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Presbyterian MixturePossibly not so ‘Lenten’ in many people’s minds, but smoking a pipe — and I have  a few readers who do — demands patience. Lots of it. Yet, once the art is mastered, what bliss.

In the Winter 2012 of the Reformed (Calvinist) Nicotine Theological Journal, the last page features one of the late John Updike’s character’s thoughts on switching from cigarettes to a pipe. The following passage is from Updike’s 1986 novel Roger’s Version, which the Nicotine Theological Journal‘s editors — no pietists they — remind us, took place in the Reagan era before tobacco became anathema.

This paragraph is a thing of beauty:

The pleasures of a pipe. The tapping, the poking, the twisting, the cleaning, the stuffing, the lighting: those first cheekhollowing puffs, and the dramatic way the match flame is sucked deep into the tobacco, leaps high in release, and is sucked deep again. And then the mouth-filling perfume, the commanding clouds of smoke. Oddly, I find the facial expressions and mannerisms of other men who smoke pipes stagy, prissy, preening, and offensive. But ever since I, as an unheeded admonition to Esther some years ago, gave up cigarettes, the pipe has been my comfort, my steeplejack’s grab, my handhold on the precipitous cliff of life.

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