July 9, 1994
In my late teens and early twenties I was still caught up in the 'fifties obsession with being "cool." Coolness was the emotional ailment of most of the intellectual and political heirs of the beatniks, the hipsters, the half-comprehending readers of Jean-Paul Sartre and similar existential drivel. James Dean was cool. Marlon Brando was cool. I wanted to be cool.
Coolness meant not taking any emotional chances, and feigning to despise real emotion when you stumbled across it. Cool means without warmth, bottled up, inhuman. Keep this insulation up long enough, and young as you are, you can almost kill the ability to feel tender emotion; all you can feel is the Louisiana hot sauce-rage, humiliation, hatred and lust. Cool was self-conscious and self-defeating. Cool was what lovers got in return for opening up, and it infected them, and after years of lovers who were cool, they became cool themselves.
After being cool long enough, you begin to suspect genuine emotion; you begin to confuse the real thing with sham-and in childish embarrassment to mock spontaneity. Cool begins to think that any evidence of emotion is a setup, part of a con game. The studied, formula response is cool. Cool snaps its fingers instead of clapping its hands. Cool is the progenitor of kitsch-the trivialization of emotion. Cool sees only the big picture, the forest, and can't see the trees. Cool is the agency of emotion while remaining detached. Cool is bored. Cool worships death. Dead people are extremely cool.
|Previous Article||This Article||Next Article|
Return to C - D Index