Chasing Cool

I had lunch with a good friend of mine today, and while we were talking – about life, about youth ministry, about the total and joyous life-wreck that is fatherhood – he dropped a phrase on me that immediately grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go.

“You know,” he said while discussing his philosophy of youth ministry, “sometimes you can chase cool and lose sight of what really matters.”

And I thought, That’s a book, complete with title: Chasing Cool.

Then I thought: Heck, that’s most people’s lives.

It’s true – regardless of how much of an outsider we may wish to consider ourselves, or how much we may think we’re not influenced by the opinions of other people, almost all of us will spend at least some part of our lives chasing cool. Whether cool is defined by society at large or whether it’s an intensely personal thing that we can’t fully articulate, we are driven by standards that end up defining us. It’s essential to human nature.

For some, the standards come from a faith or religion. For others, it comes from a sense of order and justice. Fashion, music, friends, trends – all of these things exert sway over us; the question is how much and which one(s)?

Which forces will we give ourselves over to, and how much will we allow them to control us? For someone in the throes of addiction the answer to that question is radically different than it is for a youth minister trying to attract more kids, just as the answer is different for someone trying to appease a god that demands the sacrifice of lives – either the follower’s or the follower’s enemy’s.

It’s a hard truth: sometimes chasing cool is beneficial. Sometimes, it destroys you.

I’ll probably spend a lot more time on this phrase than I probably should, but I just wanted to get some initial thoughts down while it was still fresh. And to let Eric know that I’m totally stealing his words for my own use.

What kind of cool are you chasing?

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