The Crowded Camel

Month: November, 2012

Painting and Perfection

In order to incorporate more art into his life, the Crowded Camel recently decided to take up painting as a hobby. He is seen above attempting to paint during an art class, which he takes on weekends. However, this relaxing and creatively invigorating experience is short lived as the Camel struggles to complete his painting. He panics and nervously sweats as his instructor looks on, criticizing him on his unconventional technique. Because of this, the Camel feels discouraged from pursuing painting further, as he feels incompetent and unable to paint the way others in the class do.

The Camel here might gain perspective on his situation by referencing a passage from the Platonic dialogue Laws, written in 360 B.C., on the topic of ethics and government. In a conversation with a man named Cleinias, an Athenian stranger uses a painter as a metaphor for a legislator crafting legislation:

Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in the most beautiful manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing would always improve as time went on-do you not see that being a mortal, unless he leaves some one to succeed him who will correct the flaws which time may introduce, and be able to add what is left imperfect through the defect of the artist, and who will further brighten up and improve the picture, all his great labour will last but a short time?1

Like the painter in this passage, the Camel should acknowledge that his painting will decay and deteriorate over time, bringing about imperfections over which he has no control. But instead of resorting to apathy and despair, this realization should clarify to the Camel what is truly important in his artistic endeavors. Specifically, the Camel, like all of us, should remind himself not to get caught up in the minute details of his artistic pursuits. The most important thing is to carry out one’s creative vision and enjoy oneself in the process, unencumbered by one’s tools, the expectations of others or the possibility of making a mistake.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | Laws by Plato.” The Internet Classics Archive | Laws by Plato. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/laws.6.vi.html&gt;.
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Hats Off at Takeoff

The Crowded Camel has returned from Vancouver and is seen above donning a fashionable fedora that he purchased on Granville Island. The hat has provided him with a temporary feeling of self-confidence as he boards the plane for his flight back to the States. He seems ready to take on the world, and will soon find himself back in the difficult situations that he left a week ago, as he reluctantly re-enters the daily grind.

Welcome to Canada

 

The Crowded Camel has landed safely in Vancouver and will be spending time with the locals, hiking through the wilderness and going bear spotting. He will be back home on Monday and will likely find himself in more trying situations by Wednesday.

The Handcrafted Drink

The Crowded Camel, like many of us, enjoys occasionally having a drink at the local bar as a means of socializing or relaxing after a long day. The Camel is seen above attempting to pick up his drink, but due to his hooves he accidentally knocks it over, spilling its contents in front of the other bar patrons. He appears embarrassed over the incident, and is likely feeling stress at his inability to handle his drink.

It has been widely documented that stress induces increased alcohol consumption, even if not necessarily related to its pharmacological effects (Wit, Soderpalm, Nikolayev, Young, 1270). In the scene above, the Camel’s inability to pick up his drink and subsequent embarassment from spilling it causes him stress, which in turn causes him to want to drink more alcohol. But he cannot do so because of his unique physical characteristics, which prevent handling a highball glass. And thus, a cycle is created which perpetuates sadness, frustration and defeat. The Camel sees no way out of this cycle of self-induced stress and considers abandoning a potentially enjoyable social experience as a result.

In this scenario, it might be helpful for the Camel to consider unconventional beverage options, such as a martini or perhaps a glass of red wine, both of which are served in more hoof-friendly glasses. Although these are atypical drinks for the Camel and could induce slight social anxiety, they might also solve his problem, allowing him to spend a relaxing and pleasurable evening at his local bar without fear of spilling his beverage.

The Camel, like all of us, should remember that it is okay to go against convention and try new things, even if they take you out of your comfort zone. This open-mindedness and willingness to experiment might not only hold the key to solving our immediate problems, but may also prove to be a rewarding experience in ways we could never have imagined.

Sources:

Wit, H., Söderpalm, A. H., Nikolayev, L., & Young, E. (2006). Effects of acute social stress on alcohol consumption in healthy subjects. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research27(8), 1270-1277.

Fashioning Identity

Shopping for clothes is an inevitable part of modern life in which the Crowded Camel, too, must take part. He is seen here in a fitting room trying on a new sweater, and appears to be unsatisfied with his appearance. Having tried on several different colors and patterns, and failing to find one that he likes, the Camel is becoming frustrated and is beginning to wonder why he feels so uncomfortable in these seemingly fashionable sweaters.

Georg Simmel, a 19th century German sociologist and philosopher, wrote at length on fashion and its role in society, proposing that its primary function is to unite those of a particular social class while distinguishing them from other classes. He claims that the elite initiate fashion and the masses imitate what they see (Simmel, 541). Moreover, fashion allows the individual to express himself in ways that, if expressed by other means, would be acceptable neither to society nor the individual himself:

As a member of a mass the individual will do many things which would have aroused unconquerable repugnance in his soul had they been suggested to him alone….But as dictates of fashion they find ready acceptance…because it represents a united action, in the same way that the feeling of responsibility is extinguished in the participants of a crime committed by a mob…(Simmel, 553)

The Camel, upon consulting Simmel’s theory, might realize that his desire to purchase a new, fashionable sweater is actually rooted in his repressed desire to express himself creatively. He might be better off allocating his time spent looking for a new sweater toward creative pursuits that allow for self-expression. The Camel, like many of us, may find that having a regular creative outlet might fulfill his desire to express his individuality, while discouraging misguided submission to passing social trends.

