A Camel Through the Needle’s Eye

One of the most poetic lines in The New Testament might of been a mistake.

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…”

In Aramaic, gamat means cable (like those used on ships). This makes perfect sense. It’s difficult to pass a cable through the eye of a needle. Yet it is one letter that separates gamat from gamal, meaning camel. A camel is also more difficult to pass through the eye of a needle. It’s theorized the mistake in the dictation was left by Luke because he was unfamiliar with the Jewish culture (being Greek). Thinking this was part of a Jewish metaphor, he left us with gamal.

Some of the most beautiful moments of music are from misreadings and confusion.

The guitar solo on Tom Waits’ “Hoist That Rag” is an especially telling one. Marc Ribot, the guitarist, was waiting for his cue to solo. While waiting he was playing this sort of Latin rhythm part, mimicking the tres: a three stringed Cuban guitar. After a couple of bars of this he soon realized that had received the cue but wasn’t paying attention. It was his turn to solo the whole time. With great invention he riffs off of the rhythm part he established and ends the solo convincingly. Out of this disarray came one of the coolest guitar solos of Ribot’s career.

So maybe next time we’re in a moment of confusion we should go with it instead of away. It’s so easy to retreat, especially in performance where sounding good is paramount and fight or flight is in full effect. But who knows where the confusion could lead. I

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to imagine what could have happened if you just went along with the mistake. What’s the worst that could happen anyway?


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