I think it's worth pointing out that we aren't born with a desire for smoke, like we're born with a desire for food and drink. So, smoking is an acquired desire.
This means that we can differentiate between the questions, "Why did you acquire the desire at the beginning?" and "What is that desire now?"
In my case, I acquired the desire at the beginning because I admired Tokien and Lewis. That may be silly, but I'm not alone in that silliness.
As for the shape that the desire took, after awhile -- well, as for many of you, it became multi-facted:
- I grew an affection for the pipes themselves. These little bits of functional art are compelling to accumulate.
- I acquired a taste for certain sorts of tobacco, and I enjoy their flavors.
- The little rituals inolved in pipe smoking, like all good rituals, give a certain organic rhythm to the mind and body that we humans tend to flourish in.
- I do find that I relax on multiple levels when I have a pipe. This may be due in part to the ritual, in part to the breathing cadence, in part to sitting down and focusing on something simple for a block of time, and in part to the nicotine (although I don't like heavy-N, it may be that smaller amounts are influencing my relaxation more than I realize).
But although many of us have similar reasons to KEEP pipe smoking, many of us have different reasons that we STARTED pipe smoking.
Thanks for this thought-provoking post, which triggered some reflection on my own pipe smoking trajectory. It's certainly true that our motivation to smoke pipes is multi-faceted; for me, it's also true that what drew me to pipes as a beginner is a little different from what maintains my desire to keep enjoying the hobby. I can certainly attest to all of SBC's subtle points.
Before I actually smoked a pipe for the first time, I had observed a couple of pipe-smoking role models and naturally enjoyed my exposure to the pipes, the aroma of pipe smoke, and the deliberate ritual of packing, lighting, smoking, and savoring a pipe for the pure pleasure. Compared to other tobacco products, pipe tobacco was so much more appealing, and I anticipated that tasting the smoke from a pipe would be as enjoyable as smelling the smoke from someone else's pipe. As a kid and into my early teens, I often admired how well a pipe just fit
a pipe smoker's temperament, personality, and style. Of the pipe smokers I knew, I couldn't think of even one that I wouldn't want to hang out with or emulate in some way.
As soon as I first tried a pipe, I realized I'd have to adjust my expectations if I was going to pursue pipe smoking and enjoy it in the way that my role models already did. I instantly loved the look and feel of a pipe in my hand, and it felt empowering (and pleasurable) to raise my pipe to my lips. I thought it would be easier to pack and light a pipe, but I realized I'd have to develop a technique and get more efficient with it (otherwise, it would end up taking me over an hour to smoke a single bowl).
Discovering the flavor and feeling of pipe smoke, though, triggered the most significant evolution of my motivation to stick with pipes. The smoke tasted really different from how I expected it to taste, and not that much like it smelled (I think many of us who try pipes in our teens experience this disappointment). At first, I wondered if I was smoking the wrong tobacco because my smoke didn't even smell like what my grandpa and friends smoked. A little experimentation with different blends acquainted me with initially subtle but gradually noticeable distinctions in taste, smoothness, and aroma. Gentle guidance from friends and tobacconists helped me detect and appreciate both the flavor and scent of pipe smoke. The variety made me curious and eager to keep trying new blends in pursuit of my all-time faves.
In addition to the deep relaxation factor and the mostly modest (but nice) N-effect of pipe smoking, I'd say that an unexpected and welcome factor that keeps me happy as a pipe guy is the social dimension. Pipe smokers are a pretty small subset of the population, and when I meet or get together with another pipe aficionado, I almost always enjoy the camaraderie and mutual encouragement.