Last Thursday, close to forty guests gathered at the Centre for Social Innovation on West 26th Street for COOL Convening #1. Over the course of two hours, we discovered what kinds of new solutions we could create to old problems by way of redefining "cool" as generosity rather than rebellion. This evening was the kind of safe space in which we were free to be vulnerable in our exploration -- unpacking that which usually remains untouched: what it means to be "cool."
Through guided meditation and personal introductions, we created an environment in which participants could authentically share with each other. Drawing from the work of Dick Pountains and David Robins, we first identified how "cool" is currently practiced in our culture, “[C]ool is an attitude or personality type that has emerged...during different historical epochs...but is nevertheless recognizable in all its manifestations as a particular combination of narcissism, ironic detachment, and hedonism,” (Cool Rules, 26) also teasing out how "[T]his attitude is in the process of becoming the dominant type of relation between people in Western societies, a new secular virtue.”
From here, we distinguished a new way of defining "cool," along the work of art historian Robert Farris Thompson:
With this new precedent set, participants were then matched in thematic pairs and went to work identifying a pressing issue in their discipline of interest. They began to generate new ways of addressing this specific issue, bringing this new definition of "cool" to bear as the starting point for problem-solving. We then came back together as a large group for share outs from each pair. The evening ended with a role play of how to be Cool And Thoughtful, even in a moment when it might be easier to react with fear and judgement.
The overwhelming feedback from participants was that this event was a refreshing window of real connection between people, and an experience that sparked a new context for targeted problem solving and daily interactions alike: a context of being Cool And Thoughtful. In a moment where deep connection is rare, this experience of true connection, around a topic that is universal but often unacknowledged, has laid the foundation for a new community (this community!) that understands "cool" as being generous and engaged.
I am deeply moved by each attendee, for each person present brought their own type of magic by way of their individual experiences, the values they hold, and the way in which they participated with courage and zest. As the founder of this project, I am particularly grateful, for this idea of "Cool And Thoughtful" now lives with each of you. Water this garden.