YOU’VE GOT TO BE COOL TO BE KIND
September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
I can always tell if I’m patronizing a ‘cool’ establishment in Los Angeles. The most salient clue?
No one’s smiling.
Some time back, probably around the point at which the Goths sacked Rome, some self-ascribed ‘cool’ person decided that one isn’t allowed to show joy, enthusiasm or humour if one is to be considered chic, trendy, hip. I remember my first visits to nightclubs in Sydney in the late 80s; the brusqueness on display terrified me. It was as if all the Bond villains in the world had descended on this tiny room. These living monuments to the in-crowd were veritable statues. Impenetrable. I remember thinking, “geez, this nightclub stuff is serious. I wonder where these folks go after this experience to unwind?”
I was at my corner 7-eleven this morning, buying my favourite cup of corporate hazelnut coffee and, upon my turn at the register, I noticed a gentleman standing behind me with his cup. This person was clearly what we have to come to label a “working” man, a moniker never more appropriate in this world of capital gains, dividends and people making gads of cash at the touch of a button. On an impulse, I told the man at the register to ring up his coffee as well on my dime.
The first thing I noticed was the look of surprise on the cashier’s face. He asked me to make sure. I said yes, absolutely. He paused, as if to verify for himself that buying a stranger coffee was not illegal in Burbank. He then proceeded.
The victim of my random act of kindness was also in a state of mild astonishment, followed by a gratitude that was out of adjustment in its intensity. Clearly he, too, doesn’t experience this sort of thing too often. What followed was remarkable- he had already withdrawn his cash to pay for his coffee, and having thanked me he then put it down on the counter and said to the man behind him, “okay then, I’ll pay that forward!” and, shaking my hand, he then left the store.
The gent on the receiving end of this train of goodwill attempted to refuse and the chuckle that accompanied the refusal spoke volumes to me. It was the nervous laugh of embarrassment.
It is sad to me that we are conditioned to find unalloyed genersoity, kindness and exuberance embarrassing or silly. Our most powerful resource is kindness and love for others. We must be on the lookout for it on a daily basis. We must be ready to accept it when it comes along for, to be sure, every time that we reject or fail to acknowledge a kindness, something offered us without ulterior motive, we are conditioning the giver to withhold, withdraw and cease in their practice of generous acts.
Charisma is not aloofness. ‘Cool’ is not a face set in marble. Charisma and cool mean walking into a room ready to take an interest, to give of oneself, to offer and receive with jubilance, to laugh, to opine, to be outraged and to dance, with grace or otherwise.
Kindness and generosity are the new chic. If that sounds corny and a little silly (and I strongly suspect it might), it means I’m probably onto something. Or, as Dr.Dre put it in elegant, Shakespearean terms : “if you don’t like it, blow me.”
Picture : I only know one song of Dr.Dre’s, his duet with Eminem ‘Forgot About Dre’. Pulsating.