Why Cigars Are Good For You

July 25, 2012

I’m being a little facetious, of course.  And I tend to think weird (i.e. lofty and true?) thoughts when I’m smoking a cigar, as I am now.

But I’m being a little serious, too.  Through my experience, I’ve come to believe that there are certain qualities to a cigar — and to a (moderate) habit to smoking one — that can help us live a better life, and a more Catholic life.

Montecristo Cigars, the favorite of one of Hollywood’s great Catholic directors, Alfred Hitchcock

How, you might ask?

Perhaps it’s the way cigars help build friendships.  Some of the most memorable and meaningful discussions for me have occurred over a cigar — from personal heart-to-hearts about life and love, struggles and fears; to joint intellectual exploration of important ideas, such as the compatibility of American democracy with Catholic hierarchy.  Times such as these are what C.S. Lewis called “the Golden Sessions.”

Perhaps it’s the way cigars help you relax and reflect on life when you’re alone…Those are the moments when you can be with yourself and with God and can say with full honesty and gratitude:  “Life is good.”

It might be in the ideas associated with a cigar.  Its celebratory connotations remind us that after struggle and work come respite and reward, while its connection to class can inspire a lad towards self-improvement and the life of the Catholic gentleman.

Maybe it’s the way cigars clear the mind and sharpen the senses, making you more aware of (and thankful for) the world’s beauty around you — whether it’s a city’s bright lights and passing cars, or nature’s shining stars and whispering wind.  (I recommend an accompanying glass of bourbon or merlot when you’re doing this.)

And maybe it’s simply the way cigars disappear.  Smoke fades, the wrapper burns away, and when it’s gone, you’re left contemplating the transient nature of  life…and the eternity to be gained beyond it.

GK Chesterton: champion smoker and a Catholic champion

Cigars, in short, help you reflect.  They loosen the tongue, they clear the mind, and they help you contemplate…and learning how to contemplate is the first step to learning how to pray, and learning how to pray is the first step to meeting God.  Above all, cigars can be an aid in making you present to the mystery of the here and now — the mystery of finding the eternal God in the ephemeral moment…or better yet, letting Him find you.

Now I’m not saying that smoking cigars is a moral imperative; there’s no real morality (or immorality) connected with it at all.  It’s a luxury, a pleasure that should be enjoyed in moderation.  Yet it is a pleasure that can be edifying — not just physically and mentally, but spiritually as well.  (Maybe that’s why liberal California tried to pass a law placing an extra tax on tobacco recently…)

What are your guys’ thoughts?  Is this too much of a stretch?  Maybe I should start being a little more coy about my favorite habits…

a helpful note:  To those interested in picking up this venerable habit but are poor college students like me who wince at cigars’ sometimes high prices, might I recommend Trader Jack’s?  Tobacco might not be top-notch, and the wrapper is often poor quality.  But for the sweet aroma and long ashes, it’s a solid bargain for beginners at $1.50 each. Read the rest of this entry »

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Books Catholics Should Read: The Art of Being a Good Friend

August 15, 2011

I actually read this book a couple of weeks ago but with college move-in and family stuff, I’m only posting on it now.

by Hugh Black

This is a useful and meaningful book for anyone to read.  Friendship is life.  It is the journey towards a greater relationship with God.  Hugh Black teaches that friendship is an exercise in love.   As such we should learn to be as good a friend as possible and to choose the best friends possible — the type of friends who will teach us how to grow in love.

Much advice and reflections abound in this book.  The most important lessons, I think, are as follows:

  • Friendship is based in sympathy — learn to put yourself in your friends’ shoes and to sacrifice without expecting reward.
  • Friendship is your safe haven, and as such, you can’t open yourself up to everyone.  It’s naivety to believe everyone is your friend; you can be friendly with others, but ultimately, you need to choose your closest friends who will help you grow.
  • At the same time, you need to risk your trust.  Because if you don’t risk it, it can’t grow.  And if you don’t trust man, you can’t trust God.
  • Loyalty in friendship is built through little favors, which will then turn into the greatest trust and supremest sacrifice and service.
  • Human friendship is limited.  Some betray us, some of us drift apart, and some of us even move on to a life after death.  But when friendship is successful, it gives us even more hope and trust in the unlimited, perfect friendship with Christ.

This book was quite helpful, insightful, and beautifully written.  It’s the perfect book to read as I begin the new semester as I look to renew friendships with those around me.

Content:  An elaborate yet readable reflection on the nature of friendship and how to exercise it.
Style:  Hugh Black shows a masterful understanding of literature, history, and nature — and he uses images, examples, and metaphors from each of these to demonstrate his point.  This  book is much more of a reflection than a guidebook.
Catholic?:  Hugh Black was not Catholic, but his perspective is compatible with Catholic sentiment.

Overall:  3/5