I am a believer in the benefits of the pipe. I think pipe smoking has kept me going years beyond my expiration date.
There's the stress release, of course. We've all noticed how a pipe can calm us no matter how exasperated we get with taxes or politics or the cat hair that's continually intertwined in the filaments of our toothbrushes — is someone combing the freaking cats with my toothbrush? That hair is coming from somewhere and I'm going to find who is responsible no matter how long… Wait, see what I mean? I gotta calm down. I better have a pipe right now.
I first noticed the brain enhancement characteristics of smoking when I was in graduate school. I could study six or seven hours, but then I burned out — unless I was smoking a pipe. With a pipe, I could study 12-14 hours and maintain concentration. It was miraculous!
I later learned that there is real research that supports my observation. Fred Hanna's fine book, The Perfect Smoke, outlines a couple of studies, one of which, a meta-analysis published in 2010, concludes that nicotine provides "small but significant increases in short-term memory, the ability to focus and direct attention, fine motor control, and certain response times."
Another article, published in 1991, provides evidence indicating that nicotine enhances mental performance and positive reinforcement, and in addition offers protection against Parkinson's disease, Tourette's syndrome, and Alzheimer's. A study in 2012 showed evidence that nicotine can reverse mild memory loss caused by age.
But it isn't like we smoke pipes because of the potential mental enhancements they offer — those are simply collateral benefits, if they exist. Whether or not studies should be heeded, the influences in our lives that cause us to enjoy pipes are many. If we also find ourselves thinking a little more clearly because of it, it might explain why pipe smoking is considered such a contemplative pastime.
Still, it bothers me now that I can never quit, even if I want to. I just can't afford the five or eight IQ points quitting would cost me.
The Passing Of A Giant
Monday, February 12, 2018 by Sykes Wilford