Contemplate Our Navels

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    The Warden: "What did you want to talk about, Alistair?"

    Morrigan: "His navel, it seems. He's certainly been contemplating it enough."

    Omphaloskepsis. A type of meditation where one stares at one's navel. Navel-gazing has come to mean anyone being extremely introspective or existential.

    When contemplating his or her navel, a character will sit quietly and contemplate the purpose of Life, the Universe, and Everything. In visual media, this can be accompanied by surreal visuals (sometimes an excuse to recycle material from previous episodes). In written media, this can involve long, usually internal monologues.

    Depending on the show, this can be thematically appropriate or a pause in the action. When used as filler, these scenes are usually very annoying, because so little thought is put into them—the poor viewers have to sit through five minutes of "Who am I? Who is me? I is me, but you is not me. The universe is not real to me, unless it is real to you, but who is you? Who is..." and so on against a Clip Show background. But in rare moments, it can be really creepy.

    When a character does a voice-over of the same nature during the series, it's called a Fauxlosophic Narration.

    When the moment becomes significant as an energizing, self-motivating speech, it is a World of Cardboard Speech. When a character frequently indulges in navel contemplating, said character is The Philosopher.

    Compare with Character Filibuster. And compare with Author Filibuster, where the character is giving answers instead of questions.

    Not to be confused with Contemplating Our Navy.

    Examples of Contemplate Our Navels include:


