While more than a few pipe collectors and smokers appreciate and seek out sculptural and conceptual pipes, many – if not most, of us still feel a deep connection to classic shapes. There is a reason that billiards, bulldogs, lovats, canadians, rhodesians, pots, zulus, dublins, authors, and other classic shapes have endured. Their lines, proportions, and feel have propelled them into the canon, and while there are myriad expressions of each shape, if a variation strays too far from the canonical, it becomes something else. It may be breathtakingly beautiful. Its originality may be compelling, but it is no longer a classic.
Every aesthetic realm feels tension between a desire to be rooted in its canon and a desire to break free of classical restraints. For me, this tension rivets my interest. I simultaneously hunger for what’s established and for what’s fresh. Indeed, were there no classical realm, how would we measure innovation? One cannot strike out in new directions if every direction is new; one cannot wander from a path that has never been walked. We need the classics to understand invention.
It was during the late 1980s that I studied with the author, philosopher, and futurist, Jay Ogilvy. At the time, Jay was working at SRI International (formerly Stanford Research Institute) working with his colleagues on identifying and tracking large social and cultural trends.
During one of our seminars, Jay spoke with us about the rhythms of relative liberalism and conservatism over the centuries. Using myriad examples throughout history, Jay demonstrated that the most liberal times occurred at the end decades of centuries and the most conservative times occurred in the beginning decades of centuries.
Although these trends do not strictly follow the calendar, at the time we were entering not only the last decade of the 20th century, but also the last decade of the second millennium. Understandably, a vigorous discussion ensued where we wrestled with how the millennial end might amplify a readily observable hypothesis observable at the end of centuries. We explored the idea in philosophical, artistic, religious, financial, social, and economic terms.
We could already see evidence of the truth of Ogilvy’s observations in books like Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. For example, a rise of religious fundamentalism was already occurring, and not solely in Islam which Huntington so presciently described, but also in Judeaism and Christianity.