The Crowded Camel

Category: Uncategorized

The Eight Bites of Hanukkah

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As part of his recent efforts to expand his knowledge of different cultures, the Camel recently consumed a large quantity of jelly doughnuts and potato latkes to better experience the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah. As a result, he is seen above suffering from intense stomach pains, attempting to alleviate his suffering with antacids and rest. The Camel’s binging episode has left him in great discomfort and unable to sleep, and may cause him to question the wisdom of his decision to explore Hanukkah and Jewish culinary tradition.

Before becoming dissuaded from further exploration into Jewish culture, the Camel might be wise to reference John Cooper’s book Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food. Cooper notes that, historically, Jews have consumed fried foods on Hanukkah to symbolize the miracle of oil that burned for eight days while the Jews defended themselves against Greek soldiers in the 2nd century B.C.Thus, the doughnuts serve as a reminder of the historical struggles of Jews, and their ultimate perseverance through adversity.

If the Camel had known the reasoning behind eating fried foods, he might have used the food as an opportunity for reflection rather than an opportunity to over-indulge in fatty delicacies. Indeed, it is valuable for us all to understand the meaning behind the traditions in which we take part, because understanding the history behind our actions gives greater depth to the process, resulting in a more fulfilling, enriching and rewarding experience.

Sources:

  1. Cooper, John. Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1993. Print.
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Happy Hanukkah and Season’s Heatings

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The Crowded Camel, having recently started dating again, is redoubling his efforts to cultivate an open mind towards other cultures and religions. This year he is partaking in the Hanukkah tradition of lighting candles and saying the Hebrew blessing. Afterward, he plans to enjoy some gelt and play dreidel games by himself.

Unfortunately, disaster strikes while the Camel is in the process of lighting his Menorah, as a candle falls and catches his Christmas tree on fire. If he cannot extinguish the flames, the fire threatens to consume his entire home. The Hanukkah experience has been a major disappointment for the Camel, and his attempts at broadening his cultural understandings have backfired, leaving him fearful and confused instead of peaceful and enlightened.

While tempering the flames that threaten to scorch his holiday experience, the Camel should reflect on the work of Milton Rokeach, a Polish-American social psychologist who wrote about open-mindedness in his 1960 book The Open and Closed Mind. Rokeach claimed that one is open minded when he can “receive, evaluate, and act on relevant information received from his environment on its own intrinsic merits, unaffected by irrelevant factors arising from within himself or from his environment.” This is precisely to what the Camel aspires. However, Rokeach also came to the conclusion that close-mindedness and dogmatism represent systems of defense against anxiety.1

Understanding that cultivating an open mind requires facing anxieties that have long been avoided, the Camel must realize that the process may be messy at times, and requires strong resolve and determination. As obstacles arise to discourage his goal, the Camel must overcome them in stride, realizing that by experiencing other cultures, he is on a noble path towards a more sympathetic, understanding, and enjoyable relationship with not only his lady friend, but all of mankind.

Sources:

  1. Rokeach, Milton. The Open and Closed Mind; Investigations into the Nature of Belief Systems and Personality Systems. New York: Basic, 1960. Print.

Igniting Passion

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In light of his recent kitchen mishap, the Camel has been particularly nervous around fire, and his nerves are exacerbated during a recent romantic dinner that he arranged for a lady friend. His apprehension in lighting the candle combines with his anticipation of hosting a romantic dinner to make the Camel feel extremely nervous and anxiety-ridden during what should have been an enjoyable and relaxing evening.

As his anxiety escalates, the Camel might find solace in a passage from the classic short story by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration….He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero.

In trying to win over his date, the Camel should realize that what he aspires to is highly challenging and difficult to attain. Therefore, it is okay in this situation to be nervous and feel anxiety. Most importantly, he should not let his feelings of anxiety deter him from his pursuits, as the only way for one to fail is to not try at all.

Sources:

Irving, Washington, and Arthur Rackham. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. New York: of Wonder, 1990. Print.

Simmer Down

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An empty belly is the best cook.
        – Estonian proverb

The Crowded Camel recently enrolled in a beginner’s cooking class, and is seen above attempting to cook his first meal. To the horror of his classmates, a fire that started in his pan has spread to his hat and now threatens to spread throughout the kitchen. This cooking fire not only endangers his classmates, but is also ruining his dish. 

When the Camel realizes that his hat is on fire and that he also failed to successfully prepare a meal, he will likely be discouraged from pursuing future culinary endeavors, while also lamenting over what he could have done differently to prevent such an unfortunate outcome. In analyzing what went wrong, he may find guidance in the aforementioned Estonian proverb. In addition to its literal meaning, one can also interpret the proverb to mean that passion and care are necessary ingredients to all successful dishes.

The Camel, lacking both the physical hunger for food and the symbolic hunger to create a great dish, rushed through the process of cooking carelessly and without passion. The result is a series of disastrous incidents, which could have been avoided by slowing down and focusing on the craft of cooking, rather than the outcome. The Camel, and all of us, must remember that in all art forms, including cooking, the best results come when one brings true passion, care and love into the process of creation.

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;.

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;.