Monday, May 15, 2017

Hmm …

… How Cool Was That? | The Weekly Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A larger, more complex question that Dinerstein's book raises is: How cool is cool itself? Is the phenomenon of cool at all significant in our day? Was it ever? For Joel Dinerstein, cool is an apotheosis, elevating those who possess it to the secular equivalent of near-divine status. The major figures in his cool pantheon are the jazz musicians Lester Young, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker; the film noir actors Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, and Robert Mitchum; the writers Richard Wright, Jack Kerouac, and Ralph Ellison; the existentialist thinkers Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir; the singers and actors Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, and Elvis Presley; and the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, whose career, for Dinerstein, in some ways marks the end of postwar cool.

Well, Blossom Dearie, who sang "I'm Hip," knew what she was singing about, and she sure seemed cool the one, brief time I met her. And existentialism has some philosophical heft when done by the likes of Kierkegaard or Gabriel Marcel, to say nothing of Nicolas Berdyaev or Leon Shestov. Of course, they are all Christian existentialists, individual existence being central to Christianity.
It was the atheistic existentialism that was thought hip, since it involved "creating" yourself,
though to model yourself on movie stars and pop singers acting hip and cool is a sure sign you're neither, no matter how much you may aspire to be, because aspiring to be hip or cool is itself neither hip nor cool.
I would suggest that a college course in cool is among the least cool things imaginable. Epstein's conclusion, though, is spot on: "courage, kindness, generosity, and natural refinement are the things that are, and always have been, truly cool."

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