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.


14 responses to “i lost the vote on tuesday

  1. Your cool without the guitar, but if you still wonder that having one around might boost your “cool factor”, you can borrow my Stratocaster anytime you want. By the way, it doesn’t help, just ask my girls!!

  2. Hey, Scott, cool!

    ah, but if your stratocaster is what is helping your daughter be ready for a
    Stradivarius, maybe it did help.

  3. Well, I love your definition. Just tweeted it to all my tweeps.

  4. I hope the dividends on your lifetime of investments in cool-as-you-define-it will make up for the non-won guitar.

  5. Chuck – thanks! (of course, I shouldn’t care….but)

  6. in truth, Amy, my playing hasn’t been nearly as helpful in building
    relationships as not playing has been. For me. And I think that’s part of
    the point. Coolness rests in not trying to be someone else.

  7. the king of cool considers coolness. check it out…

  8. I love the irony you’ve highlighted, and your definition of cool.

    I’ve found this problem of being eager to please and wanting to be accepted even more profound in the social media realm. In the real world, you get chances to spend an evening hanging out with people–a chance to demonstrate who you are by what you say and how you listen and how freely you laugh.

    On blogs and Twitter, with people you’ve never met, you have so much less to work with. There’s also so much emphasis on personal branding–figuring out precisely who you are and how to summarize it in a sentence or two. It really stresses me out!

    Your post, though, reminds me that as humans, we all share this need to be accepted. It also reminds me that Jesus’ definition of cool–being the person we were created to be–is something that’s within reach. That’s pretty cool.

  9. kristin – “figure out precisely who you are and summarize it in a sentence
    or two.” you just hit the problem with personal branding and persons. I may
    be able to summarize what I’ about briefly “caring, coaching, creating,
    crying” but that does so little to build relationship. That takes time and
    can’t get small. If we focused on being rather than on summarizing, hmmm.

    And I laughed this week when I went from email to IM to phone with a person
    in 10 minutes. We needed to work with emotional data which is hard to do in
    140 characters.

    Thank you thank you. you helped.


  10. You’re definition of cool is pretty great – and your post made my morning, which is definitely cool. Thanks.

  11. Pingback: Halfway to Normal » Social media puberty & other identity crises

  12. Make sure you read Kristen’s post on feeling cool. It’s linked here as a pingback, and I think it’s really apropos.