By Scott Keith –
“Give a man a pipe he can smoke,
Give a man a book he can read,
And his home is bright with calm delight,
Though the room be poor indeed.”
Alfred Dunhill, 1924
To My Jagged Word Friends:
I got a new pipe for Christmas this year, as did my two sons. I started smoking pipes while I was in college. I have thus smoked a pipe on and off (mostly off when my children were younger) for the last 20 or so years. There is something to smoking a pipe that changes the way you think about things. It takes patience to smoke a pipe and I am not a patient person. When I smoke a pipe, I am forced to slow down and take the time necessary to tend to the little embers that I took such care creating in the first place. If I move too fast or ignore my charge, the embers will extinguish, and I will need to relight and start the tending process again.
Smoking a pipe takes time. While I smoke my pipe, I am allowed to give myself a wonderful gift, that is, the time to do those things that I do not do in the hustle and bustle of my normally hectic day. While smoking a pipe, I will often read a book. While tending my embers, I regularly contemplate God’s glorious creation and my place in it. Better yet, I often smoke my pipe in the company of others. Sometimes I am with students or alum from the university, often I am with my friend Paul Koch, but most often I am with my sons Caleb and Joshua. The simple pleasure of smoking a pipe with my students, friends, or sons provides us the time to talk with one another, banter, admire one another’s pipes, and better yet enjoy the brotherhood of other men.
I find a deep rejuvenation falls upon me during these times when I allow myself to enjoy the simple pleasure of my pipe and the brotherhood of other men. I don’t know if Luther smoked a pipe or not, but I know he felt the rejuvenation that comes from the fellowship of brothers in the faith around a table overflowing with the simple pleasures of Katherine’s home brewed bier. In fact, he wrote about such times being nearly sacramental in the Smalcald Articles (though I may be stretching this a bit). In Smalcald, Luther confesses that the Gospel gives consolation and bestows grace. His argument is that these gifts are bestowed through preaching the Gospel, Baptism, the Lords Supper, Confession and Absolution as well as “through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matthew 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc.” What else is the mutual consolation and conversation of the brethren than joining together in simple pleasures and deep conversation with faithful brothers?
I need time to slow down and smoke my pipe. I need time to enjoy that good book that has taken up residence on my night stand collecting dust rather than imparting knowledge and wisdom. In our intensely paced world, I need to slow down and do something that takes time and careful tending, simply for the pure enjoyment of doing that thing. I need to enjoy the simple pleasures and great conversations with friends and the camaraderie that comes with those endeavors. You may find that you need these things as well. If you do, remember the words of Luther and Alfred Dunhill. The Gospel is handed over in the mutual consolation and conversation of the brethren, and a man with a pipe he can smoke brings a calm delight to his home. My advice to you this New Year season is to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the brotherhood of faithful friends, and the calm delight that comes from smoking your pipe. Happy New Year!
The (today) Not-So Cantankerous Critic