Finding what's popular is in the unique Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Apr. 02, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

What's one way to make opera cool again? Pair it up with Star Trek.

I know that neither opera nor science fiction are considered particularly "cool" among the pop-culture glitterati of the world. Teens generally listen to One Direction, not Mozart. And, even though I love Star Trek, mentioning that in my high school would not have gotten you invited to the homecoming dance. But some interesting things happen when you pair the two.

For the past few months, opera companies everywhere have been pairing popular opera pieces with Star Trek characters. The combination of the two, sometimes mixing Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio with Klingons on stage, have been debuting to the kind of glowing reviews and sold-out houses that opera companies dream of. People who have never seen Star Trek, and don't go to the opera, are buying tickets, enjoying themselves and coming back for more.

People have been trying to figure out the secret of what makes something "cool" before recorded history. Careers have been made describing how ancient Roman and Greek women styled their hair. The men of Victorian England had specific ways of looking cool -- cravats, morning jackets and top hats worn in a certain way. The "cool" of my childhood is the "retro" of today.

Judging from the fact that we're still researching it, maybe "cool" is an unknowable mystery.

I think "cool" is in an unexpected combination. It's not this one thing, or the other, but both of those things together.

You can see this creative unexpected wonder in God's natural world. There's the funny-looking anteater, the singular giraffe, the breathtaking spectrum of butterflies and the amazing defense mechanisms of insects. We think we've seen everything and been everywhere, but we haven't. There are secrets to be found.

Lest you think that this staggering variety only happens in the exotic, check around you. Think of the more unexpected mashups you find on YouTube: the cool indie cover of that saccharine Taylor Swift song or that video with the rock cellos many posted to Facebook in mid-February.

What's "really cool" has no regard for what you wear or what you have. You are you: unexpected and different from everyone else. You're cool because you are a creative person born from a creative God, not because you wear a certain brand or have a certain smartphone.

Feel free to listen to One Direction and Mozart. Join the football team and the glee club at the same time. Be creative. Be yourself. Don't be afraid to step forward simply because you think it might not look cool. When you step forward and take the lead, you become cool. What's uncool is sitting on the bench waiting for the world to pass you by.

After all, as one Star Trek commander said, "the unexpected is our normal routine."

Make it so.

Karen Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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