The Crowded Camel

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;.
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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.

The Camel and the Captain

In The Republic, Plato’s renowned Socratic dialogue, Socrates uses a parable known as the “Ship of State” to describe the mutiny of the masses over an incompetent leader. Socrates likens society to a ship that is steered by a wise philosopher, whose shipmates believe him to be unfit to serve as captain. They argue that he is too cerebral, and lacking in the practical knowledge necessary to navigate the ship, when in reality he is the most competent among them. Rather than improving conditions, the mutiny just perpetuates the toxic atmosphere that caused it in the first place.1

The Crowded Camel appears to be in a position similar to the captain in this metaphor. Though he is clearly the most qualified person to lead the kickball team, his visible unease and lack of confidence may be encouraging the young players to challenge his authority, and he runs the risk of coming across as too pre-occupied and absent-minded to command the team.

The Camel and the captain, two uniquely qualified individuals, each possessing wisdom and a breadth of experience unparalleled by their peers, represent the larger struggle of all individuals to convey to others the unique qualities that make them fit to lead.

All leaders at some point experience self-doubt or a lack of confidence, but it is important to remember that self-doubt can be fueled by self-reflection — an invaluable process in leadership. Through this process, we may find that the very qualities that cause us to doubt ourselves are the ones that give us strength and set us apart from others. Ultimately, these seemingly unconventional qualities are precisely what make us unique and exceptional leaders.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato.” The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.7.vi.html&gt;.

The Groomsman

Henri Tajfel, an influential British social psychologist, pioneered work in the field of social identity and made a number of observations about social groups – how they are formed and why people join them. He concluded that “an individual will tend to remain a member of a group…if [this group has] some contribution to make to the positive aspects of his social identity” (Tajifel, 255). Otherwise, the individual will typically leave the group, barring some conflict with his core values.

Above, the Crowded Camel poses as one of the groomsmen in a wedding photo. As a groomsman, the Camel is presented with an opportunity to take on a temporary identity as a member of a social group to which he ordinarily would not belong. According to Tajfel, the Camel might benefit from his newfound membership to a social group if he finds that belonging to the group helps him form a positive social identity. Indeed, strong social groups seemingly offer a number of benefits, including peer acceptance, pre-defined social roles and social reinforcement.

Interestingly, the Camel appears extremely uncomfortable as a groomsman and does not seem to experience any of the benefits of belonging to this group, instead only experiencing discomfort and debilitating anxiety. This causes one to wonder: Is the Camel a bold individualist who prefers to carve his own path through life, or is he simply too anxiety-ridden and socially inept to integrate himself into a common social group? Unfortunately, it appears that the latter is likely the case. The Camel may never see the benefits of social group integration that Tajfel spoke of above, and is therefore destined to remain a social outsider indefinitely – desperately seeking to belong to something, yet tragically unable to belong to anything.

Sources:

  1. Tajfel, Henri. Human Groups and Social Categories: Studies in Social Psychology. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP], 1981. Print.

Les Deux Magots

Les Deux Magots, a Parisian café that famously attracted intellectuals and writers like Jean-Paul Satre, Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus, played an important role in facilitating public discourse on a variety of topics during the early 20th century. This invigorating atmosphere continues to exist in many modern-day cafés, inspiring creativity, innovation and collaboration.

The Crowded Camel, perhaps in hopes of experiencing a similar atmosphere, is seen here trying to enjoy a beverage at a local café. Unfortunately, he struggles to carry his drink to a table and is on the verge of dropping his coffee in front of the café patrons. In turn, The Camel is destined to have a disastrous experience here.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that because the Camel cannot carry a drink without dropping it, he will never progress from the counter to a table. Instead, he will likely leave in embarrassment after spilling his drink in public. In the end, the Camel will never be able to enjoy the café’s atmosphere, much less engage in the intellectual exercises that are critical to the development of one’s understanding of the world.

Aristotle on Leisure

Aristotle said that “the first principle of all action is leisure,” and that leisure is an end in itself, providing pleasure, and happiness, enjoyment of life.1

The Crowded Camel appears unable to engage even in this most basic act of leisure: reclining in a hammock. The Camel cannot simply abandon the hammock to engage in some arbitrary occupation because when one is occupied, he has in mind some end goal which has not yet been attained.1 This would violate Aristotle’s principle of leisure being an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

This troubling scenario raises concerns about the Camel’s ability to ever truly relax and enjoy his life, rather than finding himself stuck in an endless series of debilitating circumstances that routinely rob him of true happiness.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | Politics by Aristotle.” The Internet Classics Archive | Politics by Aristotle. Ed. Benjamin Jowett. MIT, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.8.eight.html&gt;.

We Don’t Particularly Like Camels

Image

Hi, welcome to The Crowded Camel. A blog that publishes doodles of one particular camel, but is made by people who don’t particularly like camels in the first place. What started off as a series of rudimentary drawings of a camel in crowded situations, quickly transformed into a metaphor and somehow inspired this blog.

In essence, The Crowded Camel is an existential meditation on what it means to live in a world that is inherently alienating to unique individuals. The camel’s facial expressions betray an intense longing to belong – to assimilate himself into the very society that is the unapologetic source of his suffering. The relatable misfortune of the camel serves as a reminder to the viewer that, perhaps, there is a crowded camel in us all.