    Anime and Manga

    • In an example of a version of this trope well done, Yu Yu Hakusho does this during the Younger Toguro fight. It comes off as Ayn Rand trying to challenge the Shounen hero's Power of Friendship.
      • And later in the series, Yusuke has one of these (verging on a full-fledged Heroic BSOD) halfway through his final fight with Yomi, as he blanks out in the middle of a fight upon realizing that he's been fighting for so long that its lost all meaning.
    • One episode of Serial Experiments Lain consisted almost entirely of live photographs scrolling by while the Narrator provided Expospeak.
    • The last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, consist entirely of this, along with a great deal of Mind Screw. It's also done on a few other occasions: namely, by Rei during her synch test with Unit 01, Shinji while trapped inside an Angel, and Shinji again during the weeks he spent merged with Unit 01.
    • Paranoia Agent shows more restraint and only does this for a few seconds in the next episode previews (which usually aren't important anyway). It shows why this trope rarely works: the characters are creepy precisely because they don't babble their inner thoughts to the audience.
    • Duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! and GX have a tendency to drift into this, as emotional issues from traumatic childhoods to tragic romances rise to the surface for whoever's the bad guy, turning duels more into intense mental therapy sessions. The GX dub frequently lampshades this: "Is he gonna duel or stand there and ponder his purpose in life?"
    • Koizumi Itsuki from Suzumiya Haruhi is an Olympic-level navel-gazer, who often finishes off his bouts of philosophy with a 'just kidding'.
    • Parodied in Prince of Tennis: Shinji Ibu from Fudomine is infamous for his long, odd mumbling rounds. So much that the voice messages in his single CD's are all composed of random mumbling about practically anything.
    • The second season of The Big O made the viewers Contemplate Our Navels a lot—sometimes this and the token mecha fight would be the whole episode. Nietzsche Wannabe Schwartzwald ranting, brief scenes of every character looking puzzled at what was going on, Roger sitting paralyzed at the controls of his mecha while worrying about his destiny—and several characters worrying that they only exist to play a limited role. Unusually, these scenes were never excuses for recycled footage, and were always lavishly animated (Schwartzwald ranted over a background of his mecha running amok through the wilderness).
    • Mnemosyne did this out of nowhere in its last episode. It was very strange and misplaced, though strange and misplaced seems to be the theme of the series.
    • Bounen no Xamdou lampshades this when the main character starts to slide into a monologue, and another character tells him this isn't the time to be navel-gazing.
    • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has Ridiculously Human Robot Girls contemplating their robotic navels in front of Scenery Porn, of all things. And does it extremely well, too.
    • Cowboy Bebop features this in episode 23, Brain Scratch, where the climax of the episode is villain Londes' lengthy speech on the philisophical nature of television.
    • .hack//Sign characters do this a lot, spending a great deal of time discussing all manner of deep subjects. It comes as a relief to see Sora, the only character who regularly acts like he's actually playing a game...
    • Gundam series usually feature several battles where opposing mobile suit pilots debate about the nature of truth, honor, war, peace and just about every philosophy topic in existence while blasting each other with laser cannons and giant lightsabers. And when they're not fighting what do they do? They continue debating. All the time, over and over, IT NEVER STOPS. To the point that viewers will wonder if screaming at each other about the nature of reality is really the unseen power source of their gundams...
      • Treize Khushrenada of Gundam Wing is the grand champion of this trope, rambling about the meaning of combat and his life purpose on and off the battlefield (he even gets an entire Recap Episode in which to contemplate endlessly). This frustrates his subordinate/lover(?), Lady Une, who just wants him to conquer the universe already.
      • Code Geass does something similar in the epic battle in the finale.
    • Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima does this on occasion, primarily during the Mahora festival arc, where he contemplates whether or not maintaining The Masquerade is the right thing to do. It's subverted as he never really finds an answer, and decides to maintain it simply because the Big Bad can't prove that breaking the Masquerade is worth screwing over some of the mages.
      • It's also lampshaded like crazy as several characters tell Negi to knock off the contemplation because he's only ten years old and should spend his time having fun and being a kid, not debating the moral implications of his actions.
    • Ghost in the Shell does this frequently. Admittedly in the movie the English translation made it sound a lot more like an Author Filibuster than the Japanese original seemed to intend - the Major was definitely not sure of herself in the Japanese voicing, yet seemed to be talking directly to the viewer in the English one.
      • Similarly, Batou goes on a lot of philosophical ramblings in the novel After the long Goodbye, which is a sequel (or prequel?) to Innocence. He too isn't really sure about anything, questions if he himself has a soul or not and why Gabriel has left him, often thinking of reasons more emotional than rational and reflects on the beliefs of other characters he meets.
    • Aria as some elements of this. Mostly a rather fluffy series (in a good way), Akari's mindfulness at times make it plunge deep into nostalgia and questions about the purpose of life, clearly influenced by the Japanese philosophy of mono no aware. This is most prevalent in the Arietta OVA, which coincidentally contains even more Scenery Porn than the TV series.
    • In Rurouni Kenshin, the titular character often talked his foes into submission, and at one point, it was the only way he could win against Sojiro Seta.
    • Rakka in Haibane Renmei does a lot of philosophizing about things, such as the nature of the Haibane and whether she deserves to be happy or not.
    • Fullmetal Alchemist has Hohenheim contemplating the nature of humanity in Episode 27 of the Brotherhood anime with the standard Clip Show format.
      • Also used with premeditated intention and to great effect in all versions of Fullmetal Alchemist as the Elrics contemplate "All is one, one is all" (a concept used not infrequently afterwards) during their stint of training/dying/whatever they were doing.
      • As well as exploring/discussing/whatever-ing the concept of What Measure Is a Non-Human?, especially with Al
    • Naruto: Kabuto is obviously channelling Dr. Mohinder Suresh when he bombards Naruto with questions such as "Who are we? What is our purpose?" prior to revealing he has fused himself with the remains of Orochimaru to give himself an identity. Orochimaru himself sometimes slips into this when describing why he's seeking immortality.
    • Hellsing has Alucard occasionally prone to stopping to contemplate his own history and the nature and motivations of those around him. The Major also tends to monologue about his enemies and the nature of war. Other characters get in on this at times.
      • In fact, the key question would seem to be "What is/makes a monster?" Given the Black and Gray Morality that Hellsing operates on, it's rather appropriate.
    • Ergo Proxy has the Cogito virus that cause self-awareness in robots and makes them experience human emotions.
    • The trailers of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's first season are mostly floating text with a vague, Mohinder-style voiceover. Of course, that music would make the phone book sound intriguing and mysterious.
      • And that voice would make anything sound dramatic. Especially when you find out who is speaking.
    • Unlike Higurashi, ×××HOLiC does show preview clips, but a similarly coy voiceover by Yuuko plays over them.

