The Genius of the Pipe

“…So it shall be for all time. If discord has broken out between two beings, let them smoke together. United by this bond, they will live in peace and friendship thereafter.”

-Attributed to the Great Manitou, the Great Spirit.

The ritualistic use of tobacco smoked in pipes by native Americans is appropriately linked to the serene vision of universal peace and tranquility. The stereotypic scene comes to mind of the Indian chief and his warriors encircling a teepee firepipe smokers with the Cavalry Captain sharing the peace pipe as they travel together along the road of balance. The smoke coming from the mouth symbolizes the truth being spoken, and the plumes of smoke provide a path for prayers to reach skyward.

Fast forward to your present day. You sit comfortably in your favorite chair, perhaps by the fireside or in some other sanctuary of solitude. Absent mindedly, perhaps automatically, your fingers press the leaf from your pouch into your favorite briar, or perhaps a similarly appropriate vessel. Your mind wanders through the events of the day to your midpoint of contemplation. As you strike flame and grace the fullness of the waiting chamber, the wrestling of your fears and anxieties seem to change as if only requiring a subtle sidestep motion to cast them aside. Time becomes your friend once more, and soon the puzzling questions and problems you have hoped to resolve become washed in the waters of your open mind. With an occasional tamp and a well-deserved retrohale, the shaman within you makes an easy interpretation of your deepest conflicts, and you suddenly realize your next sure step along the journey of life. In fact, it appears as a relatively clear and obvious revelation, and so quite well received. Lucky you! You have unearthed a method of relaxation and satisfaction that so many have overlooked in today’s world of instant gratification and exponential complications.

Of course, pipe smoking in itself is not a panacea for the ills of human endeavor, but so many of our most cherished “thinkers”,  philosophers, and revered celebrities have made oft quoted references in praise of the mystique and resultant benefits of the experience. In “The Social Pipe”, William Makepeace Thackeray writes, “The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected.”  Historian Jerome E. Brooks comments, “Pipe smoking is the most protracted of all forms of tobacco consumption. it may explain why pipe smokers are generally regarded as patient men–and philosophers.” And English author A. A. Milne concludes, “A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man.” (Politically incorrect; change that to “a respectable human being”).

But at the risk of leaning too heavily on my favorite genius for inspiration on such matters, one must harken to the echoes of Albert Einstein when he observed, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgement in all human affairs.”

Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!