Jewish Journal

Cigarettes for the Psyche

by Beit T'shuvah

January 14, 2013 | 1:17 pm

By Yeshaia Blakeney

I am an ex-smoker.  When asked why I smoked cigarettes I had two basic answers, "I like dying slow", and "they give me something to look forward to" (hope).  The first was a rebellious embrace of my finite existence; the second was a mock faith.  I could have just said "I'm addicted," because these are the same motives that exist for me in any addiction.  An addiction is a fix that makes you feel positive quickly, and leaves you empty and wanting more.  It seems to me that in affluent areas cigarette smoking is on the decline because there is a different consciousness around health.  More and more people are being mindful of what they put into their bodies and therefore less people are getting addicted to cigarettes.

I often like smokers because their struggle to live, to choose life is overt, meaning anybody who smokes is playing with death.  I like smokers because life is hard and when I see others struggling to choose life as I do I feel like we are comrades in this sacred struggle.  I don't think this struggle to choose life is declining with the declining rate of cigarette smoking in affluent areas however.  I think this struggle is just becoming more covert.  People are more obsessed with physicality and appearance than before.  I would rather live in a world where people overtly poison their body than a world where they covertly, unknowingly poison their psyche or spirit and the spirit of others.  I am speaking of the absurd and meaningless tidbits of death that we absorb all day in our greedy, mindless, addicted consumer culture.  Whether it be on the Internet, television, in the stores or market, on the radio or during water cooler conversation, we are a society addicted to the quick fix and left feeling empty.


So I am introducing a metaphor to identify these addictive qualities embedded in the fabric of our culture, I am calling them cigarettes for the psyche.  One can see second hand smoke drifting towards them like some kind of wondering poltergeist.  However let me show a more subtle example, that we are all subjected to, and don't give much thought.  In listening to the news, they were reporting on twenty teenagers that were murdered (murdered!) in Chicago in the last seven days and then switched to talking about a new local hot dog stand that had opened.  The differentiation in tone and emotion when talking about hot dogs and murder was minimal.  Cigarettes for the psyche!  Or the fact that the most popular videos on the Internet are cats and pornography, (I won't make the crude but obvious connection) cigarettes for the psyche!  So what I'm proposing is that we put huge labels on our modern cultural propaganda that say "cigarettes for the psyche." These may contain spiritually harmful agents that are known to slowly eat away at your soul damning you to a life of meaninglessness and degradation.  We perhaps will also have to make T-shirts to put on certain individuals such as Ryan Seacrest and Kim Kardashian, who are too corrupt to be redeemed (and all we can do is protect others from them).

I'm being sarcastic, however my hope is that at some point our society takes our spirit as serious as we are starting to take our bodies. Until this balancing of inner and outer occurs, I am afraid we are on a treadmill.

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