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September 5, 2011

Intolerance is Futile




A few weeks back Erwin Van Howe, a highly respected pipe collector and fellow pipe smoker, brought to discussion the unfortunate but common issue of intolerance by some pipe smokers, towards other pipe smokers who happen to enjoy buying & collecting high grade pipes. Erwin is obviously one of these people who collect high grade pipes. Erwin pointed out that there are these lurking mobs out there, both in internet chat rooms and at your local pipe club, who view the act of a high grade pipe purchase as something that gives them the right to publicly go after, chastise and demean it. The main point of Erwins article was to ask these pipe smokers to leave him alone and let him enjoy his pipe collecting in peace, without the fear or annoyance of attack.

The simple fact that someone needs to ask the public to rein in their intolerant behavior on such a subject (pipe collection) is odd enough on it’s own, yet it unfortunately highlights a basic fact of life within our pipe community that is worth both discussing as well as exposing for what it is.

There is no doubt that Erwin is right, these people are out there and you know who you are dear guilty readers. With your pitch forks in hand and Spanish Inquisition like mentality, many of you lurk, ready to pounce on anyone holding a different idea from you regarding how people should spend their money and on what pipes they should spend it on. I myself have experienced this attitude and for lack of a better word, had my decisions on pipes that I have purchased, both high grade & other pipes which did not meet the standards of these particular pipe smokers, attacked, ripped apart and generally stomped on and made fun of. I brush off this type of behavior and chalk it up to what you are about to read. Nonetheless, it is present and unpleasant.

Joura King Grade – Courtesy of PulversBriar.com

Erwin correctly pointed out that this behavior, which completely mimics the actions of (insert immature like example of 10 year olds here), is now so pervasive that it has actually become extremely difficult for someone to naturally feel comfortable to simply share and discuss one’s new pipe in a public forum, if that pipe happens to be a high grade. No matter what they may do to try and minimize the perception of this simple act of sharing, the minute they open their mouth about the high grade pipe, the masses come attacking.

This group of attacking pipe smoker is clearly in the majority. The many people ‘without’ high grade pipes. While many of them perceive the high grade smoker as some snobby, stuck-up and wealthy person, these attacking people, quite humorlessly,  absolutely fail to see that their own collective behavior in these very moments, makes them in fact the ones who are acting stuck up. They are the ones acting high & mighty and looking down with disproving glances at the high grade pipe collector. It is that feeling, that they are better in some way, which gives rise to their actions. It creates a comfort zone for them to speak out loud and critisize someone else and their pipe purchase decisions. A high grade pipe comes out and they are the ones collectively sticking their noses up in the air. It is curious to see these pipe smokers acting just as foolish as the stereotype they ‘feel’ they are fighting.

Bo Nordh Pipe – Courtesy of ScandPipes.com

If there was intelligence behind their action, wouldn’t they feel responsible to try and show the high grade pipe smoker what he or she is missing from the world of non high grade pipes? Would they not want to share some unknown piece of information and possibly educate their fellow pipe smoker about an aspect of pipe collecting that they may be unfamiliar with? Some type of sensible explanation as to why they believe this purchase does not make sense to them. That should be the case. An informative exchange of perceptions, perhaps not even the most cordial exchange but an exchange of ideas nonetheless, to better understand the reasons behind a decision to collect this or that type of pipe. At least in this particular scenario, that is unfortunately not the case. The mob mentality rules in such situations and when the opportunity strikes to bring one’s behavior to a very low point, it is often too juicy for some to pass up.

Erwin’s article can be read on Nick Miller’s QualityBriar.com blog when following this link.

http://www.qualitybriar.com/2011/08/get-off-our-back/

 

Kent Rasmussen Pipe – Courtesy of AlPascia.com

This writer dislikes any form of petty behavior. Whenever someone in front of me begins the petty behavior process and starts to point out some type of perceived fault within someone else, I cannot help but to immediately look directly at that person who is pointing their finger at someone else and I can’t help asking myself how they are living their life that much better, that it allows them to feel comfortable enough to wag their finger at and criticize someone else and their personal purchase habits? I have a lot of past experience with this key moment. I learned to do this evaluation by looking at myself whenever I have engaged in my own petty acts in the past. Doing that once or twice, you quickly learn to be quiet whenever you think you are about to make any type of sensible point on someone else’s purchase decisions by highlighting their ‘error’ and putting them and their decision down.

