That Smokingpipes Aroma
In his 1937 exposé on the English working class, George Orwell summarized the revulsion that the middle and upper class felt toward England's laboring poor by tapping into his readers' senses: "The lower classes smell." As a new employee of Smokingpipes.com, the last thing I wish to do in a public forum is compare our lovely and comfortable office space to a pre-WWII sweatshop. Nor do I wish to trivialize the plight of the English working class, who, as we all recognize, once labored in pretty deplorable conditions. But permit me a similar observation: Smokingpipes.com smells. There is a definite, complex fragrance pervading the place.
Ours is not the smell of burning coal, soot, dirt, or sweat. Yet, our office has its own distinct aroma. It is the smell of tobacco in all its forms: aromatics, English, Orientals, Perique, and cigars; burning tobacco, drying tobacco, and smoldering dottle. There are days when it seems that our entire staff is either smoking a pipe, finishing a pipe, or packing a pipe. During my first week here I got lost in what appeared to be a fog bank by the marketing department on my way to refill my water bottle. This bouquet of tobacco is, for me, the distinctive smell of our workplace. I would venture that if we could transport you to our office, your first impression would not be the smiling faces of our employees, the sounds of clicking keyboards, or the sight of beautiful pipes. You would be struck immediately by our smell.
This fact flies in the face of much that we've come to expect from the modern workplace -- indeed for all spaces public and even most that are private. The modern world prides itself on having a scrubbed and sanitized sensorium. We have invented new ways to control what we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel: iPods, scented candles, sun glasses, noise canceling headphones. These expectations and technologies have undoubtedly contributed to our comfort and well-being in some respects. But I wonder -- as one trained as an historian is prone to wonder -- has something been lost?
Throughout Western history, the senses have commanded a great deal of attention from theologians and philosophers. We in the West have thought a great deal about the significance of our sensory experiences, from Thomas Aquinas and other medieval churchmen who believed that the senses were the only way for the unlearned to apprehend divine things, to John Locke and the empiricists who believed that all we can know comes to us through the senses. Even the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, both of which shared our modern zeal for improving the environment around us, sought to extend and refine the senses even as they controlled them. Today, however, most of us tend to think very little about the senses.
But pipe smokers are different. More than others (excepting perhaps those in rural areas where hunting, agriculture, and home-cooking remain commonplace), we know the value of sensory experience, particularly taste and smell. Pipe smokers know the satisfaction that comes from indulging these senses, and we seek to educate and refine them. In doing so, I like to imagine that we stand in the company of Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and countless others who have reminded us down through the ages that sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are more than physical tools of perception: they have the potential to connect us to something greater than ourselves.
And speaking of the delights pipes and tobacco can bring to the senses, in today's update you will find a feast for the eyes. (Unfortunately we've yet to find a way to engage your other senses via our website, but I have heard rumors that suggest our IT department may be secretly developing some sort of scratch-and-sniff feature.) We have new artisanal pipes by Brad Pohlmann, Rinaldo, Radice, and Castello, as well as selections from Butz-Chouqin, Sebastien Beo, Tsuge, Vauen, Savinelli, and Peterson. You'll also find plenty of estates, a new cigar collection by Montecristo, new additions to our tobacco roster (both pouched and bulk), and new pipe accessories too.
Joshua Burgess: Sales Manager