He’s so cool! He’s is really a cool dude! He is a very cool customer. I like him, he’s cool! Just be cool! What a cool reception that was! Just cool down now! He’s worth a cool million. He has a really cool sports car! We had a really cool time at the party! He kept his cool! I love the cool of the evening! On and on the cool talk can go.
We just read a significant number of ways that the word COOL is used in the English language, all with somewhat and even very great differences in meanings. This is what makes the English language a challenging language to learn, for it is packed with what we call IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS. In others words, there are phrases, statements that use the same word/words but with completely different intent.
Here is but one example of COOL IDIOMS – If you will, to say, “He kept his cool,” has a totally different meaning from, “He has a really cool sports car.” The very same word can have many different meanings depending upon the context and the subject being discussed. But there is one dominant and deceptive use of the word COOL that I want to address in this teaching.
COOL HAND LUKE – THE MOVIE
Oh how often I hear young people saying about other certain renegade young people, or morally repugnant and prominent people in the movie and entertainment industries, “He’s so COOL,” or, “She’s so COOL.” Do they even slightly understand what they are talking about? In many cases I sincerely doubt it. All they think is that it is so COOL to be COOL.
And Christian adults have gotten in on the lingo, as I hear them say, “That’s COOL.” Perhaps they mean, “That’s a good idea,” or, “That sounds like a smart thing to do,” or, “Good choice.” Then why don’t they say exactly that, for COOL is such a negatively loaded word as we shall see. Perhaps it is a lazy shortcut to avoid having to say more words.
Cool Hand Luke, a 1967 blockbuster movie which is often rerun today, is the moving character study of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner who bullheadedly resists authority and the Establishment. One of the film’s posters carried a tagline related to the character’s rebelliousness: “The man…and the motion picture that simply do not conform.”
With this vivid film, director Stuart Rosenberg made one of the key films of the 1960s, a decade in which protest against established powers was a key theme. One line of the film’s dialogue from Strother Martin is often quoted, “What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.”
In the opening scene, set in the South in 1948 [the film was shot on location in Stockton, California], Lucas “Luke” Jackson (Paul Newman) is arrested for the minor offenses of being drunk and destroying two long rows of parking meters in a defiant act of rebellion. As he lazily cuts off the heads of the meters with a pipe cutter, the red, two-hour time limit VIOLATION warning pops up, foreshadowing his own imminent arrest. Luke is detached toward police when they arrive at the scene and arrest him for social defiance – under a streetlight’s glare, he laughs at them with a big grin.
The next scene is of the typical, grueling road work forced upon prisoners – an imprisonment which reflects the authentic horrors of life on a chain gang in a Southern prison. Luke continues his defiance of authority until his death while on the run as an escapee.
COOL HAND LUKE – THE CHARACTER
I. COOL EQUALS FLIPPANCY – TAKING NOTHING SERIOUSLY
He is so cool! He is such a cool cat! Nothing bothers him! That is COOL HAND LUKE! The inmates love that – makes them feel like being bad is being so cool.
Kids love cool kids. They wish they could be cool too! They try to imitate them. Why? Because they each have the tendency in them to do wrong by nature! And if they can only be like COOL HAND LUKE, then they can do wrong without feeling guilty. Carefree! Guilt free! COOL!
This becomes so obvious in the dialogue between COOL HAND LUKE and his mother ARLETTA on prison visitation day. Mother Arletta says to her son,
“YOU THINK LIFE IS SOME KIND OF OCEAN VOYAGE, AND YOU START OUT
WITH BUNTIN’ AND HOLLERAN’ AND HIGH HOPES. BUT THE DAMN SHIP
GOES DOWN BEFORE YOU EVER REACH THE OTHER SIDE. LUKE?”
COOL HAND LUKE responds and says to mother Arletta,
Mother Arletta asks LUKE,
“WHAT WENT WRONG?”
MR. COOL responds,
“NOTHIN’, EVER’THING’S COOL’S CAN BE.”
That pretty well defines what it means TO BE COOL. That’s it – FLIPPANCY – FRIVOLOUSNESS toward right and wrong, good and bad, obedience and disobedience. That my friend is BEING COOL. In prison, on a chain gang, hotter than fire, and:
“NOTHIN’ IS WRONG – EVERYTHING IS COOL’S CAN BE.”