    Comic Books

    • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac manages to make it creepy as all Hell, usually by having it end with a psychotic non-sequiter or be written in blood or something.
    • In the Robocop vs. Terminator graphic novel, the Terminators do this, since RoboCop is essentially a divine being to them (as in this continuity, he was an integral part of SkyNet's creation). It gets really weird when they start discussing the fact that he doesn't want to help them.

    Fan Works


    • The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were both crammed with navel-contemplation. The original wasn't free of it either, although it was far more pronounced in the Two-Part Trilogy.
    • I ♥ Huckabees was filled with this, which makes sense as the main action of the movie involves characters going through an existential crisis or ten. Lampshaded by one character not yet willing to admit he's also going through one:

    Dawn Campbell: You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?
    Brad Stand: Of course I can... what does that even mean?

    • The Thin Red Line is possibly the epitome of this trope. Nearly every soldier has a ridiculous voice-over monologue, and many times there are more than one of them onscreen, making it impossible to tell who's actually saying it. After watching, one reviewer commented that it sounded like a series of high school papers asking "Why is there War?" and noting that he felt compelled to yell letter grades at the screen. And then you find out that the studio had to chop the film down from six hours....
    • Cloud gets into the habit of this during Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children as part of his wangsting phase.
    • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has one of these with a nice moment where Harry looks back at his unrequited love's apartment and sighs.
    • The entire film Waking Life.
    • Oddly, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank has this mentioned in a very strange way part way through.


    • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale states that he was "compemplating his navel" in the janitor's closet of a hospital where he was posing as a doctor. (He was actually reading a medical dictionary to look up terms he did not understand.)
    • James Joyce's Ulysses, long considered a ponderous, difficult, impossible tome, humorously plays with this trope & term quite often: from Buck Mulligan loudly proclaiming that their home is 'the omphalos', to Dedalus literally contemplating the existence of Adam's (Biblical-Adam) navel, to a chapter that ends with Bloom going to the bath house, and literally gazing into his own bellybutton.
    • Robert Asprin's later Myth Adventures books started to do this more and more.
    • Orson Scott Card likes to do this in his books. This editor recalls a scene from one of the Shadow books involving Ender's mom and Graff talking about whether it's intentions or actions that determine one's supernatural fate, for example. This other editor also remembers the most plot-vital revelations in Xenocide are strongly obfuscated behind long, confusing Fauxlosophic Narrations.
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy refers to the three phases of civilization as being characterized by the questions, "How can we eat?", "Why do we eat?", and "Where shall we have lunch?" (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one possible answer to the last question. And that's not even getting into Bistromathics...)
      • also parodied in the scene with the whale and the bowl of petunias.
    • Somewhat happens in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 during the speeches of Montag's boss Beatty. Beatty actually does mention people cleaning their navels in one speech.
      • Subverted, in that Beatty is deliberately trying to fuck with Montag's mind.
    • The activity which most concerns Pierre in War and Peace. It's not enough to be stinking filthy rich, no, he must learn the secrets of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
    • The Illuminatus Trilogy is made of this, with long dialogues about how the human mind thinks, the significance of religion, why anarchy and chaos are better than order and authoritarianism, and the respective positions of the Illuminati, the Justified Ancients of Mummu, the Legion of Dynamic Discord, and Erisian Liberation Front on what people should be doing. It is remarkably unpretentious and often even fun to read, though.
      • Notably, chaos eventually isn't decided to be better than order, after all, even though that appears to be the initial premise; the idea is that there simply has been an overflow of order recently, and some extra chaos is needed to balance things out.
        • In the Principia Discordia, from which many of the ideas of Illuminatus! are drawn, the opposition is not between order and Chaos, but between order and disorder, and Chaos is the principle into which both transcend.
    • Stacy in Scott Smith's The Ruins does something like this towards the end of the novel.
    • Happens on occasion in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, especially the later ones in the series.
    • Robert E. Howard's Kull does this a lot. Especially in The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, where Kull gazes into a mirror and wonders if perhaps the mirror image is the real man and he is but a mirror image himself... and more from that drawer.
    • In Sheri S. Tepper's Grass the hyper-intelligent Foxen are being killed off by the less intelligent, but more ambitious, Hippae; because they have degenerated into passive navel-gazers.
    • Probably makes up the majority of the text in All Saint's Day. And it is a rather informed variety, as the protagonists friends, with the possible exception of his love interest who comes in half-way, have a in depth knowledge of the works of western philosophers, at least the German ones, as well as their original, more artistically bent, thoughts and critiques.

