Reality bites

The discussion I brought up earlier this week about the evolving notions of “cool” has been kicking off some interesting thoughts for me. When I was in my 20s I had a pretty acute sense of what was cool. I knew that a particular subculture — say, punk — thought that these bands were cool, whereas some other subculture — say, metal — thought these bands were cool etc. And I understood that the same rules applied to books and movies etc. I was aware of the constant tension between various subcultures and the mainstream and how that all played out in the arena of cool. And, of course, I had my own notions of what was cool… an individual sense of cool, you might say.

My point here is that I really put a value on these notions of cool. Coolness was a “real” quality of objects and ideas. It actually existed.

That started to change for me after 9/11 and the ensuing Iraq war. Both events kind of brought forth the fact that there was a big chunk of human culture out there — the Muslim/Arab world — that really had no interest in Western notions of cool. I can specifically remember ruminating on the fact that your average Iraqi probably had zero interest in Led Zeppelin. Not just in the music of Led Zeppelin, but in Led Zeppelin as a concept, or contextualization, or icon or whatever. And from there, of course, I had to concede that the same was probably too with many Chinese, Indians, Eskimos and Pakistanis etc. This whole idea of cool I place so much value in was basically ignored by most of humanity. This wasn’t some huge emotional shock for me but there was something a little disturbing and humbling about it.

As time has gone on, and I’ve really gotten into neuroscience and physics, I’ve become even more removed from the world of “cool.” Now I’m acutely aware that our senses give us, at best, a vague representation of the real world. By “real world” I’m not referring to the hit MTV show (which was never cool) but all that stuff out there — atoms, and molecules and laws of gravity and light etc. So ideas of “cool” — while important to the study of human culture — are close to meaningless in “reality.”

As a result, I really think the subcultures people affix themselves to — whether they are subcultures based on a musical style, religion, or political viewpoint — are fundamentally prisons. “Man-made prisons,” as Kramer from Seinfeld would say, that prevent you from seeing reality as it exists. (Of course, as explained in the above paragraph, we can never really see reality as it exists.) Only an elite few, such as myself, can handle the truth of reality. Everyone else is scum.

1 Response to “Reality bites”


  1. John Saleeby

    Wait a minute! Led Zeppelin IS cool. People who don’t like Led Zeppelin are shit. You’re thinking too much.