Friday, December 4, 2009

Fire and ice: a theory of human modes of self invention

a theory of humans, propelled, paralyzed or somewhere in between by their power to invent themselves, both publicly and within the walls of their minds...


Coolness is so disputed, such a subjective label, that its does not have a single meaning. Often, its usage is most revealing as to the mindset of the person using the word as opposed to the person, place or process that it is applied to.

Coolness literally means some thing warmer than cold but not quite room temperature. It is associated with self-control and composure - a'la "don't lose your cool." The cool girl or guy is such a well oiled machine that they don't overheat a bit when the going gets tough. Perhaps the cool person is almost a little dead. Their embarassing qualities are ice cold corpse organs within them, moderated or muffled by the warm, remaining qualities, within the cool body they share.

Uncool people have hot and cold blood too, they just can't find a balance between the two. I am often hot blooded, boisterous, passionate and reckless. If not, I am cold, apathetic and detached from the sincerity and warmth of the warm.

The warm are those individuals who have found a balance between hot and cold blood, but unlike the cool, they err on the side of warmness. They are the understanding and caring individuals who have lots of hot blooded plans but a cold blooded skepticism and temperamental conservatism that keep them from being too assertive like a hot-blooded individual. A warm person is passionate, sincere and tries to use faith to navigate the world, but often takes the path of least resistance or greatest profit.

The continuum I am putting forward:


The Cold are apathetic, perhaps nihilistic, maybe even sadistic in petty everyday ways, unfeeling, cold. Detached, little affection. They don't have a lot of friends and that is a choice only insofar as being cold is a choice (it often isnt). The cold dont feel sympathy. They can watch other suffering and not sympathize.
The cold white guy sees a black guy suffering and says, "who cares, I'm white!"
The cold white guy sees a white woman suffering and says, "who cares, I'm a man!"
The cold white guy sees a white guy suffering and says, "who cares, I'm not him."


THE COOL are associated with composure and self control. They have barely civilized their cold, soulless selves, but not enough to assert any certain identity or chase a destiny not determined by the opinions of others.
The cool are often highly wanted and desired because [1] their is a possibility of winning the affections if only temporarily, but [2] they are "hard to get." The cool do not commit to their emotions. They are reluctant to take the risk of claiming a particular identity. They are not passionate and if they are it is about something that others will surely look upon with approval. They don't want to pursue their passions if it means breaking a sweat or looking like a nerd.

Cool is often an expression of admiration or approval, but should it be? One might think we should embrace warmer figures, whose passions determined their paths.
Cool was once an attitude fostered by rebels and underdogs, such as slaves, prisoners, bikers and political dissents, etc., for whom open rebellion invited punishment, so it hid defiance behind a wall of ironic detachment, distancing itself from the source of authority rather than directly confronting it.
Coolness might be a coping mechanism for a world that burns the fearless.


The warm are essentially the nerds of this new menu of human temperaments. They are hot blooded, but in a controlled way.
What is a nerd? It is someone who cares deeply about something, but in a compartmentalized way. Where the hot blooded's passions overflow and engulf the kitchen in their smoke, the Warm's passions simmer on the backburner. Nerds have hobbies. Nerds are hot blooded people who have tamed their passions into miniature pass times they can take out, play with, and then put away when society asks it of them. The warm are the way they are because of distaste for the cold. They know the ache of engagement and the risks that go along with hotness, but they are willing to comit to identities and pursue knowledge and purchase books, because their aversion to what they see as the numb, toxic, distant emptiness of the cold.


The hot blooded people are passionate. They commit to their belifs and identities. They assert themselves without shame or restraint.
The Hot's way of inventing themselves is totally unleashed, and that charges Hot people with danger and potential.

So what are you? What does the world need more of? Are they all just coping in their own ways? What choices do we have as individuals and as a society?


  1. "Coolness is so disputed, such a subjective label, that its does not have a single meaning. Often, its usage is most revealing as to the mindset of the person using the word as opposed to the person, place or process that it is applied to."

    I think you nailed it with that... thats why your metaphorical temp gage stuff seemed a bit contradictory to what you said to begin with, though it did reveal a lot about how uncool you are BR.. But out is in, and in is sooo out these days.

    As for me, I'm like everyone else, I'd like to think I'm hot, but I'm probably just saying that because I'm cool.

    Also: "someone who cares deeply about something... in a compartmentalized way"

    What do you mean by 'compartmentalized way of caring'? Are you talking about polarizing priorities here, or something different? Please explain.

  2. Well, I guess I mean that many of the values we care about can often come into conflict. Those with moral and ethical compartments have abandoned the cult of wholeness, they have a way to have comprehensive political ideas without having to extend the logic into martyrdom.

    You probably have a number of moral compartments yourself Al, the real question is how do you switch back and forth between them? Knowing you, I know you merely take the path of least resistance and maximization of hedonism.

    I guess what I was really wish this piece explored, which it doesn't, is: coolness as subversive or complacent?

    In my model to be cool is to be apathetic. The continuum is really about the gap between identity and action.

    For the hot: identity is action
    For the warm: idenitities are seperated from action by substantial but not insurmountable gaps

    For the cool: identities are insulated from any potentail action

    For the cold: the analogy breaks down, their identities are impoverished, their actions tied to fleeting hungers and social vanities

    I never really answer the question.

  3. path of least resistance..? whaa? brian must be telling you about the fat girls i've been going home with lately, goddamnit..

  4. I think that I would be classified as cold. As for which the world needs more of? None of them, I would say. The world will have what it does and those of us living in it will just deal with it. :)