Caminotherapy is the use of chimney pot spotting to demonstrate that an individual has scope to make life meaningful in his or her own terms.
In his book Mans search for Meaning Viktor Frankl says that some authors have described his approach to psychotherapy, which is called Logotherapy, as The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy following on from the Freudian and Jungian approaches to psychoanalysis.
It can be argued (falsely but potentially entertainingly) that while logotherapy may indeed be the third Viennese school of psychotherapy, a third school of psychotherapy contemporary with those of Freud and Jung was developed in the UK by Angus McPhail. This was the school of Caminotherapy.
Angus Mcphail was the son of the Reverend James McPhail, who, as readers of Chimney Pot Spotting a Leisure Pursuit will be aware, is reputed to have been the founder of the Central Pot Spotting Authority of Great Britain and Ireland in the 1880s.
Somewhat to the dismay of his father, Angus was profoundly influenced by the writings of Thomas Malthus (A Summary View of the Principal of Population, 1830), Charles Lyell (Principles of Geology, 1830), and Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859) and found that he could no longer accept the Christian model of the meaning of his life.
Having experienced no consciousness prior to his birth, Angus saw no reason to believe that his consciousness was anything other than a function of his physical being, or that it would prevail after his death. He was aware that there were other religious traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism which allow for re-incarnation, but there was nothing in his experience which convinced him that there was any more truth in the idea of re-incarnation than he felt there was in that of eternal life.
If the point of life was not to live it in such a way as to secure entry to heaven, then what was the point of it? The Darwinian perspective suggested that life is a competitive struggle to survive and reproduce, the point of it being to adapt to the living environment well enough to enable life to continue. This perspective made some sense of the worldly success that the Reverend James McPhail had taught his son to regard as inconsequential. Wealth, power and status were not pre-requisites for getting to heaven, but they were telling factors in the competition to attract a mate and provide for offspring.
From Malthus however, Angus inferred that mankind could be regarded as a parasite that was in danger of killing its host planet. If, in an environment with limited resources, the reproductive success of each individual results in unsustainable population growth and the degradation of the environment to the extent that ultimately none can survive, then the objective of passing on life to future generations is thwarted and even reproductive success becomes failure.
In an attempt to give some meaning to his life, Angus became a doctor, hoping as his father had done to find his own salvation in the service of others. The more he ministered to the sick however, the more he was reminded of the fragility of the human condition. Few of his patients had time to question the meaning of their lives, they were too busy struggling to survive and raise their families, indeed it was their families that gave meaning to their lives such that they had no need of the question. Angus however continued to wonder whether it was fair to seek to give a meaning to his own life by marrying and starting a family when all around him he saw the suffering that life entails.
The Great War of 1914-1918 and the influenza pandemic of 1918 re-inforced Anguss bleak outlook and brought him to the edge of despair, not knowing what to hope for. The Russian Revolution of 1918 reminded Angus that mankind is capable of creating different models for living, and it was then that he developed Caminotherapy as an aid to the re-establishment of goal orientation for those who, like himself, had lost direction.
Success, Angus maintained, is a relative term which only has meaning in respect of a defined objective. The objectives of chimney pot spotting had been clearly laid out by his father and Stephen Richards and they provided him with a convenient starting point for an examination of the question of what makes life anything other than pointless.
The starting point for Caminotherapy is the suggestion that chimney pot spotting is a pointless waste of time. This is a suggestion that most people can readily agree with.
The Caminotherapist then invites the Caminotherapee to consider what makes chimney pot spotting any more of a pointless waste of time than any other activity.
For example, let us suppose that the Caminotherapee is a surgeon. Why is chimney pot spotting more pointless than performing a liver transplant?
Clearly a liver transplant will save a patients life, whereas chimney pot spotting will not, so the liver transplant is less pointless.
Here we are evaluating the relative pointlessness of the two activities in terms of the outcome. If the surgeon chooses to spend his time performing a liver transplant, the transplant patient is given a new lease of life. If instead the surgeon chooses to go chimney pot spotting, the outcome might be the identification of a stack boasting two Cuthbertsons Tweedlers and a Manly Bovington.
If we are going to evaluate relative pointlessness in terms of outcome we should consider the moment at which the outcome is deemed to apply. Suppose our liver transplant patient having recovered from the operation runs over and causes brain damage to a child one day while driving back to the hospital for a check-up. In view of the anguish caused to the driver, the child and the parents of the child, would it not have been better for the surgeon to have gone chimney pot spotting?
Of course the patient could instead have been walking to the hospital for the check-up and could have snatched the child out of the path of an oncoming vehicle, something that he or she wouldnt have been around to do were it not for the liver transplant.
It appears that we cannot say that a successful liver transplant is itself an outcome that makes the operation less of a pointless waste of time than chimney pot spotting. All we can say is that the operation affords the potential for further favourable and unfavourable outcomes.
In the position of the liver transplant patient, most of us would hope that the surgeon would choose to operate on us rather than go pot spotting. Presumably this is because we believe that our lives are worth living: worth living because we believe that sufficient favourable outcomes await us to compensate for any future unfavourable ones, or worth living because we have responsibilities towards others who might find life more difficult without us.
The point of chimney pot spotting is to illustrate the point that in order for life to be anything other than pointless you will need to create your own point. Caminotherapy suggests that no activity on earth can ultimately be shown to be any more or less pointless or any more or less of a waste of time than any other activity except in relation to a specified goal. It maintains that there are as many ways of being as there are chimney pots, and that despite the pressure of accepted models and cultural norms the individual has scope to make life meaningful in his or her own terms.