Susanna Kaysen at n+1:
What is smoking for? People who don’t smoke think it’s for feeding an addiction, and they’re right. Once you’ve started smoking, it’s hard to stop. But that’s a narrow definition. There’s a physical addiction and there’s also a spiritual addiction. Perhaps you could call it a metaphysical addiction.
To have a cigarette is to step out of day-to-day existence and into a private, solitary existence. It’s just you and your cigarette. Hello, says the cigarette, You’ve come to visit me. And you say, Yes, hello—but really, you know that you’ve come to visit yourself. The cigarette is a method of being alone and listening to yourself, of having nobody but yourself to listen to or to be with.
It’s also a way to stop time. Time spent smoking is not real time. Nothing else is happening. There is no progress. There is no trying to start something or complete something or even forget something.
Since smokers have been excommunicated from indoor life, this contemplative aspect of smoking has come to the fore.