    Live-Action TV

    • In Babylon 5 the two Sufficiently Advanced Alien species repeat the Armor Piercing Questions "Who are you?" (Vorlons) and "What do you want?" (Shadows) to force the "younger races" to contemplate their navels (or biological equivalents).
      • Of course, the two races themselves have been asking the questions for so long that they don't know their own answers, and have ended up adopting the Order Versus Chaos framework without really understanding it. They have become roughly equivalent to divorcing parents trying to get "the kids" to choose a side.
      • This comes to a head when a third, even more Sufficiently Advanced Alien (to continue the metaphor, the Vorlons' and Shadows' parent figure) shows up with his own question: "Why are you here?" This helps the main characters realize it is time to start kicking butt. Philosophically.
      • Confronted by the Gray Council after the Battle of the Line Sinclair fires both Armor Piercing Questions at his captors: "Who are you?" "What do you want?" and adds a very apropos one of his own "Why are you doing this?" All of which must have been darned disturbing coming from their Messiah.
      • The short-lived spinoff Crusade added its own third question -- "Whom do you serve and who do you trust?"—to the "Who are you?"/"What do you want?" sequence, and used all three questions in its opening credits. Crusade was cancelled before we ever got an answer.
    • In Scrubs J.D.'s (and occasionally, other characters') inner monologue narrations do this a lot.
    • Heroes opened most episodes (and closed some) of the first season with an astoundingly generic monologue about fate and destiny, a practice which had decreased but not completely died out in later seasons. They're so similar that if a TV network accidentally put the monologues in the wrong order, few people would ever notice, at least for the opening monologues. The closing monologues tend to be more relevant to the plot of the episode. Regardless of their lack of content (or perhaps because of it), they can be a very soothing way to ease the viewer in and out of the episodes, especially since Sendhil Ramamurthy reads them as though whispering a fairy tale to a child. See also Fauxlosophic Narration.
    • Done sometimes in Grey's Anatomy, with Mer doing the narrating. It's usually plot-relevant and has something to do with doctors, medicine in general, and the title of the episode, though.
    • Tubbs on Miami Vice was especially prone to this kind of behavior; most anything involving the Big Bad from season 1 or his daughter would immediately launch the audience into a five minute long flashback Big No-filled Slow-Mo montage.
    • The X-Files occasionally suffered from somewhat portentous and long-winded voice-over monologues of this nature.
    • Desperate Housewives: Every episode opens and closes with Mary Alice's voice-from-beyond-the-grave yattering off some inane blablablabla about life, happiness and whatnot.
      • Subverted once and only once, when Edie dies at the beginning of an episode, and does the opening narration (again from beyond the grave, though) instead of Mary-Alice - but this time the entire monologue is a rant on how she was happy to die at the center of everyone's attention, just the way she had lived.
      • There is also an occasion where Rex narrates, and he amps this trope up.
    • Parodied in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - every episode closes with Rick Dagless indulging in some introspection on the hospital roof at sunset. Given the deliberately poor quality of the writing, the topic of his navel-gazing is frequently a Wangsty, incomprehensible and pompous Character Filibuster of some kind.
    • Parodied in the Dennis Moore skit on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    • Hells Kitchen, of all things, turns into this whenever Marco Pierre White opens his mouth.
    • Literal example; in one episode of Get Smart where Max infiltrated a group of both male and female hippies. The guru told all the hippies there to contemplate the navel. The Guru had to tell Max "Your OWN Navel"
    • Tod and Buz of Route 66 like to narrate about life, the universe, and everything in extremely metaphorical and existential terms.
    • Nate contemplated a used condom in one episode of Six Feet Under.
    • Happens from time to time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, particularly in comparison to the other, somewhat more two-fisted elements of the franchise. (See, for instance, the entirety of "In The Pale Moonlight") On one noteworthy incident led Garak to comment that, since what passed for his navel was centered on his forehead, he would have to be the one to get things done.

