Saturday, September 30, 2006

Catholic Cigar Dude

One of my favorite thinkers is G.K. Chesterton. He was an English philosopher, novelist and poet. He was also a devout Roman Catholic, who loved smoking a good cigar.

He wrote this interesting article on American morals, which is very telling. I guess times haven't changed much :

"Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: “Well, Mr. Chesterton, I’m afraid I have the habit.”

As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had “no standard of abstract right or wrong”; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and
that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar.

—G.K. Chesterton

from “On American Morals”


Anonymous said...

Chesterton's article amounts to his blowing smoke in the face of his two american interviewers. He highlights his own british (?) moral superiority over both the legalistic hypocritical guy as well as over the perverted pleasure smoker. The fact that he felt he had to write an article about the morality/immorality of smoking makes his own premise (no connection between smoking and morality) blow up in his face like an exploding cigar. Does he feel morally superior about not having any smoking morals?

Anonymous said...

American eat cigars? que locos, men

Marquito said...

I hear you anonymous...except on the smoking morals part. Chesterton wrote extensively on may subjects, mostly to get people to dig a little deeper. I believe he's trying to drive home a point on moralism for the sake of moralism (not for true righteousness sake). Smoking, though hazardous to your health, is not a sin; it's seen as something that "sinners" do. But, it's no more sinful than eating a Big Mac (which many moralists today, Christian or not, find more sinful than adultery).

As far as moral superiority, it goes both ways; Chesterton fights fire with fire here by as you say, blowing smoke in the face of the moralist. To that I say, "Touche" (or pip, pip, or whatever Brits say).

Fay said...

Catching up on your blog. Nice posts on Chesterton, who I should read more of, and Chile. Growing up, a good friend of mine was from there. Great food (pastel de choclo is to die for), great wine (claro!), y buena gente. :)