There is a passage of Scripture that defines what it means to be COOL in the eyes of the world. Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who is having a big marriage celebration for his son. The king sends out his servants to invite guests to the wedding ceremony and feast. What was their response? We read in Matthew 23:5 KJV,
“But they make LIGHT OF IT, and went their ways.”
Made light of it! A COOL INDIFFERENCE! In that incredible classic The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis warned us all against the wiles of the devil. One of his most effective weapons is to instill in people a misplaced sense of FRIVOLITY AND FLIPPANCY.
Well then, Lewis tells about two people who have recently been converted to Christianity. Naturally the devil is upset and very disturbed about all of this, but he still sees hope on the horizon, for he notes that these new Christians have taken up company with a set of flippant people who make light of everything. As long as these new converts to Jesus consort with frivolous people, Satan believes there is still hope of their damnation.
“FLIPPANT AND FRIVOLOUS COOL HAND LUKE EVADES THE TRUTH BY
COVERING THE SHAME OF WHAT IS SHAMEFUL, AND EVEN THE
PAIN OF WHAT IS PAINFUL BY MAKING LIGHT OF IT ALL.”
Come on now, hear it:
“COOL HAND LUKE TRIES TO DEADEN HIS SENSITIVITY
TO RIGHT AND WRONG, TRUTH AND UNTRUTH,
BEAUTY AND UGLINESS, IN ORDER THAT
HE MAY NOT BE GOT AT.”
“THE PURPOSE OF COOL FRIVOLITY IS TO DISGUISE THE HARSH OUTLINE
OF SIN, IMMORALITY, AND SHAME.”
COOL HAND LUKE makes a joke out of evil when the following takes place on the chain gang. Heads pop up as a blond comes out of a nearby house, dressed in a short house dress, carrying a radio, a pail, and a sponge. She is clearly buxom, and she goes to the outside faucet, fills the bucket and drags the attached hose toward a car.
She begins to hose the dirty car, splashing herself, making the cotton dress cling to her body, tossing her hair, every movement and gesture erotic and provocative. Their work is completely disorganized by now as they attempt to work while watching. COOL HAND LUKE says to his fellow chain gangers,
“THAT IS ONE MEAN LADY. BET HER HUSBAND SPENDS ONE DAY A
WEEK SHOOTING MAILMEN.”
“COOL HAND LUKE’S FLIPPANCY AND FRIVOLITY IS SEEING THE FUNNY SIDE
OF THINGS THAT HAVE NO FUNNY SIDE.”
In other words, make a joke out of every serious spiritual and moral issue. Make light of both righteousness and unrighteousness, so as to blunt the serious impact of both. I see and hear it around me all the time where we live. It is a COOL HAND LUKE MISSION FIELD! In short, people like COOL HAND LUKE, whether down-and-outers, or up-and-outers:
“SPEAK OF LUST AND NOT LOVE, OF GLANDS AND NOT HEART, FOR
THEY DO NOT WANT TO INVOLVED IN ANYTHING AT TOO
DEEP A LEVEL.”
II. COOL EQUALS IMPUDENCE – DISRESPECT AND DISOBEDIENCE
It is an amazing scene when COOL HAND LUKE dramatizes himself as a SEEKER AFTER GOD. The plain truth is that COOL HAND LUKE, like so many, has been dodging God his whole life, like Adam in the Garden, and like Jonah taking a ship to Tarshish.
COOL HAND LUKE has escaped the prison camp, and is running for his life. In his flight, he passes a church. Luke, now referring to God, says,
“HEY OLD MAN! YOU HOME TONIGHT?”
He then starts across a bridge, and as he approaches the church, COOL HAND LUKE says to OLD MAN (GOD),
“IF YOU CAN SPARE A MINUTE, IT’S ABOUT TIME WE HAD OURSELVES
A LITTLE TALK.”
COOL HAND LUKE goes into the church, mounts the steps of the pulpit, looks up and says,
“OLD MAN, I KNOW I’M A PRETTY EVIL FELLER, WHO GOT DRUNK AND
CHOPPED UP MUNICIPAL MERCHANDISE AND LIKE THAT. I ADMIT I
AIN’T GOT NO CALL TO ASK FOR MUCH.”
