Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Gestation of the Cool

Most people in this culture don’t know exactly what it means to be cool though they often claim to know it when they see it. These individuals generally see cool as one of those subjective, largely incomprehensible concepts like beauty and love that can only be grasped intuitively. But what must be present for someone to be authentically cool is actually very consistent.

Cool is essentially based on what I call the Four Cs: creativity, curiosity, courage and confidence. You are perceived to be cool when these traits manifest sequentially and generate unconventional but valid insights into the true nature of world. Without any one of these characteristics you can be mistaken for cool but at your core you are not.

No one is born cool. Cool is an emergent property that develops as an individual undergoes a certain sequence of experiences. Most people think that the key to being cool is confidence but that is actually merely a phenotype that emerges during the gestation of cool. This is evident in that confidence based on arrogance, ignorance or prejudice is not cool, though it is sometimes mistaken for it. Cool is based on having valid, empirically derived, unconventional knowledge supporting one’s confidence.

The accumulation of such knowledge begins with the exercise of creativity. Cool starts to develop when an individual meets with success while interacting creatively with the world. The essence of creativity is the ability to connect disparate things in a harmonious manner to produce something that is both novel and worthwhile. In thinking creatively you begin to see through the conventional boundaries that distinguish things in our world. As these boundaries become increasingly the translucent, it may stimulate your curiosity to discover what is on the other side. This will incline you to test the permeability of these conventions.

In working your way through these boundaries you may discover that the consequences are nowhere near as dire as the conventional wisdom typically leads us to believe. This is not to say there are no consequences; it means that you regard what you gain as a result of going beyond these boundaries as being worth the cost. This perception that such a personal price is worth paying to not be bound by convention is the essence of the courage that underlies being cool.

In general, courage is the willingness to pay a price to make a difference. Courage is not about unwillingly or unwittingly paying a price to achieve change. And those who actually enjoy paying such a price are not courageous, so much as masochistic. Courage is anticipating that “this is gonna sting”, and still being willing to go through with it to achieve a particular objective. Such courage allows you to endure the discomfort that sometimes ensues when you are perceived as flouting conventions in your exploration of the world beyond them.

Armed with creativity, curiosity and courage you explore the world beyond the conventional boundaries that distinguish things in our world. These investigations lead to the accumulation of unconventional knowledge of how things truly work. It is the possession of this empirically derived, exclusive insight acquired through creativity, curiosity and courage, that forms the basis of the confidence that makes an individual authentically cool.

DISCLAIMER: In and of itself, cool is neither good nor bad; it is simply unconventional yet valid. Being cool in the face of oppression is generally seen as good while being cool in opposition to stability, safety and security is often regarded as evil. Yet these can represent different interpretations of the same situation. As such, be aware that if you are not naturally cool, trying to become cool for the sake of simply being cool can lead to unanticipated consequences.

1 comment:

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