Sources:

Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” American Journal of Sociology 62.6 (1957): 541. Print.

Sertorius on Persistence

Volunteerism is the crux of community service, as it gives one the opportunity to create tangible change and positively impact the lives of others. The Crowded Camel is seen here volunteering his time to collect and recycle trash in a public park, in hopes of contributing to the well-being of his community. In the process, he witnesses a parkgoer carelessly litter in front of him; an act that dampens the Camel’s spirits and calls into question the usefulness of his efforts.

The Camel might find advice from an unlikely source here: The Life of Sertorius, an historical biography of the Roman general Quintus Sertorius written in 75 A.C.E. by the Greek biographer Plutarch. In one particular passage, Sertorius stands before his disheartened army and delivers a short speech on the importance of focus and determination in the face of opposition:

You see, fellow-soldiers, that perseverance is more prevailing than violence, and that many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little. Assiduity and persistence are irresistible, and in time overthrow and destroy the greatest powers whatever. Time being the favourable friend and assistant of those who use their judgment to await his occasions, and the destructive enemy of those who are unreasonably urging and pressing forward.1

The important message for the Camel to take away from this passage is that, although at times one’s efforts may seem futile, it is vital to maintain focus and determination, especially through trying times. For the Camel to create the positive change he wants in his community, he must remember that persistence is one of the keys to success, and that time rewards he who is steadfast and determined in pursuit of his goals.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | Sertorius by Plutarch.” The Internet Classics Archive | Sertorius by Plutarch. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/sertoriu.html&gt;.

The Book of Prognostics

The Book of Prognostics, written in 400 B.C. by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, outlines the steps in making a prognosis based on the symptoms exhibited by the patient. In the introduction, Hippocrates notes that understanding disease is important not only because it saves lives, but it also contributes to the doctor’s confidence and encourages him to become a better physician.1

The Crowded Camel is seen above being treated by a nurse. He is suffering from a variety of ailments possibly related to the common cold, but his condition has not yet been diagnosed. The Camel appears to be worried that, because of his uniqueness, he may prove hard to diagnose, thus discouraging the doctor and negatively impacting his self-esteem.

It may benefit the Camel to revisit Hippocrates’ opening statements and view them in a different light. Just because a successful diagnosis improves the physician’s confidence, does not mean that an unsuccessful one lessens it. Instead, the experience can offer a learning opportunity for the doctor.

The Camel should realize that when people help us, although we can feel burdensome, we may actually be giving back to them as much as we are taking. Understanding this, we and the Camel may in the future choose to lend a hand to someone in need, realizing that we are enriched by helping others just as they are enriched by helping us.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | The Book of Prognostics by Hippocrates.” The Internet Classics Archive | The Book of Prognostics by Hippocrates. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/prognost.1.1.html&gt;.

The Pot and the Potter

In order to add more substance to our lives, we may at times pursue a hobby or a craft. The Camel is seen above trying his hand at pottery, but struggling to mold a well-shaped vessel. He is becoming visibly frustrated and discouraged, and is likely on the verge of abandoning the pottery wheel altogether because of his inability to form the perfect clay pot.

In this situation it might be useful for the Camel to reference The Rubaiyat, a poem written in 1120 A.C.E. by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. In one section of the poem, we witness conversation between various clay pots and vessels which were molded by a potter. While they try to discern who their creator is, one vessel interrupts with a bold and insightful statement:

Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot–
I think a Sufi pipkin-waxing hot–
“All this of Pot and Potter–Tell me then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”1

Of particular importance is the final line, where one vessel implores the others to reevaluate their relationship with the potter. The message is that just as the potter forms the pot, the pot also forms the potter. Such is the nature of the creative process.

For the Camel, and for all of us, it is important to remember that there is more to the process of creation than the end product; the process itself is just as valuable. Indeed, as one creates, so is he created. And as the potter molds his pots, he in turn molds himself.

Sources:

  1. Khayyam, Omar. “The Internet Classics Archive | The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.”The Internet Classics Archive | The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Khayyam/rubaiyat.html&gt;.

Bathing and Meaning

The act of bathing has historically taken on a number of different meanings and served a variety of purposes. Bathing has served as a method of hygiene, a form of pleasure, a therapeutic process, a way to fulfill social obligations and even as a signal of elite social status (Shove, 406).

In the image above, the Crowded Camel appears to be distressed that he does not fully fit into the bathtub, which hampers his ability to derive pleasure from what is typically seen as a relaxing activity. But one must wonder, given the historically dynamic purpose of bathing, if pleasure is truly the goal for the Camel. Perhaps he feels a social obligation to bathe or is bathing to signify his elite social status. Depending on his true motives, a simple shower might have sufficed, thus sparing him the suffering of trying to fit into a bathtub.

Just as it is important for the Camel to reevaluate the simple act of bathing, we all might benefit from re-examining our daily actions to be sure we are doing them with good purpose, rather than merely out of routine. In the end we might find that we can eliminate or minimize the actions that cause our stress and replace them with actions that provide greater fulfillment, happiness and true satisfaction.

Sources:

Shove, Elizabeth. “Converging Conventions of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience”. Journal of Consumer Policy 26: 395–418. Print.