Up In Smoke
Imagine that you’re invited to play a game. Well, let’s say it’s a game but there’s no way to win. You can only lose with the options being simply how you will lose. Are you in? What if the wager were your life? Like a cruel bet against the unbeatable laws of nature. Consider that cigarette smoking as just this bet, with an immense downside and almost non-existent upside. For most, it’s an obvious and proven bad thing for your mind, body, and spirit. But what is the mentality behind the nearly 1 billion people who continue to smoke in the world?
The Dirt: I would never smoke. That’s gross.
Great, so you don’t smoke cigarettes. But what if there were are other ways we can and are “smoking”? Maybe our clothes don’t stink and it’s not as obvious to those around us, but the path is eerily similar. And while cigarette smoking kills 500,000 people each year, imagine millions of people dying from other forms of “smoking”. The worst part is they don’t even know it yet. First, let’s take a look at the mentality of a smoker. I kindly ask your permission to speak to you like you’re an adult. No offense is intended nor judgement being passed. It’s just that we must get it out in the open if wwe’re to benefit from a discussion about it.
It doesn’t begin nicely.
We don’t wake up one day and decide to light up a cigarette and start puffing away. It’s never our idea. In a small number of cases I suppose marketing can influence us to try it, but mostly it’s a “friend” who coerces us, almost always against our better judgement and feeling at the time, to take the first puff. Moreover, once we inhale, our mind and body immediately reject it. We must override all our natural defense mechanisms to force our body to adapt to it through all the coughing and weezing.
Once the addiction begins, it’s hell to break. Each time we puff, there’s a dopamine hit we receive from our brain that give us a ping of pleasure. Not that the activity itself is particularly pleasurable, rather the result of the activity creates a pleasure and reward sensation in our brains. As is natural with most things, once we find pleasure or become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it’s nearly impossible to go backwards on our own. We just can’t give up the short-term good even with a long-term bad hanging over us.
Denial of Reality
In order to make it through our days as a smoker, we must constantly deny the reality of what we are doing. Our delusion, with a hint of don’t care, must run pretty deep. We cannot simultaneously care about our well being while doing something that is entirely counter to that. That would create such a cognitive dissonance that one or the other must go. They both can’t coexist long-term. So we must release or at least rationalize one of both viewpoints. Our rationalizations may range from It’s not really that bad to Well, it won’t affect me now. Somehow we must find a way to sleep at night so that we can get up the next day and continue, and denial or delusion is a helpful tool.
Even in a delusional state, most people can recognize that it’s not good to smoke. It’s akin to punching yourself in the face and then excusing it. Sometimes it’s a matter of a low identity, or self-worth. Sometimes it’s a self sabotage. These aren’t mutually exclusive. When we don’t think much of ourselves (from upbringing, social circles, society at large) it often seems impossible to get out of the hole we’re in. And if we can’t get out, we might as well drum up some sympathy. So we go full bore and dive into the abyss, hoping for people to either join us or feel bad for us for our situation.
Rude is defined as offensively impolite or ill-mannered. When a smoker decides to share their habit with others that don’t share their addiction, we can call that rude with a fairly good degree of confidence. The smell of the smoke is certainly one thing that most people find offensive, but what’s really impolite is sharing the detrimental effects of smoking. So a choice of yours, should I choose to be near you, becomes a first-rate health issue for me. Even if I were a smoker, I would never wish my issues on another person, for that is the truest definition of rude.
They’ve given up
While most people give up on bigger goals at an early age and decide to just get by until they die, smokers seem to want to accelerate the process. It’s as if falling off a cliff weren’t bad enough, and they begin to slit their own wrists on the way down. Having long-term and worthwhile goals seem like the antithesis of a smoker’s mindset as each one tugs them in a different direction. The only curiosity that remains is why not further accelerate the process and just be done with it. Why the slow drip?
This is quite the grotesque dive into the mindset of a smoker. Much of my opinion and supposition may be debatable as to the extent, but it would hard-pressed of someone to wholesale dismiss the platform. But we’re not here to write a dissertation on the obvious, rather to uncover the insidious ways in which we “smoke” without physically smoking. What if, much like the new slavery, the smoker’s mentality has transformed from the physical to the mental, emotional, and spiritual? Let’s discuss each one in brief.
Mental smoking is anything that we can do to distract ourselves from doing that which we know we should do. The biggest crime we can commit is to not even try to live up to our potential. If we can distract ourselves out of this responsibility, we can literally puff our lives away. Social media, TV, and gaming, used inappropriately, may be the clearest examples of this.
