Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy

As a college student, I am very familiar with the irritation that comes when reading the writings of someone who feels inclined to repeat himself over and over again. Repetition can sometimes be an effective method of communication, but when it starts to feel like Chinese water torture, you know if has crossed the line.

Thus, I tend to feel like a hypocrite when I answer the majority of pipe-related questions with some derivation of, “Whatever makes you happy.”

I do not say this in an attempt to skirt the issue, as I will happily tell you what my preference is and why. That is all it is, however: a preference.

There are some things within the pipe world that are, most can agree, not based upon personal preference, such as what material of stem is harder, as hardness is a measurable quality. Which type is more comfortable, however, is personal preference: which provides better smoking qualities is an issue of personal preference.

It is true that pipe smoking, through consideration of population, is down from generations ago, even in just the 1970s. On the other hand, our contemplation, analysis, and appreciation is very much on the rise. What we have now is an issue of quantity versus quality.

There were those in earlier times who loved their pipes and appreciated them and cherished them. By and large, however, pipes were thought of as mediums in which tobacco can be burned and thus enjoyed. While, mechanically speaking, this is still true, the enjoyment of pipes has gone very far beyond that simple physical capability.

By being driven underground, so to speak, the passion for pipes has increased exponentially amongst those who continue to enjoy them. Thoughts about chamber geometry, bowl coatings, the value of Italian versus Danish carving styles, how best to pack one's pipe, and so forth, are very much results of our generation of pipe smokers. Pipe carvers had, naturally, mulled these ideas around for a great deal of time, but it is rather recent for the average pipester to use such mental effort in attempting understanding and finding the best pipe.

Despite this increased contemplation about different aspects of pipes and tobacco, we find ourselves having to answer the majority of questions the same way that Mark Twain did in his day: 

As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions. And the
chiefest is this--that there is a STANDARD governing the matter,
whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man's own preference
is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept,
the only one which can command him. A congress of all the
tobacco-lovers in the world could not elect a standard which
would be binding upon you or me, or would even much influence us.

With all due respect to the older generation of pipe smokers, I would not trade my generation of pipesters for anything. (Just for clarity, I include all of those still enjoying and learning about pipes at the current moment as “my generation”. I am not limiting it to simply those in my age group.) We, per-capita, show a greater interest in learning and understanding about the inner machinations of the central focus of their hobby. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers! We are bound together in a unified acceptance of the beauty of pipes and the realization that there is always more to learn. We refuse to stay stagnant and will continue to aspire to enlightenment.

I, for one, would take 10 well-informed pipe smokers, who are driven to keep learning, over 1,000,000 people who make no effort to expand their understanding. This is why I first created Pipe School: to enhance my own understanding and to help others along the same path.

But there is one key to learning with which I cannot help you: learn what you like. (See how I tied that up?)

The best thing about pipe smoking is that your personal preference is not wrong. It literally cannot be wrong, so long as it brings you pleasure.


  1. .... but acquiring knowledge also adds immensely to the pleasure?

  2. Without a doubt! The pursuit of knowledge is as powerful a force as the pursuit of the perfect pipe, except one is more easily attainable than the other.

    This is why I said that I would take the well-informed, driven pipesters over those who make no effort. It is fun to learn about pipes, but even more enjoyable to share that experience with others.

  3. on top of everything else, there is a capriciousness about pipes that makes their consideration different from just about anything else I can think of. for example, the second pipe I bought was a rather inexpensive Comoy. now, a long time and a whole bunch of pipes later, I still can’t figure it out. that Comoy, although not the most expensive or the best made or anything else, is the best smoker of my lot. go figure.