But Is It Really Cool?

Philosophical question: Can I really be cool with my nerdiness?

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally at peace with my book-reading, word-philosophizing self. Embrace the geekiness, that’s me. But is cool really the word to use here? Cool and nerd have traditionally been opposites, so trying to be cool and nerdy at the same time could theoretically cause a paradox so big it could tear a hole in the space/time continuum.

(You saw the geeky thing above right? That was blatant foreshadowing indicating that at some point you’d be marking “space/time continuum” on your blog bingo card.)

So can you (I) be both cool and nerdy at the same time?

Of course!

The most obvious, if a bit boring, argument for it is that “cool” no longer has to mean you sit at the popular kids’ table at lunch, or even that it’s literally a bit chilly at that table. “Cool” has evolved to mean, “I am at one with the present circumstances and do not let them bother me.” So yes, in the most basic sense it is possible to be cool while the popular kids call you a nerd. It’s barely a paradox at this point.

(Note: I can’t tell you why someone would be pleased to sit with a group of people who think discussing grammar is odd. All I’m saying is that it can happen without endangering the space/time continuum.)

Literary paradoxes are fairly common. They’re used to help make a point or to capture the reader’s interest. Two often quoted lines are “I must be cruel to be kind,” by Williams Shakespeare, and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” by Charles Dickens.

No danger there. In fact, the examples above show that literary paradoxes can actually be a bit boring. Shut up already, Hamlet, we get it — everyone must pay for this outrage. Make up your mind already, Dickens, or I’m closing this book until less confusing times.

Paradoxes can be fun though, even the ones that aren’t strictly literary. One of my favorites is the video “Hip to Be a Square” from the tv show Sesame Street. (A spoof on the Huey Lewis and the News song.) In the video a square sings that it’s ok to be a square — all shapes are “hip” in his neighborhood. That’s a great lesson even if most kids probably don’t understand the paradox in being “hip” and “square” at the same time. But what makes this video paradox perfection is that the singing square and his square friends are in a rock band! Being “square” and in a rock band simultaneously is not possible — ask anyone! The video is a paradox with paradox subtext! Genius! Look out space/time continuum!

As great as that video is, the best part about paradoxes (at least if you’re a word philosopher) is that you can make them up at anytime. “I’m on-board with being shipwrecked with Indiana Jones,”— made that one up while I was on hold with the cable company. Try it on your next road trip or while waiting for a table at a restaurant. Show them that you’re cool with your nerdiness. Best paradox wins.