I ask this question mostly because I love smoking a tobacco pipe, and I miss it since giving it up out of love for my wife (and her kisses). One of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much, however, was not the taste-it was the ambience that I became a part of while doing it. This is not to say that I did not find the taste enjoyable. Quite the contrary, I still love the smell of a pipe, or a good cigar. But, there is something incredibly and enchantingly old-school about sitting on your porch with a pipe, a glass of scotch, and the day’s newspaper (yes, I did…). It is for things like this that I was nicknamed the old man by my friends while doing my Masters, but maybe those old men knew something that we didn’t. Sometimes I think that our health obsession has caused us to loose some truly valuable things. We have realized how unhealthy we are, so we scrap everything. Smoking makes sense, because it is the low-hanging fruit. After all, those who do it and did it knew and know that it is unhealthy. They did it anyway. But, maybe that’s why it should not be the first fruit to be picked in our quest for healthiness. We go skydiving, bungee jumping, snowboarding, etc. not only despite the dangers inherent, but because of those dangers. This does not stop us from working toward safer home and work environments. No bungee jumping enthusiast is going to proclaim an anti-workplace safety stance. The dangers that he takes on are intentional, and they are meaningful. In the same way, I want to eat healthier and live a healthy lifestyle. But, I also want to smoke a pipe every now and again, because I enjoy it-perhaps partly because I know that it is bad for me. This unhealthy aspect may be what makes it feel so very old; I am able to make the decision to do it, and to enjoy the pleasant feeling. I am entering a forbidden club, that I am allowed access due to my level of age and respectability.
I should point out that this is not an endorsement of cigarettes, or addictive smoking of any type, whether that be cigars, pipes, or cigarettes. I do not think that becoming enslaved to an addiction can be gentlemanly-this is linked to why I enjoy pipes in the first place. Addiction removes the choice aspect, and the intentionality of the deed. This, then, is no longer the elegant and pleasurably respectable activity that I am talking about. No, I am discussing the concept of an occasional pipe. This is even better when done with a good friend. I spent a number of marvellous afternoons talking with friends about theoretical concepts that never touched on the real world, while indulging in a session of tobacco smoking which slightly loosened the tongue and enhanced the atmosphere of relaxed intellectualism that permeated my group of friends.
Beyond all this, smoking a pipe is desirable for me in the same way that many of the other old-timey things are desirable-it is a reflection of history, and allows me to imagine that I am connecting with those who came before me. Perhaps if I emanate some of their habits, I may acquire some of their virtues, and this is a worthy cause indeed. Already I know that smoking a pipe on occasion encouraged me to take time to slow down and relax from the hectic run of life. I never smoked inside, which meant that I enjoyed the outdoors, and sometimes even sitting outside is enough to rejuvenate. What do you think? Is there justification for smoking a pipe? Or is my comparison to extreme sports inaccurate?