me. I think "cool" is a relative term. Glad you updated your blog. I've been checking it every now & then. Hope to see you in Alexandria this weekend!

Kristi said...

Someone is cool if they know who they are, they don't ever apologize for being who they are, and they don't live according to how other people think they should live their lives. That's what I think the "aura" is- confidence! (Thanks for FINALLY blogging, Todd- I thought you fell off the face!)

Shandra said...

I think I am cool and if you are my friend then you are cool...so Todd you are cool!!

Mandy said...

Well, I guess since I'm Shandra's friend too, then I'm also cool. :) I'm jealous you get to see the Strains this weekend. I think you should all make a road trip to Ruston, for old times sake. :)

Stacy said...

about time you posted, todd. i stumbled upon your blog a month ago and thought you must have fallen off the face of the earth since you had been so quiet...as far as i'm concerned anyone who went to tech is cool so if for no other reason, that alone makes you cool.

ashley said...

I don't know about the rest of you guys...I'll just go with what Chet tells me - I'm HOT!

Shandra said...

Ashley...gross!! :P

Johnson Journal said...

Cool is me! No sorry just couldn't help myself. I really just wanted to say hello to an old friend. How are you dude?

t strain said...

todd - disappointed that your blog does not include your alter ego - sir burger...read The Tipping Point and Gladwell points out that "cool" kids are responsible for the proliferation of smoking in society...

Joshua said...

Ya'll are definitely too cool for me. I like the one person's response who said cool is confidence. What would Jesus have said to you with his eyes if you had tried to compliment Him by calling Him 'cool'? I think He would have said, "Thanks, but my Father is the coolest."
Shanna, you're hilarious.
Merry Christmas Todd. 7!

Carrie White Owen said...

Todd--you are cool because you were my "dad" at Tech. So Megan, that makes you cool because you were my "mom!" Hope things are going well for you, Todd! Glad I can stay updated on you now! HA!

Steven W. Murray said...

Apparently, Todd, you are cool.

Cool people attract others. And with this comment, I will become the 18th person ro reply to this topic. I've never hit double digits on anything I've posted on my blog.

You, sir, are cool.

Mandy said...

Thanks to all my cool LA Tech friends, I hit 50 comments today. So I guess that makes me cool. :) Of course, they were all telling me it was time to post something new, but nonetheless, I got to 50. It was fun seeing you at the wedding this weekend, Todd. I hope you enjoyed your party that night. You should've stayed for the BSU though. Read all about it on Jessica's blog. So what are your plans 2 weekends from now? A few of us are thinking about coming to Houston. Can you break away from all your friends to hang out with your cool "old school" friends? :)

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, everybody that has posted has only reinforced and proved Donald Miller's 'lifeboat theory'. Amazing.

Todd Richards said...

Anonymous... indeed they are. I guess Donald Miller is on to something.

Mandy... just let me know when y'all will be in town... and I will work it out.

Carrie... you were my favorite "daughter"

Steven... I learned everything I know from watching you.

Everyone else... thanks for the comments. You have helped me secure a seat in the lifeboat.

Shandra said...

TODD!!! Carrie was your FAVORITE??!!

Remember me?...."look how fun that is with all those hearts!" :( You're not cool b/c you said Carrie was your "favorite daughter."

Carrie said...

HA!!!!!!!! Todd, I will be in Houston as well, so you better made time for your "favorite daughter!"

Todd Richards said...

Shandra... the hearts reference caused a literal LOL. Hilarious.

You both were in the "favorite" category. You both would have been given seats in my lifeboat.

Shandra said...

Okay...your cool again!

Carrie said...

SHANDRA!!! You were a teacher...YOU'RE!!! Goodness...give her a baby and down she goes....

shandra said...

UGH!! it's called NOT THINKING!! pregnancy killed some cells in my brain too!!

Megan said...

I'm pretty sure it says in the Bible that we're not supposed to have favorites :) I enjoyed every member of our family the same. Carrie & Shandra are defintely two of our more memorable daughters.

Shandra said...

aww.....thanks megan!! :) (it's okay tho...you can say i was "really your favorite!" carrie was more of a "problem child." ...totally not cool!

Daniel said...

I've always seen "cool" people as ones who have a foundation such that they don't care what other people think, in addition to having an attribute that makes others want to be like them.

With regard to the lifeboat scenario, I don't see where coolness equates to a seat in the boat.

Todd Richards said...

Daniel... I tend to agree with your description of cool.

As for equating it to lifeboat theory, the whole idea of being cool means that others like you more than they like other people. Would you agree?

Therefore, if it came time to decide who gets kicked out of the lifeboat... the "uncool" people would be the first to go.

I may be oversimplifying it a tad to make a point... but in the end, we measure ourselves against other people all the time. "Cool" people appear to do this less than "uncool" people.. but there is always someone "cooler" than you. So your seat in the lifeboat is always up for grabs.

Daniel said...

Hmm... I guess I'm having a hard time mapping social coolness to inherent value, and maybe the point is that no such mapping exists.

Regardless, I'd be interested in hearing peoples' answers to "who is the coolest person you know and why?"

Maybe we can get you past 50 comments.

Todd Richards said...

Well Daniel... you pretty much agree with Donald Miller (as do I). There should not be any connection between social coolness and inherent value, but I think there is in the minds of many people.

Daniel said...

Well, as long as Donald agrees with Jesus, I'm on board.

I suppose Jesus chose to walk on water so the other six of us could fit in the boat, and that definitely makes Him the coolest.