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Lessons from the Hipster Bar

Why is it that everyone secretly wants to be something they’re not?

Across the street from my apartment there is a bar frequented by hipsters. It’s so niche in its appeal that it’s almost stereotypical. Every night, the cool, eclectic twentysomethings are as thick as flies.

I love to head over to the bar from time to time, because it’s cozy and quaint, situated above a bakery. Its wood floors and exposed rafters give it a very attic-like feel. The tunes are as eclectic as the crowd, ranging from Echo and the Bunnymen to the Flaming Lips to Thievery Corporation. I also go there because, if I’m being entirely honest, I have an overwhelming desire to be a hipster. Something about the artsy, ironically cool vibe they give off has always enticed me. By visiting the hipster bar, I feel that I move one step closer to attaining their approval.

Recently when I visited the establishment, I sat in the corner working on my iBook. I spied a fine specimen of hipsterosity at an adjacent table. He was wearing an open flannel shirt over a ringed T-shirt, straight leg jeans, Rivers Cuomo horn-rimmed glasses and had his hair crested into a tidy faux-hawk. As he chatted with his friends, I eavesdropped on their conversation. It was all about different imported beers and rare microbrews. His companions marveled as he delivered a lengthy discourse on the subtle nuances and complexities of various brews. The untrained palate, he opined, could not distinguish such myriad flavors.

At long last, I seemed to have stumbled upon some kind of hipster high priest! All those gathered around him treated him with an air of reverence. Perhaps, I thought, if I could impress their leader I could finally obtain hipster status.

As he harangued on, I knew there was but one way to prove my worth to this group of connoisseurs. I would show them that I was one of their kind by picking a beer fitting of their high standards. Then, they would see how cosmopolitan I was and immediately welcome me into their midst. No doubt there would be some kind of bizarre initiation ritual followed by merciless hazing, but it was a risk I was willing to take. I approached the bar and consulted the bartender, his arms sleeved in tattoos and face painted with a practiced apathy.

“What beers do you have that exhibit subtle nuances and complexities?”

He grudgingly suggested a particular brand that he assured me had a hint of raisins. This sounded delightful! I could certainly get on board with subtle hints of raisins! I ordered my beer and proudly returned to my table, ready to imbibe it in full view of my new role models. My induction into their coven was at hand.

As it turned out, what was supposed to be a smorgasbord of raisin-y goodness was actually the distilled essence of Satan mixed with the tears of orphaned children. It was hands down the most detestable thing I had ever willingly put into my body. The taste was something akin to filling your mouth with dirt and leaves and then being repeatedly kicked in the face.

Despite all logic, I continued to drink this horrible swill, each sip causing my apparently “untrained palate” to weep quietly, wondering what it had done to deserve such punishment. Still, I was determined. I would show these hipsters that I was one of them. Through tears of anguish, I choked back my tall, cool glass of sorrow only to realize that they hadn’t paid attention to my efforts at all. They sat absorbed in their conversation, still unaware of my presence and unimpressed by my display. Dejectedly, I returned to my iBook.

A few minutes later, as I sat banished back into the realm of obscure loser-dom, Professor Beer approached me.

“Are you responsible for the tuneage?” he asked sheepishly.

I cocked my head and listened as the Smiths gave way to Johnny Cash.

“Uhhh…no…sorry.”

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“Oh,” he replied, “I just saw the iBook and thought that …”

He trailed off, obviously embarrassed. Everything about his general demeanor implied that he felt genuinely awkward and intimidated. No doubt, he had practiced a speech to share with me that would be guaranteed to leave me awestruck at his knowledge of music. Unfortunately, his carefully phrased and rehearsed question had yielded unexpected results. He turned and walked away, ashamed over something as small as asking the wrong guy about the house music. That’s when I realized that he was playing a role just as much as I had been trying to. Behind the carefully polished ruminations and self-aware fashion sense was another insecure person trying to create a guise.

It amazes me the lengths we go to in trying to affect an outward image. All of us seem dissatisfied with our natural personae. The thing I’ve come to realize, though, is that God made us a certain way and He did so with purpose.

I can’t describe the liberation that comes in reveling in who God made us to be. All the quirks, temperaments and idiosyncrasies that we have were crafted in us by our Father, and He delights in them. Every aspect of our character was carefully thought out and deliberately executed.

Our misconception is that Christ wants to change our personalities. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He wants to redeem our personalities. Christ wants to make stubbornness into steadfastness, emotionalism into compassion, foolhardiness into faith. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and Jesus’ purpose is for us to reach the full potential of this craftsmanship.

Of course, we are called to grow and change. We can’t rest on the idea that we are perfect as we are and become stagnant. But, when we seek to grow it should be couched in the knowledge that God loves the personality He instilled in us. When we seek to put up a facade, we cheapen God’s workmanship. He formed us in the womb to bring Himself glory, and we would be unwise to call His work a mistake.

I still go to the hipster bar occasionally. Now, though, I go without illusions of forcibly fitting myself into a subculture. I am perfectly content to be that dork in the corner, on the outside looking in.

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