Saturday, November 27, 2004

Navel Gazing


"spending too much time considering your own thoughts, feelings or problems"

It is usually blatantly obvious to me when I am navel gazing, and this morning was one of those times. It usually starts with drink or a sleepless night, or both. It seems to be a function of the mind, something I regard as akin to sleep. Sleep is when our minds shut down our consciousness for a time and go into maintainance mode. Norton's Antivirus For Humans kicks in, deletes any bad files, and wakes us when it's done. When we wake up, we are refreshed, our ideas in order, and ready to face a new day - perhaps after a strong mug of coffee anyway.

Navel gazing is like that, except it's painful and you're awake. Google scholar seems to no little about navel gazing, so I'm forging new territory with my work here. Every now and then, I think normal sleep isn't enough for the messed up thoughts going through our minds, and emergency action is required. Instead of shutting down normally to deal with our anxieties over a bad day at work, or some rude remark, we start to dwell on things. Normally fruitful lines of thought descend as though in a whirlpool, revolving around some issue only glimpsed at the bottom of some dark well. When we are navel gazing, our normal happy self seems to be the stranger, the superficial. We become the worst version of ourselves.

Fortunately, this condition is usually solved with the application of time, food, sometimes company, and in due course sleep.

I am reluctant however to call navel-gazing simple "depression" as I feel the two are, or can be, separate. Depression is something medical - something you could in principle fix with a pill, and certainly something that should be healed. Navel-gazing is something that broadsides everyone to a greater or lesser extent, and I think it's a normal mental process even if it is a little unpleasant.

Some philosophers have been professional navel-gazers. Schopenhauer (1788-1860) is a fine example. Wikipedia has an excellent summary of his history, at the URL He espoused that we all lower our expectations as much as possible, as the most rational way to deal with worldly disappointments. If only we could avoid setting ourselves on pedestals, we would cease falling off them with quite so painful a landing.

Myself, I think that if we lower our sights, we will rather fall to even lower lows. But never mind, I feel the mood passing. For another little while, I shall drink wine, eat cheese, and enjoy life until next I once again cast my gaze navelwards.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear MelbournePhilosopher,

Try a belly button piercing. Naval gazing will never be the same again.

11/27/2004 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought Schoppenhauer was depressed!

Anyway, I agree one should eat a life slug every morning. That way you can be sure nothing worse will happen to you that day >;->

11/28/2004 09:04:00 AM  

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