The world is in bad shape, but we don’t want to let our pipe go out under and circumstances, do we? —Karl Barth to Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(cf. Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, 120)
Some might know that I enjoy pipes, yet many of you do not, so don’t be upset. That would be childish. Some of you probably scoff at me, but eh, whatever. Did you know scoffing is a past time? There is an old Indian proverb that states:
“A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.”
Or, you can listen to this brilliant guy, Albert Einstein:
“I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.”
When I was younger, everyone told me never to smoke, and I didn’t. Yet, I started reading into the lives of many people I highly respected, realizing they all had one thing in common…they smoked, whether that was pipes or cigars. They are men I look up to for their wit, intelligence, and the impact they have made in my own life: Mark Twain, Charles Spurgeon, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Karl Barth, Beethoven, Bonhoeffer (he was a cigarette guy, you can’t blame the man). For women out there reading this, Millicent Fenwick and George Sand smoked pipes. Now, I on occasion smoke because it is what calms my mind, brings some sense of clarity to a situation, and reminds my soul the depths of meaning in life. It is those simple and small moments that can bring the greatest amount of contentment.
It honestly relaxes me, or it allows me to clear my head and approach a problem in a new light. The reason for this is the patience you have to have before you even start smoking. You have to prepare: matches, packing, cleaning, and lighting it up. The process itself takes my mind away from the situation, and it allows me to focus on something else for awhile. Then, after a few minutes, I am able to begin again my contemplation on fixing the situation or ruminating on things I have read.
So, I use my pipe as a distraction. I smoke not for the fact of not understanding the possible health risks, but the idea from Ecclesiastes to enjoy those things which God has made. Tobacco is something God made to be enjoyed occasionally. Also, the occasions, when I smoke, are a carpe diem moment for me. I’m assuming you’ve seen Dead Poets Society. If you haven’t, oh man, it is such an iconic scene with Robin Williams. He leans in with the class near the trophy case and mutters the words: “Caaarppeee…Carpe Diem… Seize the day boys.” Earlier, he comes to the poem by Robert Herrick, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” and he says,”Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…” Just watch the clip, you’ll see.
Anyway, I use my pipe as a distraction, a moment for simple enjoyment, and it allows me space from people. Pipes distract me from problems and conundrums. Also, the pipe allows for me to dwell on other thoughts with little or no stress. I understand you still see my vice as a problem, yet I will take my petty vice over others. I digress from my main point, Aragon states, “None knows what the new day shall bring him.” Usually, I smoke my pipe at night before sleeping. Hence, the pipe enables reflection on the day, those activities and words stated never to be reflected on again. Moreover, I come back to questions that popped up in my day from reading that I shelved away for a proper opportunity. Thus, I smoke my pipe for a multitude of reasons.
I leave you with an excerpt from Mark Twain’s essay, “On the Moral Statistician.”
You never see more than one side of the question.
You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time.
And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking.
Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it?
What use can you put it to? Money can’t save your infinitesimal soul.
All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?
—Mark Twain, “The Moral Statistician”