Daily Archives: November 7, 2008

i lost the vote on tuesday

For years I had hoped. But the dream had faded. And then, recently, there was a new possibility.

All I needed to understand was cool.

For a new book, The Cool Factor, there was a contest and a prize. The contest? Define cool. The prize? A Fender Telecaster.

A long time ago I cared very much about guitars. I couldn’t afford much so I didn’t care enough to waste much energy on dreaming about the impossible, but a Telecaster is a guitar that is a classic in every sense of the word.

And so, when I saw the contest to win one, I entered. Immediately. I was first.

The challenge? To define cool in two sentences or less.

I went for less.

“not caring what people think so creatively that people care what you think.”

Not bad, huh?

And then I proved how cool I wasn’t. Because I cared what someone thought. A lot.

I didn’t read anyone else’s entry carefully, other than skimming and thinking…”too long, words too big, words too trendy, not cool enough.” (They are fine).

I checked the site to see how many other entries. I waited. I tried to decide whether I could pray that I would win a guitar signed by someone from ZZ Top. (Not being judgmental, just thinking about what that announcement would look like: “rural Indiana pastor wins really cool guitar from really cool guy with a really big beard.”)

And then, Tuesday evening, I discovered that I lost. Not just the main prize, but the runnerup prizes as well.

It was a discouraging moment, I must confess.

Think of the irony. National election, world-changing moment. And I’m a little blue because I didn’t get picked as being cool. I cared too much what someone thought.

We are so eager to please. We create dreams and build hopes and come out of our shell to take a chance and then feel betrayed, feel overlooked, think that “see? I’m still the uncool kid I was in 7th grade.” And we know that it was a moderately silly dream of acquisition anyway. I’m not an electric player. In fact, I hardly ever play acoustic. And the guitar would sit in a corner, providing yet another “oughtness” to my schedule.

But somehow, I think, we all want to be cool, to be accepted, to be in….with someone.

One of the things that Jesus did was to look with compassion at people wandering around in life, not feeling connected. Living in an agricultural society, he saw lots of sheep. He saw how they drifted. He saw what happened when the shepherd fell asleep or stopped paying attention, saw how the sheep were aimless, lost, feeling lonely and alone. And he looked at people, rather looked into people, and saw that many of them, at heart, had that same feeling of aimlessness, of not being cool.

And looking at the people and seeing them like sheep without a shepherd, he taught. And they listened.

Because, after all, Jesus was…cool.

At least how I define it.