Then COOL HAND LUKE shifts the blame to God for his less than honorable life,
“BUT EVEN SO, YOU AIN’T DEALT ME NO CARDS IN A LONG TIME.
I MEAN IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE YOU GOT IT FIXED
SO I CAN’T NEVER WIN OUT.”
Then reflecting on life before prison and life in prison he says to OLD MAN (GOD),
“INSIDE OR OUT, IT’S JUST DIFFERENT BOSSES AND DIFFERENT RULES.
WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO FIT IN? OLD MAN, I GOT TO TELL YOU –
I STARTED OUT PRETTY STRONG AND FAST, BUT IT’S STARTING
TO GET TO ME. WHEN DOES IT END?”
COOL HAND LUKE, peeking up at the church roof, says,
“WHAT YOU GOT IN MIND FOR ME NEXT? OLD MAN, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
ALRIGHT, ON MY HANDS AND KNEES A SKIN’.”
Then, not hearing an audible voice from God, COOL HAND LUKE concludes:
“I GUESS I’M JUST A HARD CASE AND I GOTTA FIND MY
WAY OUT MYSELF.” (End of quote)
So much is happening here to and in COOL HAND LUKE, I hardly know where to start. So disrespectful of God is COOL HAND LUKE that he cannot call God “GOD,” for that would not be COOL. It is much COOLER to bring God down to his own level, and call Him a MAN, albeit an OLD MAN. COCKY AND IRREVERENT about God and spiritual things is always a part of IMPUDENT COOLNESS. Nothing is COOLER than to bring God down when you are COOL HAND LUKE. It evens things out and puts you on God’s level and God on yours. That’s COOL.
COOL HAND LUKE is a microcosm of our impudent society that vulgarizes and cheapens the Holy God, and leaves a trail of degradation on everything it touches. COOL HAND LUKE abuses the Divine name to blunt its impact. To remain COOL HAND LUKE, he must deaden his sensitivity to holiness, beauty, and goodness.
But there is something deeper still. I am reminded of Romans 8:7 KJV,
“The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law
of God, NEITHER INDEED CAN IT BE.”
Ah, here is the rub. COOL HAND LUKE HAD PRAYED,
“INSIDE OR OUT, IT’S JUST DIFFERENT BOSSES AND DIFFERENT RULES.”
That’s the problem because:
“YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BE COOL AND AT THE SAME TIME BE SUBMISSIVE TO
AUTHORITY, WHETHER GOD’S LAWS OR MAN’S LAWS. COOL IS
BEING YOUR OWN BOSS!”
There you have it:
“INDEPENDENCE AND OBEDIENCE TO NO ONE IS THE ESSENCE OF
BEING COOL HAND LUKE.”
“WHEN YOU’RE COOL, ONE SHOULD ALWAYS PREFER COOL
SELF-IMAGE BEFORE DUTY.”
But there is more to COOL HAND LUKE’S prayer to THE OLD MAN.
Much more, most of which we will not have space for! What is important are the words of Jeremiah 6:15 KJV,
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abominations? Nay, they were
not at all ashamed, neither could they be: therefore they shall fall among
them that fall: at the time that visit I them they shall be cast down,
saith the Lord.”
There really is no shame in COOL HAND LUKE, and if there is minimally any blame, then he tells OLD MAN GOD that he is partially to blame for COOL HAND LUKE’S PRESENT PLIGHT. But there is no shame for his sins, because:
“SHAME IS BEING A SISSY, WHILE SHAMELESSNESS IS BEING COOL.”
If you saw the movie, during this COOL HAND LUKE – OLD MAN EXCHANGE, Luke retains that COCKY SMIRK on his face without the slightest redness-blushing of shame throughout, because:
“WHEN YOUR COOL HAND LUKE, NOT ONLY MUST YOU NOT BE GRIPPED
BY THE SUBSTANCE OF VIRTUE, BUT YOU MUST NOT EVEN ALLOW THE
SURFACE COLOR OF VIRTUE, THE BLUSH OF SHAME, TO
CROSS YOUR FACE.”
The Lord says:
“Therefore they shall fall among them that fall, at the time that I visit them
they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.”
