I had trouble deciding whether to post this in the General Cigar forum or the General Discussion forum. I thought briefly about posting it both places (got the July contest to think about, you know!), but decided it belongs here. If I'm wrong, Mods, please move it.
Sometimes I pretend to be a philosopher. Like now. I guess I really need a pipe to look the part, but (no offense intended to the pipers on the list) I have no particular interest in that corner of the tobacco hobby. So, pseudo-philosopher, pretend-thinker, no-pipe-smoking-dreamer that I am, here's my latest mental wandering ...
I had no idea what I was in for when I joined Puff. Even though I lurked for quite a while before signing up, I didn't know what I was in for. As a lurker, I was looking for specific information - the health risks of smoking cigars, how to choose a cigar, how to light a cigar, how to puff without inhaling. All the technical details. But I didn't start smoking cigars because of the technical data. If you're interested, you can read about my reasons here:
How I gave up smoking and why I took it up again
In the short time I've been a part of Puff, threads like these have shown me that cigars are not really the point - at least, not the whole point - of this forum:
The things cigars teach
The End Of A Journey.
Puff is truly what so many forums aspire to be, even claim to be, but fail to live up to - an online community. Cigars are the cultural metaphor we (I flatter myself that I have a place in this circle) gather around to share stories in words and deeds. Words of comfort for, support of, and celebration with, Warren and Tash in their cancer journey. Tales of the things cigars teach us, if we can only listen, and words of guidance to help us do just that. And acts of sacrificial giving of time, money, and precious smokes to provide a little comfort for brave men and women far away from home, trying to make the world a better place in the best way they know how. And countless other stories, I'm sure, that, as a newbie, I haven't seen or heard.
I don't have much of a cigar budget. I don't smoke a lot of sticks - three in a week is wild dissipation for me. Much of the time and money I could spend on cigars I choose to devote elsewhere. I won't blow my own horn more than to say that a lot of my free time and disposable income goes to other people. This is a great part of what draws me to Puff. Two of the things that make Puff a community I want to be a long-term part of are the generosity that members show with their time and resources, and the way that everyone is made to feel welcome and respected. True communities - virtual or otherwise - can survive only when they learn to value people as people, and welcome whatever it is that those folks bring to the table. To slightly paraphrase what another guy with my name has written (about a subject that is taboo on this forum), fulfilling your purpose in a community is not about finding your place in someone else's dream. I feel like that is something Puff members already know.
As I said, cigars are a metaphor for the Puff tribal culture. A metaphor that teaches, among other things, the wisdom of relaxation and contemplation. The richness of good friendships. The joy of giving freely and the humbling of receiving beyond what you could ever repay. I freely admit that I'm worthless at sappy movies (stick with me - there's a point to this). Hell, I cry when Spongebob and Patrick have an argument. That said, I got teary-eyed at the generosity shown in the first bomb detonated in my mailbox.
Cigars are more than nicotine-delivery devices. Wine is more than an alcohol-delivery system. Friends are more than companionship-delivery units. Good food is more than a nutrient-delivery mechanism. Cigars, great beverages, good food, and close friends each possess a quality far beyond their scientifically-described active ingredients. Put them all together and you create a synergistic way of life that exceeds the most wildly-dreamed potential of any of them, or even of the sum of all of them.
Puff may not be that physical community, but it is by every experience the virtual presence of such a reality.
I had no idea what I was in for when I joined Puff. But (carefully avoiding that taboo topic again) I can't believe it was an accident. I've said before that my wife observed that Facebook is mostly about connecting with and keeping up with people you know, but Puff is about meeting new people. That's true, and I would add that Puff is also about getting to know those newly-met people in the context of the cigar-metaphor culture. Growing up with them, and learning from them new and better ways to live that metaphor away from the virtual village. Puff is what most other online communities wish they could be - a reflection of a real village. And a challenge to, and a way for, the tribe to learn how to make their corner of the real world a better place.