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Stick some introspection in your pipe and smoke it

It's been a long Lent. Truly it is a time where self-reflection as well as rededication to those more holy things can take place, if we but shut off the banal noises of our age and look heavenward.

It's been a long Lent. Truly it is a time where self-reflection as well as rededication to those more holy things can take place, if we but shut off the banal noises of our age and look heavenward. One of the ways that I foster this habit of examination, confession, thanksgiving and supplication within my own life is through the fifth cardinal virtue: tobacco pipe smoking.

Now, I must be careful here, because in our age, speaking positively about nicotine in any way can get one banned faster than having conservative thoughts at a secular university campus.

So let me say here and now that if you don't have a pipe there are still places to get one and, if you don't have tobacco, they usually sell it at those places.

Lastly, pipe smoking may cause deep insights and community with other truth seekers. It also occasionally causes lung cancer.

As your first philosophical pipe smoking exercise, look up on Youtube how to stuff it, then strike a match, get your coal set, and now begin to puff while asking the following questions: "who am I, what is my purpose, how shall I then live?"

As the nicotine begins to heighten your insight while dulling your neurosis, some truths about yourself and your life are certainly to be found.

When we ask "how shall I then live," enough times, we come to the conclusion that we would like to live a good, happy, fulfilling life. We want to be virtuous, not viceful; living well, becoming an excellent person are accolades we hope to earn before and keep after we pass on.

What's that got to do with pipe-smoking? Well, in order to live well we must examine ourselves - otherwise life is not worth living.

And one of the best places for self-examination is a quiet, lonesome pipe-smoke.

Regularity is key, as it helps us order our life and correct where we go wrong with ourselves, our family, our communities - perhaps even our God. With enough investment, as well as some great reading on virtue, we will see our lives change course.

I started by saying this activity might well be the fifth cardinal virtue, but it won't do any good if we fail to explore the other four.

Of course, the thing about the four cardinal virtues is that they focus on ends before means.

Which is to say, we want to be prudent, just, courageous and temperate persons, which is altogether different from being soulless cogs in the great secular machine, whether we are called taxpayers, consumers or "hard-working Canadian families."

There is not space here to explain the destruction wrought upon our world by separating means and ends, but the most obvious victim of this great divorce has been justice.

If there is not an enduring moral order beyond mere sentiment and opinion, there is truly nothing, not even fairness: what is right and just must govern man's universe and being, or evil chaos will reign.

From knowledge of justice sprouts the desire to fight for it with courage and to never yield to the unjust an inch of the truth.

But the momentum of so heartfelt a virtue can well carry us too far, as Jacobins of every stripe show us today. We are called to rend their hearts, not burn their houses - even of our worst enemies. Thus temperance becomes necessary to properly restrain ourselves from becoming the monsters we seek to banish from our souls and our world.

The welding of these virtues, in their concepts and incarnation, comes at the behest of their queen, prudence.

From going to bed on time to storing up monies and good memories for hard days, she guides us to act in good faith and right reason towards the virtuous result at all times.

She even guides us to the three virtues of that other world: faith, hope and charity.

I claim no special revelation on these truths. I simply offer what has been said since before Christ: the good life is the virtuous life.

In my own experience, seeking this life requires quiet contemplation.

And what better way is there to sit and think deeply than with good tasting smoke?