Our beginnings may not have the same level of rejection as physical smoking, but it is still generally counter to our biological needs to be around other humans, to be active, to compete, and to create. I’m talking about the users of these platforms, not the creators. So we watch, we troll, and we “like” all the while we build our dependency on these platforms. It is still the dopamine hit that controls us, but this time the response is driven by the need to forget a forgetful day by being absorbed into a dramatic story, the need for others to approve of what we just posted no matter how insignificant it was, or the need to “live, be active, compete, and create” in an alternate reality if we don’t believe we can do similarly in the real one.
Denial is absolutely required here to make it through our day. We often tell ourselves that we’re just killing time for a short while. What we often find is that time is nothing more than life and that short while turns into 4-5 hours per day, or 16 years of our life. What could you do with an extra 1 years of life? The delusion runs deeper still. We sometimes convince ourselves that we are learning, being social, or even winning. Perhaps at some level these might hold true, but when the devices are shut off, are we anywhere other than where we originally were? We just don’t want to admit we’re killing our own life and instead insist we’re living and winning, even if only vicariously through artificial and unsubstantial means.
Let’s not forget our opportunity to be rude. At the restaurant, dinner table, or even in polite conversation, our addiction to our devices can be a major distraction. We’re always cognizant of that dopamine hit and don’t want to miss it. Watching people go out to eat is like watching junkies pretend they’re not addicted. And if the phone rings during an in-person conversation, well, we know who gets priority most of the time.
In all likelihood, we know deep down that our fixation on the anti-social isn’t translating to to a pro-reality as we experience a long-term decay. A decay in our mental faculties, our physical abilities, and our emotional stability. In the natural world, it’s grow or die and we’ve just made our choice.
From the aforementioned mental deterioration, we see the unintended consequences in our emotional state. Without the tools to engage and build relationships, we lose control of another invariable principle of nature: that we will win together or lose together. How can we win in a social world without the skills and competence to socially interact in a mutually beneficial way? Creativity and building wealth is a joint effort. If everyone is out for themselves, how can there be real creation of wealth?
Lack of control is an ingredient of self-loathing. Nobody likes to lose control and when we do, the resultant victimhood leads to disdain, confusion, and the search for an attacker. We dislike that we are in an undesirable situation which makes us feel bad about ourselves. This leads to a confusion about whether it is really our fault or perhaps the easier route of blaming someone else. If we can’t look reality in the face that we did this to ourselves, a convenient delusion is that we must be the victim and therefore there must be an attacker.
And so our ability to coexist with others is flushed away and since we cannot possibly know each and every person to see if its their fault that we’re unhappy, we must generalize and categorize. We must deny the reality that everyone is just like us and focus more on the “isms” of society, like racism and sexism.
Make no mistake about it. A judgement on another person based on how they were born and not their character and behavior is incredibly rude. How do we know this? We wouldn’t want anyone to judge us in a similar vein. It’s called the golden rule for a reason. We have set the emotional trap into which we will likely spend the rest of our lives falling further and further.
There is a man-made subset of spiritualism called religion. The imperfections of religion have led to, if not originally created, a system of control, denial, subservience, and surrender in which not only is it expected for us to partake, but not being complicit is seen as unacceptable. Such smoke is very closely tied to both the mental and emotional trappings in which we fall.
Most tenets of religion reject the idea of complete free will in exchange for fate or destiny. There’s a greater plan by a creator that has designed it for us. Sure we can still make mistakes for which we will have to answer, but we must find a way to our purpose in order for it to all work out well. The caveat is that we must follow the rules of the game. We don’t have to understand the rules, just follow them. And the rules are subject to change without your consent. Our control has been simplified to a choice of whether or not to be a follower.
Our delusion is cemented in our unyielding belief that we found the one way and that all other ways must, by sheer comparison, be wrong. We don’t have proof, just faith. When things don’t go as desired, we dare not lay blame with the religious system. We look inside for what we must have done wrong. Was there a rule we missed? Did we have a bad thought?
Notwithstanding all of this, we have been recruited to recruit others. Sure it might be rude to call their version of religion wrong if it doesn’t mesh with ours, but we’re just trying to save them, right? Or perhaps we’re looking to vindicate our own beliefs since the more people we have, the righter we must be. Either way, it’s our job to blow our smoke in as many ways and places as possible.
Some religions even place us a sinners right off the bat and with the only salvation being a total surrender of our mind, body, and soul to the creator of their choice. We’ve given our all, literally, to a persuasive organization. We’ve given all of it up.
This is not a judgement on how to spend your life. It’s a discussion on how you’re spending your life and if you’re spending it as you wish. The deleterious effects of non-physical smoking aren’t always obvious until pointed out. And even then, tough to overcome. The good news is that 1.3 million people quit cigarette smoking each year. If they can do it, surely we can too.
“Smoking is hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.”
King James I
I do appreciate you for spending time here. Meet you at the actual top, cause the real bottom’s really crowded.