On Hype and Being Cool.

I used to be a middle school teacher, so watching people try to be cool was like a hobby for me.

It’s like bird watching, only more awkward.

In Nashville, beyond middle school, there’s a whole lot of people trying to be cool, myself included. Instead of who you eat at lunch with, though, coolness in this town is more often measured by where you eat lunch, what you’re wearing when you ate that lunch, and what new album you bought before arriving at said lunch.

And I wish I were kidding.

I had an interesting conversation last night with a friend of mine, that all started with the idea of “hype.” Apparently this word surfaced in the 1920s to mean a “cheat” or a shortcut. The dictionary says hype means “extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.”

There is a lot of hype in this town.  Hype over things that are “local,” extravagance over fashion, music, food, and basically anything that is culturally relevant. The idea about hype all really stems from making people feel like some new development is so essential, so different, so remarkable, that only the coolest, hippest, most “in-tune” will really be a part.  And if you’re only hearing about the hype NOW, you’re probably too late.

And most of the time, for me, it’s creates this dichotomy of reactions. I hate it, but I want it.

Wide-rimmed glasses, dinner at the Catbird Seat, coffee at some swanky parlor, drinks at an underground restaurant, music you’ve never heard of, a sighting of Thom York, $300 jeans, unlimited yoga classes, the latest and greatest laptop, the most vintage home furnishings, the most, the least, the newest, the raddest, the best, the glorious. Don’t you want it all?

The materialism of it all is rather shocking.  And even more shocking, is the fact that I’ve bought in to it. Even as I write this I’m staring at my new beloved vintage orange velvet chair, and I love it. I want people to think it’s cool.  I want the hype.

So. If I hate the hype, but I want the hype, what is going on here?

“Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.” Ecclesiastes 4:7-8

When we succumb to the desire for glory and for riches and for hype, we are missing something so much greater. “He had neither son nor brother.” Isn’t the hype dividing us all from each other? I have the chair, you don’t, therefore it makes me cool. You have the $300 jeans, I don’t, therefore I do not measure up. The cool, the fabulous, the uncool, the lame. The blind.

As I ponder all this hype today, I’m thinking that I’ve really bought into a sordid lie. And I’d rather have a son and a brother.  I’d rather have people than the jeans. I’d rather have friends than vintage chairs. I’d rather have love and show love than to have or show anything else.

What do you think all the hype is about? Do you get caught up in it, too, or am I the only sucker? How do we live in the world, furnish our houses, eat food, and cloth ourselves without the hype?