    Newspaper Comics

    • Bloom County's popular staple in the comic was the characters sitting in a dandelion field while analyzing whether THIS latest popculture event will inspire the end of the world, or that will. Most especially with Binkley, who was known for having panic attacks on the idea of reincarnating as a toaster.

    Tabletop Games

    • Warhammer 40,000's Orks are a subversion of this - one of the quotes in their codex postulates that they've become so successful because of the fact that they don't bother with the heavy philosophical questions that plague other races and just stick to shooting or smashing things in the face.
      • Hummiez don't underztand orky navel watching. We boyz know that Gork and Mork are the invincible and the indeztructible, but we'z like to discuss regularly which is which. (Fightning noise)
    • Munchkin has the card "Contemplate Your Navel: Go Up a Level."


    Video Games

    • At the very end of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, the characters find out that their entire universe is a video game. The man who created the video game destroys it; however, the heroes choose their last moments to do some navel contemplating and their perceived universe is forced to spontaneously generate.
    • Metal Gear Solid does this from time to time, usually at the worst possible moments. Towards the end of the first game, the Big Bad actually tied the hero up and spent a good 15 minutes lecturing him on the troubling implications of genetic engineering while nuclear bombers made their approach.
      • And let's not forget the excruciatingly long codec conversation with the Patriot AI in the sequel, where Solidus patiently waits not 10 feet away until it's over to try and kill you.
      • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots loves this. While presumably during an ongoing battle, Snake finds time to listen to repeated philosophical discussion of the war economy and nanomachines that one person could do in a two minute summation.
      • Big Boss proves he really was a Patriot at the end of the game, by blathering on for almost as long as the AI's did.
    • Nearly everyone in Deus Ex, ranging from terrorists, to bar patrons, to cabals of businessmen secretly running the world have their own complex theories to discuss about life.
    • Interactive Media game Vortex: Quantum Gate II is about 30% navel gazing, but it's pretty realistic since you have just found out your mission wasn't to kill giant bugs but friendly little fae folk. And then it makes sense again after the second revelation that Earth has only five years left and the shadowy mining company you work for (which is utterly huge, on the level of Eurocorp in Syndicate Wars) has been covering it up by 'disappearing' whistleblowers left and right in a vain attempt to hide the truth from the public until they can take over this new world and spring a manufactured heroic revelation onto the public. Drew's faced with the choice of saving his whole race or exchanging a sizable portion to save the newly encountered race. (Note that it's not really spoilery as any attempt to find information on this obscure game has people trying to sell used copies by blabbing the whole plotline anyway. Even Amazon gives away the revelations. Yeesh.) It's a stupendous effort, Myst with simpler puzzles but a heavily political/philosophical plotline.
    • Used literally in Star Control 2. The player can talk the Thraddash into contemplating their navels, but the player learns that the Thraddash require three mirrors to properly view their navels.
    • Spoofed/Lampshaded in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, during case 4-3:

    Trucy: This is no time for navel-gazing! Let's crack this case!

      • Also made fun of in Justice For All.

    Edgeworth: This is a trial, not the Phoenix Wright Wax Philosophical Power Hour!


    Announcer: This marks the end of an epic battle. The winner emerges with the pride and honor of a hard won victory, but also with a nagging sense of uncertainty. The loser walks away with a heart heavy with shame and anger, ready to make a new start and fight again another day. Both warriors know that this isn't truly the end. Neither one's potential has been truly reached, and there is much hard training ahead. They'll never forget the days of exchanging blows at a fevered pitch. They'll never forget the days of lost hope, of self-loathing. Once they've caught their breath, the warriors will return to the ring. This is the burden of the true fighter. There is no other choice. Who knows where their next opponent lies? This story may be over, but the battle is just beginning!

