The Gregory Jay Blog

Why a Cigar is the best medicine.

Last night I joked it my friend online, "I have to get to bed soon, I have maths at 9 tomorrow morning." It sounded exactly the sort of thing I used to say constantly 20+ years ago. Back then there would have been no way anyone could convince me that I would end up teaching maths. Although, at that time there would have been no way anyone could convince me to take the headphones of my portable CD player out of my ears, let alone theorise about the future.

After maths, we did Latin, Greek, Grammar and composition. I say 'we did' as if they just happen and we do them. A more acurrate description would be I push my son to do these things ever step of the way. Either by preparing something fun and somwhat relevant for us to do or, as with maths, just telling him to get on with it the way I do most days. Luckily he rarely needs to be told twice.

Homeschooling all finished I made Brandon lunch and started making crumpets. Making the dough, preparing the pans and untensils, cooking them, cleaning up, bagging them and sending them out was the afternoon gone but no time to rest (or eat!) I had to teach my online students. My last class finished at 8.40pm and I had the choice: have dinner or go workout? I defrosted a steak while I spent an hour and a half in the gym, came down and had dinner around 11.

This is an average day here, busy, busy, busy! I'm not complaining about it! I'm actually really glad I'm able to homeschool my boy, work from home and really thankful to have a gym in my house. But every two or three weeks I do get the urge to get away and spend a day without teaching or making crumpets! A day on my own where I can unwind and get to the important but not urgent parts of my life.

I'm currently sat in a large smoking room lined with brick and natural wooden furniture on the second floor of a Korean cafe in the 'Korea Town' in second tier Chinese city. It's a Thursday afternoon and mellow Korean pop music plays in the background as I sit here alone with my laptop. Next to the big ashtray on the table is a lit Aturo Fuente Double Chateau Fuente, a two hour smoke. It does me just as much good as eating healthy and working out. It really is the best medicine!

But isn't it killing me?

A 2016 Meta study by the FDA headed by Cindy Chang reviewed 22 previous studies and concluded that cancer risks for smokers who smoke 1-2 cigars a day are statistically insignificant. An American Cancer Society study concluded the same thing after their study in 1985 concluding a 2% increase in mortality when compared to non smokers within any 12 month period was also statistically insignificant. Compare this to the 69% increase to ciggerette smokers who smoked a pack a day. The 1998 monograph on cigars by the National Cancer Institute had similar findings.

Don't get me wrong, obviously there is some risk in smoking cigars, for anyone chain-smoking cigars Churchill-style there are bound to be consequences but for the average cigar smoker the risks are minimal. And, I would say the upsides vastly outweigh the down.

Like most people my age I have a job, family, responsibilities, I have my plans and the goals I am striving to acheive. I juggle through each day homeschooling my son, running my business, doing consulting work and teaching on the side. And like most in my precious little time off I manage to go to the gym four times a week. I work on my Tibetan language and on my other hobbies (one of which is actually juggling!) From the moment I grind those coffee beans in the morning till I finish coding in the evening it's go go go. And I think most people can relate if not in exact experience, at least to the feeling.

A Cigar is the Perfect Time Off

A cigar offers benefits as a time off that many other habits such as reading, watching TV or or listening to music simply doesn't.

A cigar offers a unique opportunity to be alone. Obviously I can't take my son with me when I'm going to smoke and for a homeschooling Dad this is really important, it gives me some much needed time off away from my boy. For many that work full time this may not be a primary concern but anyone who homeschools and works from home will definitley be able to understand! I'm sure he also needs time away from me too! Imagine having your Dad as your teacher all morning and then when you finally finish your work he's still there as your Dad! Similarly my wife doesn't want to be around me when I'm smoking so it really is the perfect excuse (I mean reason) for me to get some alone time. Trying to get alone time when at home is just impossible, you can't explain to an 8 year old that you don't want to be disturbed for 2 hours and expect him to actually listen to you. I don't think my wife would even listen to me!

The reason I find smoking a cigar more benefitial than spending an hour reading or watching TV is that those things occupy my mind whereas sitting smoking a cigar is almost like a meditation for me. My mind is free to wander, and that quiet and stillness will allow my mind to bring up things I need to pay attention to, issues that I may not be able to deal with or think through while dealing with the day to day stresses and tasks of life. Time to reflect and take a step back is a nice idea but it's difficult to create that sort of time, especially regularly. A cigar creates the perfect reflective mode. Many of my big decisions have been made while sat with a cigar in hand: investment decisions, curriculum choices, 5 years plans etc. When you empty your mind and sit with nothing to do and no distractions for a couple of hour these things naturally enter into your mind and you have the time and clarity of mind to actually think through them and make some good decisions.

Taking time regularly to sit and smoke a cigar is mentally energising for me. I always come back home ready to catch the balls I left in the air and able to keep them up there for a little while longer.

Greg is a true Sinophile, fluent in Chinese and proficient in Tibetan he is a homeschooling Dad that also consults on the side. You'll often find him cigar in mouth, book in hand, waiting for someone to finish their work or for the coffee to brew.