By Daniel van Voorhis –
I am a bad guy. Keep your kids away from me and shoot me dirty looks. I am a social pariah that is being pushed to the periphery of society, and you couldn’t be happier. And, what I do, I don’t even do right. I loathe certain aspects of my lousy habit.
I am a smoker… A cigarette smoker.
Smoking cigarettes is probably only a step up from racist in terms of things that aren’t illegal, but will instantly draw scorn. I’m chided with: “Don’t you know your body is a temple?” “Why do you smoke those death sticks?” “You look low class. Can’t you at least smoke a cigar or a pipe?”
To which I answer: “I think you are misusing that verse,” and “they taste good and give me something with which to relax,” and “cigars take forever, and smoking a pipe is far too complicated.” Those are my answers. They might not be very thoughtful or clever, but I’m sticking to them.
I started with Lucky Strikes, moved to Camels, and then to American Spirits. When the nouveau-hipsters started proudly overpaying for the Yellow or Turquoise Native American branded smokes, I moved on to Japanese charcoaled filtered smokes (beat that, you preening young turks).
Why am I belaboring this point? Gone are the days of Bogart and Dean smoking with an attitude. Gone are the Mad Men days of smoked filled boardrooms, table lighters, and ubiquitous heavy glass ashtrays.
My habit should go the way of days gone by, when ads featured doctors recommending cigarettes. I will concede that most of the retorts to my mocking from above are better than my answers.
Except the “temple” idea.
I’m just your friendly man about town, and no Bible scholar, but I think that if you are using that argument, you are doing it wrong.
Or at least if that verse is against defiling yourself, I’m going after everyone ingesting Big Macs, and eating saturated fat and processed sugar.
We can’t just pick on the habits we find most personally distasteful.
(Let me beat you to your message board retort; I know that eating fatty foods and sugars are not as addictive as nicotine. But I’d really prefer not to play the game where we tick off all the boxes for everything we put in our body that isn’t straight from the farm, or Whole Foods, or a recipe from “crunchy moms”.)
I’m not that worried about perfect “temple” keeping. Partly because keeping tabs on my “plusses” vs. “minuses” tends to drive me to despair, fixate on myself, and make myself of no help whatsoever to my neighbor.
But if I don’t think about my body as a temple, I often make it an idol.
I used to be an extremely rotund 250 lbs. And I wasn’t big boned. And I wasn’t trying to get healthier. At least one hundred of those pounds came from grease and processed carbohydrates, super sized fast food combos, sour patch kids, and more booze than you might drink in a lifetime.
My addictive personality turned from one thing to another. I began to obsess on my weight, and while I could have gone on a fad diet, or preached about my body being a “temple”, I started counting calories and exercising. I became like so many of the Southern California narcissists I have claimed to loathe. I eat kale and omega 3’s. I scoff at the commercials of the foods I used to wolf down (and secretly still do). I do hot yoga and use my Apple Watch to count my steps and an app to track my weight and BMI.
I went from hiding beneath oversized clothes and not caring about what I wore to being a sometimes-priggish snob about wearing certain clothes because I can. I have to remember that dressing well and presenting yourself in the best possible light to others is not a “temple adorning” exercise. (I swear I have heard that phrase used!)
I can quickly slip into narcissism and make my body an idol. Even the best things I do, I end up doing poorly.
I smoke, and think poorly about people who happen to have different bad habits that perhaps they can’t hide with mouthwash and Febreze.
Just as I might get a disapproving glare from someone as I am grabbing a smoke on a break, I double down on those glares when I find someone who I don’t know and judge their “temple adorning” or lack thereof. I stop and forget to think that maybe someone who doesn’t share my overzealousness for healthy food might be dealing with issues that I could never guess. I want to look at people and develop their life story for myself with a quick glance. I don’t want people judging me, but I seem to have no problem judging the hell out of others.
So where does this leave us? You might be the best dressed, or smartest, most organized, funniest, or loving and generous person you know.
You know the rules like a pro, and break them like an artist.
But if we can’t bear with one another, if I can’t try to understand the lives of others and what might be helpful as opposed to what might come off as bloviating and mean spirited from my perch upon Mt. Pious, I might as well stop wasting your time with this column. But I think the spirit of this website is, and is becoming even more so, a place for discussion amongst vagabonds and strangers along the way. We are a people with different interests and views on politics, culture, philosophy and theology.
And I think if we can check ourselves and neither chide those who don’t conform to our style, theological peculiarity, view of MMA, political positions, etc… I think we might just have a good time here (and over at the podcast).
In the meantime, I’ll smoke discreetly and downwind. And next week I have an article on the importance of brogues and wingtips; I have some pretty strong opinions about the state of modern footwear.
All the Best,
The Man About Town
Written while listening to “If You’re Feeling Sinister” (1996) while enjoying some mineral water and a few smokes I picked up in Tokyo.