Smoking Your Own Cigarettes
“A man smoking his own cigarettes had given up faith in his ability to carry on.”
In his book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, Viktor Frankl describes his years spent in concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
In camp, cigarettes were a form of currency. You could use them to buy things like extra bowls of soup to help you survive. An extra bowl of soup could mean the difference between life and death.
“Without meaning, man turns to immediate pleasure.”
After so much time under so much strain with so little hope, some men gave up. Viktor says that once they lost their meaning, their reason to live, they would smoke their own cigarettes. Instead of using them to buy food, they just sat and smoked.
When Viktor and his friends saw a man smoking his own cigarettes, they knew he was going to die very soon. He’d lost all hope for the future.
Many People Smoke Their Own Cigarettes
I’ve seen a lot of people who are unhappy and who feel trapped, even though they’re not in a concentration camp. They’re trapped by poverty or a job they hate, often both at the same time.
This can feel as oppressive as electrified barbed wire.
They’re not prisoners, but they feel a similar stress, and they don’t have much hope. They may be in literal poverty with only a few ‘cigarettes’, or securely middle-class with quite a few, but it doesn’t really matter because they smoke them all the time.
They burn away all their disposable income and time on beer, club entrances on the weekend, television during the week, and all forms of immediate pleasure.
Just as I was brainstorming this blog post, a man approached me on the street and asked if I had a lighter. Answering in the affirmative, I handed him mine from my pocket. He pulled out the Peruvian equivalent of a crack pipe, wedged himself between two parked cars to avoid the wind, and lit up right there in the street.
“When you hit it, it makes you feel like woahhhhh!…!” he told me in Spanish, handing the lighter back to me.
Don’t Smoke Your Own Cigarettes
The man in the concentration camp sees no hope for the future (Perhaps he forgets “I want to see my wife again.”) so he forgoes the soup that will help him survive for a little momentary pleasure. He’s given up, and is killing himself.
The drug addict isn’t likely to die, but he too is killing his future, and that of his family if he has one.
The securely middle-class man or woman isn’t going to die if they go out to drink with friends every weekend, but he or she may be passively killing a much better future.
Outside of the concentration camp smoking your own cigarettes doesn’t precede literal death but it often precedes the death of ones faith in oneself, a closely held dream, and a potential future.
Don’t smoke your own cigarettes. Use them to buy soup, books, courses, stocks, tax advice, inventory, freelancers, advertising budgets, and business cards, or whatever you need to get away from where you are and towards where you want to go.
What is that future? Where do you want to go?
If you are suffering, refraining from smoking your own cigarettes is a constant challenge, but refraining is the only thing that will allow you to survive and eventually to escape.