Sixten Ivarsson Pipe – Courtesy of DanishPipeMakers.com, Photo by Lars Kiel

When you separate the act that Erwin discusses, place it on it’s own and evaluate it as a whole, what do we see? We have the pipe smoker, let’s call him Eddie, who just bought a high grade pipe and is obviously overjoyed with his purchase, just as any pipe smoker is with any pipe that they buy. Then we have the critical finger pointing individual, let’s call him Nancy, who is preparing his discussion points with the exclusive goal to degrade all of the pleasant reasons of joy that Eddie is expressing. The critical Nancy is clearly not focused on engaging in a discussion to find out why this pipe is so special for Eddie. There exists no natural and honest inquisitiveness in Nancy’s comments. Nancy does not care to find out the details behind the purchase. There is nothing natural at all about Nancy’s actions. Nancy is simply focused on being 100% intolerant to the act of the purchase.

 

Jess Chonowitsch Bird Pipe – Courtesy of QualityBriar.com

The general procedure that Nancy undertakes can be visualized easier when one compares this behavior to the act of intolerance. When one is intolerant, the person engaging in this act can also be defined as a bigot. A bigot is a person stubbornly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs.

Not surprisingly, we will not be able to find a single word in that definition which improperly assigns a descriptive characteristic to the particular occurrence that Erwin discussed.

Bo Nordh Pipe – Courtesy of ScandPipes.com

Is it possible for the high grade pipe smoker to explain to the intolerant pipe smoker why the ychose to purchase a high grade pipe? Could they explain the value of art to such a person? Would such a person be able to understand why certain works of art are valued more than others? Could this person comprehend the idea that some people can do vastly more than others with their hands? Could this person understand the idea of highly valued aesthetics, especially when they are rarely seen? The answer to all those questions is yes, someone could easily understand all of those concepts and be able to fully agree with them. However when we have the term ‘stubbornly’ added to the definition of intolerance, we realize that although they have the ability to fully comprehend their absolute and complete folly, they will choose not to do so, at least not publicly.

Even though high grade pipes seem to be the biggest target, we can easily venture beyond them and see intolerance rear it’s ugly head with different types of pipe purchases. We have such a wide variety of different pipes out there which people have the option to collect. There is so much variety in the community that in fact at least every single pipe smoker has the ability or option to have at least one type of pipe out there that he or she could choose to ‘absolutely and positively’ be against. Each of us has a pipe that rubs our sensibilities the wrong way. In this, there is nothing wrong. We are not required to love all pipes. How we choose to express this form of displeasure is however rarely explored. More often than not, it is done through some form of intolerant Nancyism. I hear some version of it almost every week at my pipe & pint. Some form of intolerant and negative evaluation about some new pipe that someone purchased or is considering to purchase. I can’t help but shake my head each time I see a Nancy in action.

Corn Cob Pipe

Normally we all sit around and share our pipe stories. We show the new pipe we just bought. We congratulate each other on the new purchase. We discuss why we love this pipe so much and we talk about what makes it so special to us. We ask questions about the new pipe, and we learn more about the artist and the method of carving they employed. Why do we do this? Because this is what we do. First of all, we do it together. We do it to enrich our collective pipe knowledge. We learn from each other. While there are clearly some high elements of ego involved in this interaction and our pride can easily shine through, that is a natural side-effect that each of us exhibits when we buy anything and it becomes our own. Let us at least focus on the elements that do not bring negative disorder to our community. In the end, we all share and share alike. There are a lot of mostly pleasant or at least no unnecessary side-effects that occur from this basic process of pipe community. A common source for a lot of this pipe community discussion comes from innovation. New pipe concepts for us to evaluate and consider. This should create the environment for additional and previously untapped pipe stimulation.

Stephen Downie Hyperatomic Strato Pipe

The side-effects from Nancy’s actions are quite the opposite.  The Nancies rarely make suggestions that offer us contemplation and the eventual suggestion of alternate paths. They have killed the desire within the Eddie’s to want to share their pipe with the pipe community. Eddie’s openness and camaraderie to his fellow pipe smokers is being replaced by Eddie’s new wall around himself which shelters him from Nancy’s arrows. All of the pleasant, normal and natural side-effects discussed above are gone. On the other side we have a Nancy who is walking around with a falsely inflated sense of ego. Nancy was able to effectively execute a ‘make someone feel bad’ maneuver and they did it well.  Nancy’s actions do nothing except incite confusion, distrust and as we clearly see, create anger. All useless endeavors that do not lift the hobby forward. The intolerant act provides us with zero progress, breeds negativity, creates groups and clans and in general does absolutely nothing to further us along as we collectively watch ‘the pipe’ evolve. There is in fact no side-effect except for the ones I just listed. Has Nancy been able to make a point of any kind or has Nancy just highlighted their inability to be tolerant of other people and their pipes?

