Bumming Cigarettes

“Ah, so you’ve become a beggar” She said.
“Not necessarily,” he replied, holding it loosely between his lips. “You see, the chief difference is in who is benefiting through the transaction- the receiver or his client.”
“You mean the parasite or its host.” She casually retorted, disinterested.
He lit the thing and drew deeply, causing the smoldering end to glow fiercely and retreat like some slow burning fuse, consuming itself. “Some parasites are beneficial to their hosts you know, in which cases the relationships are more symbiotic.”
She rolled her eyes and waited for him to continue.
“If I were begging money, for instance, like that deplorable character over there, ultimately I’d be negotiating with a person to hand over their most precious commodity- Time. You’ve of course heard the phrase ‘time is money.’ Time is the only thing in the universe that has any significant value. Think about it, we are each alloted so much of it, and that’s it. When you boil it down it’s the only thing we have which we can’t get more of. It’s the ‘reductio ad absurdum of all human experiences.’ Then, to make matters worse, we sell it- by the hour no less. They call it ‘a career’ and in reality, all you are is a harlot. Prostituting your time away to the highest bidder. ‘Here,’ they say, ‘is a week of your life in the tangible form of a green piece of paper.’ And then these leaches come up and ask you if you can spare a dollar. Damn. Hardly live with myself I could, if I were making my living by stealing minutes and hours of a fellow’s life.”
“So explain to me how bumming cigarettes is any different. They cost money too. Just how do you propose the giver is any better off?”
“Oh that’s easy” He said, taking another drag off the slender white cylinder held in his fingers. He exhaled the thick smoke like an old locomotive gathering momentum. “Cigarettes kill people. Lung cancer and all that. Every cigarette you smoke is equivalent to loosing a couple hours of your life. I’m doing them a favor taking the things off their hands. Instead of asking people to give me time in paper form, I’m giving them time. I’m offering to extend their lives, and they don’t even realize it.”
“Brilliant,” she said sarcastically, “Relativism at its best.”
“Precisely,” he said.
“Of course, wouldn’t it be more beneficial for everyone involved if you threw those borrowed cigarettes away, instead of smoking them?”
“No” he said, tilting his head back and blowing smoke straight up in the air. It dissipated and became one with the dense fog surrounding them. “That would defeat the whole purpose.”

Bumming Cigarettes


Quartz Hill, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Just a reflection on the absurdity of moral relativism and how we use it to justify our actions, thoughts and behavior.

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