COOL HAND LUKE fell in his COOL SHAMELESSNESS, as the Lord visited him with a bullet from GUARD BOSS through the church window. COOL HAND LUKE WAS CAST DOWN and died. I do not know whether Luke’s prayer to the Old man was his first, but it surely was his last. God stopped his breath at the end of it, and COOL HAND LUKE was summoned into the other world. Hear it:
“NO MAN IS FIT TO PRAY WHO IS NOT FIT TO DIE, AND COOL
HAND LUKE WAS FIT FOR NEITHER.”
Luke remained COOLLY INDEPENDENT to the end. That’s COOL you see. He gives indication of that when he implies to OLD MAN that he is too far gone, and that he will have to find his way out and recover himself if he is to be recovered at all. INDEPENDENT COOL HAND LUKE TO THE END.
III. COOL EQUALS SUCCESS THROUGH NOTHINGNESS
Nihilism is a non-Christian belief teaching that in the end, “nothingness” prevails in a world that is totally meaningless. Nihilism teaches that God does not exist or that He is dead. Nihilism says there is no higher purpose in life, that life is simply futile.
The word “nihilism” comes from nihil, a Latin root meaning “nothing” or “that which does not exist.” Interestingly enough, this same root is found in the word “annihilate” which means “to destroy something completely, especially so that it ceases to exist.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, is usually credited with being the founder of nihilism. In his “Will to Power” he wrote: “Every belief, every consideration of something true, is necessarily false because there is simply no true world.” As such, nihilism is the belief that all values are utterly worthless, that nothing can be known or communicated. The philosophy of nihilism is also associated with extreme pessimism and deep-seated skepticism about life. It has no allegiance to anyone or anything.
COOL HAND LUKE is a movie and a figure of NIHILISM. In fact, the message is:
“YOU CAN HAVE NOTHING AND BE NOTHING AND ACCOMPLISH NOTHING
AND STILL BE A COOL SOMEONE.”
This is nihilism carried to its ultimate deception:
“IT’S COOL TO HAVE NOTHING AND BE NOTHING AND TO PRETEND
TO BE SOMETHING.”
This comes into clear focus in the film during an inmate card game. The narrative is gripping and most revealing. And here is where not only does Luke get his name, but the movie gets its name – COOL HAND LUKE.
It came when Luke bluffed Koko (a fellow inmate) into thinking that Luke had a strong hand of cards. He really didn’t, and Luke won the hand. Dragline (eventually Luke’s #1 inmate fan) says to Koko:
“NUTHIN’! A HANDFUL OF NUTHIN’! YOU STUPID MULLET-HEAD. HE BEAT
YOU WITH NUTHIN’. JUST LIKE TODAY WHEN HE KEPT COMIN’
BACK AT ME (IN A FIGHT).”
Here is Luke’s smiling response which defines his philosophy of life:
“NUTHIN’ CAN BE A PRETTY GOOD HAND.”
It is then that Then Dragline calls him:
“COOL HAND LUKE,”
and with him calling Luke that, the baton of leadership and the Alpha Male role falls to COOL HAND LUKE.
COOL HAND LUKE’S NIHILISM-NOTHINGNESS is the complete antithesis to CHRISTIANITY and CHRIST’S EVERYTHINGNESS. The Apostle Paul states of Jesus Christ in Colossians 3:11,
“but Christ is all, and in all.”
Only when we serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and make Him our everything can our lives amount to something really beautiful for God’s glory. COOL HAND LUKE missed his total purpose for being, Jesus Christ, and because he missed his EVERYTHING, his life ended in nothing. That’s not cool, that’s eternally tragic.
COOL HAND LUKE remained ignorant of the entire meaning of life which is as we read in Revelation 4:11 KJV,
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou
hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are
and were created.” Amen!
To the end, Hollywood made COOL HAND LUKE A HERO. Ole Dragline reminiscing to his fellow prisoners says:
“HE WAS SMILING…THAT’S RIGHT. YOU KNOW, THAT, THAT LUKE SMILE
OF HIS. HE HAD IT ON HIS FACE RIGHT TO THE VERY END. HELL,
IF THEY DON’T KNOW IT ’FORE, THEY COULD TELL RIGHT
THEN THAT THEY WEREN’T A-GONNA BEAT HIM.
THE OLD LUKE SMILE.”
And he concludes:
“OH, LUKE. HE WAS SOME BOY. COOL HAND LUKE. HELL, HE’S A NATURAL