    • Irenicus did a fair bit of it in the dream sequences in Baldur's Gate II, waxing on about how "life is power" and precisely why, in his opinion, your character should embrace their Bhaalspawn nature instead of fighting it. All of which was made ten times more creepy by David Warner's mostly-deadpan delivery.

    Web Comics

    • A couple of times in Men in Hats, characters contemplating profound questions about the universe get hungry and turn their thoughts to sandwiches. It can apparently cause Aram to BSOD, too.
    • In Captain Gamer: OOC, Sakura questions the Captain's commitment to personal justice. It leads to an 88-panel discussion of identity that completely blows the top off a long-running theme in the entire first arc.
    • In Order of the Stick, Belkar is under a Paladin's curse and hallucinating about the aristocrat that authorized it and is constantly being asked "What are you?" After several attempts at classifying himself, he finally responds with "I am... a... sexy... shoeless... god of war..."
    • This is basically the entire point of HERO once you get past the first part or so. You'll end up hard pressed to find a single sentence that isn't in some way philosophical once it gets going.
    • Megatokyo. So, so much. To the point where Official Couple Piro and Kimiko have become a metaphor for how people relate to fictional characters and spend entire strips contemplating the nature of relationships.
    • Out There: Many of the characters get introspective and philosophical at times. Sometimes a whole week of strips will be devoted to someone's (usually Miriam's) inner monologue.
    • Fairly often in Ozy and Millie, one time parodied:

    Web Original

    • Anime Explains the Epimenides Paradox.
    • Done well (and hypnotically) on a very regular basis in Broken Saints.
    • As he proceeds through the game, very much Bobby Jacks of Survival of the Fittest - with a lengthy speech on his morals and/or deconstructions of his own motives cropping up every two scenes or so. Given that by the point he started to seriously do this he had wasted no fewer than seven people, you might argue that it took a little too long for his conscience to catch up with him.
    • Associated Space has an entire coastal village on the University Planet of Clonmacnois dedicated to the contemplation of esoteric philosophy. Which leads the hero Fatebane to remark, "We're all failed philosophers, in one way or another."
    • SCP Foundation-058 is a bovine heart with legs and tentacles that attacks everything while spouting philosophical-sounding gibberish.

    Western Animation

    • The phenomenon is also parodied in Avatar: The Last Airbender with the episode "The Firebending Masters", when Zuko and Aang are exploring an ancient temple and, lacking any better ideas when they accidentally trigger a trap that imprisons them, Zuko suggests "contemplate our place in the universe?"
      • Another one from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the episode, "The Guru" is pretty much an entire episode of this, at least while Aang is on screen.
    • In the Justice League episode Fury, Hawkgirl says of one Amazonian that was supposed to have been meditating, "Looks like she got tired of contemplating her navel..."
    • In Transformers Energon, there were filler episodes every once in a while, where a couple of characters would sit around, and contemplate what happened since the last Recap Episode.
    • The Tick vs. the Protoclown: Tick gets knocked into orbit unconscious, and his mind (a six-winged vision of his head) tells him he can only get home by answering the question "Why am I here?" The Tick's brain is mostly desert. There's the pleasure center (a giant smiley face that will make him enter an endless coma of ecstasy), the brain's defense mechanisms (little Ticks armed with fish), and a giant Tick statue that will answer only one question ("How's it going?") The Tick eventually stumbles across the answer himself: "I'm here because a big clown hit me!"
    • South Park episode "The Tooth Fairy Tats" has Kyle start to doubt his own existence after discovering the tooth fairy isn't real. He spends the rest of the episode reading various philosophy books and talking about the nature of reality, even when the conversation around him is something totally different. He finally has an out-of-body, one-with-the-universe experience, and comments that it was weird. It's never, ever spoken of again.

    Real Life

    • The hesychasts of Orthodox Christianity were disparagingly called "omphalopsykhoi", or "those who have their souls in their navels". Hesychasm is a tradition of solitary prayer and ascetism which has some similarities with the meditation practises of Eastern religions.

    What are you looking at? A plothole?