Rolando Negoita Conducta Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

I enjoy smaller sized pipes, around group 3 size. I don’t want them weighing anymore than 1.6 oz’s because I neither want to feel the pipe in my mouth, nor do I want to have to clench my teeth down hard to ensure the pipe’s stability. I multi-task a lot and very often, as I am right now, I am doing something else with my hands while smoking. I love small pipes. This is me. We however have a lot of pipe smokers who are the exact opposite and they enjoy large, hefty and enormous pipes. We are talking Paul Bunyan size hunks of briar weighing up to 4 or 5 oz’s and even more. Those pipe smoker’s are clearly very different from me. I understand that we have a difference in taste. Should I try and attack them and form some type of small pipe lovers mob and go after these pipe smokers who enjoy large pipes just because it is different from what I enjoy? Believe me I could create an argument that highlights why these large pipe smokers are bad for one reason or another. I would look completely foolish, idiotic, petty and childish but I could do it.

Exceptionally Large Meerschaum Pipe – Courtesy of 'The Tobacco Pipe Artistory', found on Facebook under the same name

I know collectors who are different from me and have pipe collections worth over $40,000.00, with none of the pipes in that collection defined as high grades. Could I chastise this collector for spending so much money on the 300+ pipes he owns and tell him that he could pare down his collection to 50+ high grade pipes?

Peterson Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy new pipes today costing above $500 because of the brand name on that pipe? Are they spending all their money just on a name? Could I find a reason to attack them?

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy very old antique pipes, most of which they wont even smoke. They won’t even smoke the pipes they buy! Could I create an argument around that?

Antique Meerschaum made by Tiffany – Courtesy of 'The Tobacco Pipe Artistory', found on Facebook under the same name

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy pipes that look very different from the pipes that I buy and you know what, this critical point will never change. This will not change for me, it will not change for you and it will not change for anyone of us, ever. This will always be present in our hobby. Different people will have different ideas on what they feel is worth collecting. It is the natural diversity in our community. All of us go about our pipe collecting lives in different ways.

Japanese Kereitsu Pipe

The Nancy’s out there can either choose to accept this basic fact or they can fight a useless and losing battle against it. You don’t have to love or like a pipe collecting system that is different from yours but that is where it should end. You dont like it, accept it and then move on. Even if you do not end it there and you go beyond where the sensible road ends and you continue spouting off reasons why such and such collection habit is full of absurd madness, trust me, no matter what, because the natural pipe collecting diversity is here to stay, you should end your rant there. It is not going anywhere and you cannot do anything about it. The route that Nancy has chosen to express her opinion offers no real education. Their words & effort are wasted because of the track they chose to follow. Because of the negative slant they associate with their ideas, their fight will always be a useless attempt to make some point which ultimately cannot be made. They will never be able to logically explain why someone else’s personal opinion on something they choose to collect is either wrong or bad.

Trever Talbert Morta Freehand Pipe

Even though the Nancy’s will neither gain traction or ‘progress’ for their speeches, they will continue to do it. They will continue to do it because the ability to build a negative concept around anybody’s individual pipe collecting preference is a simple thing to do. Led by a strong sense of self confidence, they will begin this process by imagining that whatever it is that they really like and enjoy is better than whatever it is that somebody else likes. They ‘know this’ absolutely. That is step one. Then they continue by starting to categorize those types of  other‘pipe collector people’ and they begin to define and solidify the us versus them mentality. Finally, all we need then is the Nancy’s personal will and desire and we can create a scathing comment/raging war over absolutely nothing at all. There are so many different opinions and desires in our small pipe community. There are so many different ways of approaching the one item we all truly love and enjoy. The Nancies could have a field day if they want to fully explore Nancyism in the community.

Larrysson Partially Sandblasted Acorn Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

Personally, I enjoy variety and I like to celebrate diversity. Whether the Nancy’s realize it or not, life is more interesting and more dynamic with different sets of pipe collecting ideas floating out there. We have so much new information to learn from the many different ways of approaching the one common element that unites us all. Ye more and different ideas we have, ye better it is for all of us because our sphere of knowledge, pleasure and enjoyment in pipe collection should only be increasing with each such new idea.

Michail Revyagin Autumn Mushroom Pipe

The average pipe smoker deals with a slightly different form of stubborn and negative intolerance towards him or herself from the general public at large each & every single day and I know that they absolutely cannot stand that form of intolerance when it is applied to them. Yet some of these same pipe smokers still find the time to provide the same type of behavior to a fellow piper.

Manduela Pipe – Courtesy of DanishPipeMakers.com

I do not expect this behavior to go away. It is far too natural and feels far too normal to criticize someone with different habits from our own, for buying a high grade pipe or any other type of different pipe for that matter. I do however expect that the next time a Nancy comments negatively about this or that type of pipe collecting habit, that Nancy may consider curbing their speech and perhaps asking a serious question or two, to try and learn something about whatever it is that is so unfamiliar to them.

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