160. Limitation (III)
Updated: Feb 25
What is it to be cool? To ask the question is not cool, cool people are not interested in what it is to be cool—or if they are, they never say so. Coolness is not intrinsically about handsomeness or possessions, though both of these can help—coolness is an attitude, an approach to life. It is inherently masculine, women cannot be cool; they can be seductive and fashionable, but they can never be stylish and cool. The cool man is characterised by unselfconsciousness in every act he undertakes; he is completely self-possessed, self-owned; even in situations that would be undignified for other men he keeps his cool, he owns it—he is difficult to provoke.
Ryan Gosling as “Driver” in the film Drive and Clint Eastwood in all his films embody coolness. The cool man acts; he says very, very little—even in the most adverse circumstances. The opposite to the cool man is a figure like Woody Allen: the neurotic intellectual is a narcissist, when adversity strikes he spins a monologue that bounces about the place. This is comedic, but it is deeply uncool and unmasculine. The narcissist is like a woman; he does not know who he is. All he has is an act that he uses to convince other people, convince them that he is kind or mean or smart; if the act is pierced he becomes distressed or angry—he has been found out. Inside, he is empty; he is playing a role for the world, hoping to be accepted and liked—perhaps hoping to be feared, even. He cannot escape his emptiness; he is always fidgeting and wondering: “Have I got them fooled?”
The cool man just is what he is; he acts—fundamentally a masculine virtue. He is laconic. He is not trying to fool you or put on an act; he does not even think there is an act. He is like a force of nature, an animal—perhaps a panther: it just moves, eats, and reproduces; no neurotic monologue. When he speaks, he makes simple observations; he does not intellectualise, and sometimes his observations are profoundly humorous—they provoke a real belly laugh, as opposed to the superficial laughter of comedy.
The cool man has dignity; even if he slips on a banana skin, he simply rights himself and continues, the last thing he does is ask: “What did it look like? Did I look silly?” A neurotic man would start to monologue to people, to convince them it was all a mistake or to lament his cosmic fate—in doing so, he becomes ridiculous; he becomes the popular clown. The cool man moves; he is nature, he has no act to preserve. He is not here to convince you with arguments; as with all men, there is the suggestion in his silence that the issue will finally be resolved by violence.
He is eternal; he has style, as opposed to fashion—fashion changes all the time, and so stays the same; it is for women. Style keeps: Greek statues are still stylish—Greek statues are cool, literally; the marble is cool to the touch.
You want to be cool? Stop thought; just act—say nothing, accept everything. “You’re cool,” a girl said to me at work one day; she said it because at the time I said hardly a word and just did things—sometimes I would scribble a note in Arabic on my jotter. “What’s that? What are you writing?” she said. “Arabic,” I said.
There is a 4chan story that a man turned his life around—career and girlfriend and car—just by copying Ryan Gosling in Drive. If the story is not true, then it should be true—and I think it is true. To be cool is a spiritual position, because the cool man is reconciled to his fate in the world; he does not know where he is going, but he knows he has a destiny: he is on the road.