June 25, 2017

Rituals I Miss

Lord's cup and Bread
By John Snyder [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I haven't smoked a cigarette in over 20 years. Every once in awhile, I suddenly experience a craving to do so. This always surprises me because there is very little I miss about smoking.

I don't miss the taste or how it made my clothes smell. I don't miss the expense of buying cigarettes or the stigma associated with smoking, something I imagine must be far worse today than it was back then. I certainly don't miss feeling short-of-breath or having occasional coughing fits when exercising. And since I never smoked frequently enough to become physiologically dependent on nicotine, it seems puzzling. But of course, there really is no puzzle here. I know what I miss; I miss the ritual.

I miss opening a new pack of cigarettes. I miss going outside, even in the crappy weather, to smoke. I miss holding the cigarette. I miss carrying a lighter. In fact, I miss practically everything having to do with a lighter (i.e., carrying it, using it, refilling it, playing with it). I miss this so much that I recently considered buying a Zippo even though I realized I had absolutely no use for it. The self-control did eventually kick in and prevent the purchase, but it was a close call.

I find it strange that I'd miss this ritual when I've never had much use for so many others. Take religious rituals, for example. I can understand why they would bring comfort - or at least a sense of comfortable familiarity - to some. For people who are raised by religious families and forced to attend worship services throughout their childhood, it makes sense that religious rituals would be sufficiently ingrained by the time they reached adolescence that they'd feel familiar. I have no trouble understanding why someone might find these same rituals comforting as an adult even though they don't seem to do that for me.

I do not have positive feelings about the time I spend in church as a child. I don't remember enjoying it even a little. To the contrary, I remember feeling angry much of the time that I was being compelled to do it. That may help to explain why this particular sort of nostalgia (i.e., a fondness for the religious rituals to which I was exposed in my youth) holds little appeal. It is probably also one of the reasons I ended up an atheist.

Shortly after I experienced my most recent cigarette craving, I found myself wondering if there were other rituals I missed. A similar one that came to mind involved drinking alcohol, which is something else I don't do these days. This one is much less powerful, and I think it has more to do with the various glassware I never seem to use than anything else.

The only other one I could think of a bit harder to explain but involves the act of driving a fun-to-drive car on good roads just for the fun of it (and at excessive rates of speed). I'd check the tires, wash the car, pick out the perfect tunes, and hit some curvy back roads. It was most enjoyable when I wasn't going anywhere in particular and did not have to watch the clock to make sure I was home by a certain time. The problem is, I haven't owned a fun-to-drive car since 2006. While this particular craving has been building for some time and is now one I experience several times every week, I haven't yet figured out what to do about it. I suspect I'll be buying a car in the not too distant future, but we'll see.