philosophy of cigarettes

picture by andrew hippie
on smoking
people want to know why i smoke cigarettes. when faced with that question i seldom ever answer it seriously. there is too much to say, too much that most people wouldn't seriously consider that would have to go into an explication of the issue. however, in this post i'm going to suspend that trend and  give a few thoughts on the issue.

first, let's look at about societal perception of addiction. it is commonly thought that social consensus is a somewhat accurate division of the less harmful addictions from the more harmful ones. using this logic, we can see why addiction to heroin is a deal-breaker in many friendships while facebook addiction is a laughing matter.

however, this distinction is essentially a false dichotomy. society's fascination with partially hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup (think taco bell and rockstar energy drinks) is no less harmful than its flirting interactions with tobacco. are unprecedented epidemic-level outbreaks of obesity and diabetes negligible? are their causes laughable?

we are similarly engaged in a full-scale cultural addiction to transport by means of fossil fuel consumption. how many people that you know would still be alive if there were no car accidents? and what, in a land where we can grow our food locally and participate  is the motivation for owning and operating cars in the first place? is it convenience, a large-scale fumbling for an elusive sense of control?

'these years of buy and sell'
it may be that health standards and mortality rates are not the final criteria for the social acceptance of a practice, but the separations between "good" and "bad" addictions are by no means arbitrary. they are determined by  societal consent, and in a neocapitalist society consent is bought and sold in both on an  individual basis (direct advertising) and on a large-scale collective level (deals worked out by legislators and lobbyists).

government propaganda campaigns invoke "big tobacco," but i haven't heard anything about "big fast food," or "big caffeine."  as a result, consent is being produced, assembled and shipped with unprecedented freedom. the difference between a "good" addiction and a "bad" one might just be a few hundred thousand dollars.

what is happening here? what have we created? a universe of perceived ideals fueled and impassioned by perceived needs. large-scale addiction.

the western man needs to drive and drive fast in a car he often can't afford to prove that he is a sexually attractive entity. the western woman needs clothes with a brand on them from far, far away to prove that she can be attractive too.

why addiction (in the first place)?
essentially, we have all at least partially subscribed to the subjective worldview. we all know, deep down, that the one thing that is truly meaningful is our intangible and inexpressible self; we know that we can never quite say what we mean or convey what and who we are in the depths of our souls.

experientially, we are confounded by the realization that the force contained in our self is not a sufficient means by which to live. there are, in fact, other selves (and, arguably, a semi-static physical world) to deal with! the subjective self takes over from there and asserts needs; we crave a manifest denial of our insecurity, a tangible affirmation of our illusion that we are really in control, and these physical assertions of ego often very quickly become addictions.

this explanation also shows why addictions aren't as evidently prevalent in some religious groups. many of these groups at least nominally reject the idea that subjective truth is the most precious, substituting other methods of deriving truth (for fundamentalist christians, higher truth comes at least partially from a literal interpretation of the biblical narratives).

i've come to look at addiction as symptomatic of a widely-held cultural subjectivity and the resulting subconscious assertion of personal needs as a mission that will hold that subjectivity intact as source of higher truth by which to live. from an inter-subjective or transcendental absolutist viewpoint, all addiction is simply an arbitrary advancement of the self as the most important thing in the universe.

addiction is both a grasp for that sense of control and an expression of the futility of that grasp. so as long as we remain complicitly certain that real truth comes from within, we will remain in self-perpetuated cycles of progressively more damaging "self affirmations." but honestly, what else is there?

as ever,



  1. yeah but you never said why you smoked

    is it just, like, relaxing?

  2. Feel free to confront me on my stuff.
    I already feel free to confront you on yours :P

    Have patience as I learn to be lead by the Spirit and not by knee-jerk, religious reactions.

  3. Um, so, if the concept of addiction is subjective why are you sharing it? It seems to me that the lack of stability isn't fulfilled by bondage/addiction. Addiction is more like a distraction. I think the biggest point is there is never anyway that you are going to know for sure what truth is without truth.

    I guess beyond all of the "truth". I agree with Joy, "Why did you pick up smoking?". I doubt that you are more relaxed now that you smoke than before

    P.S. Aren't polls fun?

  4. @joy: yeah, sure..

    @mark: for sure: ) i love you man.

    @micah: the concept of addiction is largely inter-subjecive (we can both agree on a definition and discuss it, though some meaning is lost in the communication process).
    what i'm trying to convey in this post is that the reasons for addiction's prevalence and persistence in western society stem from the large-scale adoption of the subjective worldview as a means for processing and discovering truth.

  5. I would love to see you find activities which are relaxing, soothing, refreshing, restoring... which do not release tar and nicotine and other poisons into your lungs, destroying your ability to get oxygen to your tissues.
    My definition of an addiction is a hurtful behavior that ends up calling the shots when you no longer choose it. Most addictions (and yes, including high fructose corn syrup and caffeine)are symptoms, as you said, of a much bigger issue. Some extract a higher price than others.
    After watching my grandmother and your grandfather die of smoking-related causes, all of your addiction-speak just makes me sad.
    Ultimately, whatever our crazy society thinks about addiction, I would hope you want to protect and treasure your health in every way possible!
    You are smart and strong. Do the hard thing: Learn what is ultimately satisfying and find out what your smoking is a symptom of. Then you won't have to defend hurting yourself.