It was a pleasure of mine not so long ago to attend a Paidea event where (aspiring) scholars were invited to reflect on the promises and perils of Neo-Calvinism, the revival of Calvinism initiated by Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck that was characterized by an acknowledgement of Christ's lordship over all of life and a corollary orientation to worldview thinking. Not only was I treated to stirring lectures by the likes of Craig Bartholomew, Michael Goheen, and Calvin Seerveld, I was blessed to dialogue with a variety of individuals with the interesting and engaging personalities you would expect to find at such a gathering. In a conversation with Rob Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson, I shared my theory on why smoking is so attractive to academics.
Those of us who spend a good deal of the day buried in books need periodically to stand up or wander around and contemplate what we've been reading if only to determine specifically how it has relevance for the project with which we are busy. Any academic will concede the usefulness of such an exercise, and Rob and Alissa were no different. The problem is that the moment of contemplation has an awkward feel to it; one simply stands and stares, as if in a trance, and that looks funny, seems wrong, induces guilt, etc. We could be helped if there were something to do, or better, to enjoy, in this moment. Puffing on a cigarette fills the need perfectly: it takes the awkwardness out of the moment, and there's no longer a need for embarrassment if someone approaches and sees you in your trance-like contemplation. After all, you're doing something.
The problem, however, is that though smoking stimulates brain activity shortterm, it tends to do nasty things to other important organs without which proper human functioning is difficult. We need alternatives. Chewing gum won't do; it still looks silly. What would really help is a harmless cigarette which is non-addictive, nicotine free, etc. Is there anybody out there who can help us?