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Monday, August 2, 2010

Why Being Macho Is Irrelevant to keeping one’s Cool

I remember a quote about Yul Brynner from one of his admirers---he had “an extra quart of champagne is his veins.” I don’t know exactly what was intended by the compliment, but to me it meant he was cool under pressure. I greatly admire people who are cool under pressure—people who have the right stuff. You recognize it in people who keep their heads in situations that would fluster many others. For me a prime example would be getting a flat tire during rush hour on the Howard Franklin Bridge. Some would almost panic, but there are a few who would remain cool even though their driving skills were comparable to those with the first reaction. What lies behind this composure and continued sound thought processes and judgment under pressure? What keeps the cool from losing it and becoming flustered—what causes some to take rash actions that create more problems than they solve. Is it in the genes or is it a behavior that can be acquired? What lies behind “keeping one’s cool?”

I have a blog entry July 17th called “Notes to Teico on the Essential Character of Love.” Like a litany of the fruit of the Spirit I mentioned that lovers respect their material (and the reality it presents); they accept ownership of problems (and the effort and risk it may entail); they realize that approaching the problem in the right way has fundamental even eternal significance—they respect and honor the long term; they have patience when handling a problem (no elixir is likely to magically solve problems instantly—there will be a series of steps); they have patience to tolerate complexity. In my view, being a disciplined lover (filled with the Spirit) in this way is the secret of keeping one’s cool.

Take our flat tire on Howard Franklin Bridge as an example. When the flat occurs, some will initially want to deny reality, perhaps even with frustration or anger. The next aspect of the flustered response is to deny ownership of the problem. They simply don’t want to accept that a problem has occurred and that they are the lucky one appointed to deal with it—they don’t want to accept the work or the risk; they act irresponsibly. The flustered also focus on the short term and want an instant escape. The flustered have no patience with the complexity a safe outcome will entail.

Compare this with one keeping their cool (the spiritually healthy person). When the flat tire occurs they accept its reality and realize they must enter a problem solving mode. They accept the problem as a challenge they must meet (they quietly accept the work and risk required). They realize a total solution will require many steps, so they set about prioritizing what must be done, and proceed to act responsibly (in the right way). They recognize that even a flat tire can offer complex things to deal with. They accept this as a matter of course.

From my point of view “keeping one’s cool” essentially derives from one’s spiritual health—from a deep appreciation for the disciplines of love and fruit of the Spirit. One can be macho and be cool, or one can be macho and be a fool. It is irrelevant. What truly matters is one’s spiritual tenor. Someone who cannot be troubled or bothered by circumstances and is above dealing with reality may appear cool, but they are merely the cousins of the flustered putting on a bland facade. True coolness, true inner peace is always a spiritual matter and is evidenced by real world results.

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