You are currently viewing 399. “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”: Pipe Smoking & the Contemplative Lifestyle

399. “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”: Pipe Smoking & the Contemplative Lifestyle

I’ve come to realize through ten years of blogging that smoking a pipe—even a Peterson pipe—can mean something different to almost every pipe smoker.  As next Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the blog—to the very day—I thought this morning I’d share with you why I smoke a pipe. Interestingly enough, it turns out to be for the same reasons many of you smoke one, reasons hardly anyone ever talks about.  I’ve set them forth in the YouTube presentation below, taken from a talk I gave at the Chicago Pipe Show  a few weeks ago.

Charles Peterson from a series of photos taken in the early
1880s while working for Frederick Kapp
(Courtesy of the Brady family)

What makes my reasons relevant to the blog this morning has to do (as you guessed) with that Thinking Man non pareil of the pipe world Charles Peterson.  “From what can be known of him,” I wrote in the Coda to the Big Book, “Charles Peterson seemed to be a man who loved his neighbors and his work, a man with a good sense of humor and a bright intellect.  His actions revealed a man with a deeply inclusive sensibility: an outsider and self-described ‘Free Thinker’ who seemed to find joy in providing for the welfare of the people who worked for him, regardless of their gender, religion, race or even politics. His company was renowned for its good working conditions, fair pay, and equity.  To the surprise of some, he chose to train Dubliners rather than hire skilled foreign craftsmen when he opened his factory. He employed slightly more women than men. His quiet belief in the human rights issues of Home Rule bore fruit in his daughter Isolde’s life-long work for Amnesty International.

“Those who succeeded him in the direction of the company, men like Harry Kapps, Tony Dempsey, Tom Palmer, and Sykes Wilford, continued to father the flame he lit. Something about Charles Peterson’s way of understanding the world and the importance of the people in it can still be felt in the Peterson workshop today. It seems to find its way into every pipe the company has made.

“The pipes, of course, speak for themselves, at least to those who can appreciate the deep particularity of their Irish virtues: they are the embodiment and product of the deep Gaelic understanding of initiative, industriousness, hospitality, trustworthiness, creativity, excellence, wit and self-rule.

“The System pipe, properly understood and smoked, still delivers the best pipe-smoking experience in the world. The design language founded in Charles Peterson’s original Patent shapes continues to be felt in every part of the Peterson catalog. That these pipes are within the reach of almost any pipe smoker is another homage to the inclusivity of Charles Peterson’s vision.

“It is not too much to say that Peterson pipes will always be counter-cultural. They were counter-cultural when they first appeared as novelty pipes and continued to be so when only British pipes were in vogue. Many Americans, notorious for their high regard of the Irish, understood this and continue to do so. The same can doubtless be said of those in other parts of the globe. With the current rise of artisan-made pipes, Peterson pipes are again unfashionable in many quarters because they do not command fabulous prices nor are they made by a single individual. They are instead the product of a small community of craftsmen and women who hold their skills in trust from those who came before them.

“There are almost as many reasons to smoke a pipe as there are pipe smokers, but through the centuries the literature of smoking always circles and eddies back to the comfort pipe smoking brings and the space for thought it provides. In the end, to say ‘the thinking man smokes a Peterson pipe’ rather than ‘the sophisticated man,’ ‘the wealthy man’ or ‘the fashionable man’ is to speak something more than a 110-year-old advertising slogan for a tiny Irish company that has, against all odds, weathered the storm of three centuries. It is a belief held by those who smoke it.”

It seems certain that Peterson wrote the words from the 1896 catalog that I used for the epigraph of the Big Book, and if you’ve read Sandra Bondaresvka’s Petersons in Ireland you’ll doubtless agree with me that they embody his beliefs, unique in the world of pipe making:

When we think how universally the Pipe has affected modern thought,
in art, science, literature, politics, and even the pulpit;
how it has contributed to the best wit of our time;
how it has given relief and solace to overworked brains;
how it has drawn men together everywhere in many a jovial social smoke,
and added comfort to countless chimney corners,
the importance of supplying as perfect a Pipe as possible
is at once recognized. *

 

 

 

TAKE AWAY Life You Save Presentation 2024

Here’s a PDF of the “Take Away”  I prepared for those who attended the talk in Chicago, which I hope you’ll useful in your own pilgrimage as a Pete Geek and pipeman (or pipewoman, Chris!)

Smoak in Peace–
Mark

*The Peterson Pipe: the Story of Kapp & Peterson, 239.

 

 

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Nathaniel Gibbs
Nathaniel Gibbs
1 month ago

A lovely little piece, can’t wait to see the You Tube video. The more I read about Charles, the more impressed I am. And so pleased much of his ethos continues to this day. Many congratulations, Mark on ten years. I wake up around 6am every Sunday, just as your bulletin hits my inbox. Many thanks.

Martin
Martin
1 month ago

A very nice read indeed. Wow 10 years amazing work, congrats on that. My first tins I marked are from 2017 so I am reading this beautiful Blog since 2018 and enjoyed every Sunday morning. Thank You and all others contributed here.

Nate Lynn
Nate Lynn
1 month ago

Good blog today. It seems Charles Peterson, and alot of Irish businessmen took great care of their employees. Arthur Guiness had a very similar ethos and just like Peterson Pipes, Guiness is still here today. No wonder my two favorite things are Peterson Pipes and Guiness, both companies were led by incredible men.

Redcoat’s Return
Redcoat’s Return
1 month ago

The thinking man’s discussion 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 Full of deep thoughts…and….spiritual special insights for pipe smoking…..Mark, my sincere thanks for this great outstanding presentation 😊

Joe
Joe
1 month ago

Really look forward to these blogs. Always interesting and thoughtful. Thank you.

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago

Thank you Mark, for all your efforts.

Stephen
Stephen
1 month ago

Wow! Mark. Did not expect a dissertation of philosophy and theology. I knew that many of the ancients revered Nicotiana. I suspect some of that, at least, was due to the endorphin release, increased heart rate, and dopamine. However, I agree wholeheartedly that smoking the Pipe is more than the response to the addictive attributes of nicotine. Cleaning, loading, first light, tamping, second light, smoking, swabbing, emptying, and storing are almost akin to a religious rite. I used to work in the IT department of a very large insurance company, with about 6,000 technical personnel. Before the ban you could… Read more »

Juri Bruggisser
Juri Bruggisser
1 month ago

Hello Mark

All i know about K&P pipes i’ve learned from this blog! Thank you very much.

Best regards

Juri Bruggisser, Switzerland

Gary Hamilton
Gary Hamilton
1 month ago

A most enjoyable read, both today’s posting and the X-Pipe book. You have done an outstanding job, my Brother in Smoake. Fumare in Pax.

Nevaditude
Nevaditude
1 month ago

Mark, I agree with all the sentiments expressed. This is a great blog, the X-Pipe is incredible & I have enjoyed the linked YouTube presentation tonite! It was great to see & hear it in Chicago and nearly as fun tonight. Each person, snowflake, bowl of tobacco and pipe are unique. I’ll try to enjoy each as it is. So, I Light 🔥, listen, pipe, ponder, pray, as I think 🤔 on the deep smoaky truths you share. Thanks for TEN years of great reading to dwell upon each week. be well…

Last edited 1 month ago by Nevaditude
Donnie Jackson
Donnie Jackson
12 days ago

Just started the read. The intro is excellent and has me thirsting for more…