There is Always Money For Cigarettes

I have had a simple policy when writing on this blog: that is to analyze behavior irrespective of the antics of the outside world. When I am not making poo jokes and writing bad poetry, it has been enough for me to steer clear of the social-hot-button points and rather address the things on the fringes. I find the frilly bits on the outskirts of our social order far more interesting as they are the parts that go unnoticed. As a result, they are more revealing about who we really are as opposed to who we think we are. Even so, despite my frequent proselytizing on the mount (or more accurately, cliff-face), I can no longer pretend to have all the answers. Read on at your own risk.

Damn a mirror is ugly isn’t it?

This morning I woke up and got out of bed. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes exercising before having a spartan breakfast of oats and settling in to study/research/work (actually, a combination of all three – restrwork). I have had to look hard at my finances this month. My bills have mostly been paid and my modest savings have to last until the end of the month before my teaching income resumes. I have one or two low-risk-low-reward projects on the go, but even these would, at best, pay for a week’s worth of groceries here and there.

Understand then when I say without a hint of sarcasm that my life is good.

So is yours.

If you are reading this, there is absolutely no doubt that you have eaten today. What is more, even if interest rates are soaring and bills are being vomited from your post box, you have your human needs met and more than a few wants as well.

There is always money for cigarettes.

Sure, there are things I would like. I would like an agent to publish my book; I would like a more stable source of income and I would like to have a metabolism that didn’t have “glacial” as a permanent speed setting – but hell man, if you pressed me, and I mean really didn’t press me all that much, I cannot deny that I am comfortable. If someone were to tell me things would not get better but they would not get worse, I honestly can’t say I would have a fundamental problem with that.

The horrible thing is, despite the aspirations for bigger and better things we all have, I highly doubt any of you reading this right now do not have your most basic of human needs met. What is more you likely have many of your wants met as well. The question I ask is: how many of you are aware of this? How many of you are so focused on the dire circumstances of your new world that you have stopped to think how lucky you are?

There is always money for cigarettes.

That is the second time I have repeated that statement in isolation. In writing, this is referred to as a thematic device – a technique used by the writer to draw your attention to a point while (hopefully) not rendering it valueless. It is an old expression, and one I have heard countless times when referring to people who should have different priorities than the ones they are openly manifesting. It is often used to describe someone who, no matter how bleak their situation is (often its financial), they always have access to something superfluous that isn’t needed. The implication is that things would be better if said person stopped prioritizing what was superfluous and started working on what was necessary.

Hence, they could be facing the end of their lives as they know it, but will always find money for cigarettes.

It is a bitter philosophy that a lot of people are wholly unaware they feed into. However, the above description is only one half of its meaning. I think it is a philosophy that is more telling about the habits of people than initially it lets on. It speaks to an element of our shared culture that acknowledges we do not truly know what is happening in our own lives. For someone to always have money for cigarettes, they must be so incapable of accepting their life for what it is that they continue to indulge in a superfluous habit. As a direct result of this blindness, we are incapable of acting appropriately given the needs of a situation.

The punchline is this – none of us, not one exception, are self-aware.

Having money for cigarettes is about being deluded but behaving as though I am not.

How many can sit and objectively analyze the minutiae of their own lives with any real level of honesty? I may believe myself to be in dire straights whereas I am actually doing really well. I likewise may believe everything is fine when in reality I am blind to my world falling apart.

We repeat habits hoping for change and are shocked when none comes. We blame others for our own failed relationships, failing to see the common denominator. We unthinkingly eat while still on diet and gasp when the scale is unkind. We protest causes for social currency and wonder why nothing changes. Do we see ourselves for what we are, or feed into the terrible lies of our lives so that we don’t ever have to look in a mirror?

It’s a process, I will admit. I have been in the throes of my own social audit for the last year or so. During that time, I have had to acknowledge my many glaring weaknesses. I have scrubbed a few of them off my slab, some of those stains requiring a wire brush and chisel. In some cases; it broke me. In others; I became free. I learnt throughout this process – this bitter metamorphosis – just how much money I was spending on cigarettes.

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