Some Thoughts On Navel Gazing

Do you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Yeah, that pyramid we learned about in 9th grade health class. It postulates that humans are motivated primarily by our physiological needs like oxygen, food, sleep. When those are met, we are motivated by more long-term issues like health and financial security. When those are met, we can work on relationships, and then up to the top of the pyramid, where “self-actualization” sits. This means that those born with all the privileges of first world culture skip a lot of those bottom steps and are afforded the luxury of pondering things like morality, poetry, and what it feels like to get a bikini wax.

Australian philosopher Peter Singer argues that it’s immoral to be wealthy; the logic being that going without Starbucks in the morning would cause you mild discomfort but sending the money you saved to Oxfam could provide several meals for a starving person. Because it would only be slightly inconvenient to you, but literally save the life of someone else, living below your financial means in order to aid the disadvantaged is a moral obligation.

When people criticize navel gazing I wonder if they’re working toward the same kind of argument, living below your contemplative means. There are kids in Africa without any time or physiological security with which to stare at their bellies in wonder. The fact that we have such a superabundance of time and security with which to document prosaic issues like existentialism, romantic rejection, and the authenticity of Lana Del Rey seems absurd. But how do we send our extra thoughts over to Oxfam for them to dole out to those in need?

This is where the disdain for navel gazing stops making sense. The self-absorbed pursuit of contemplating our lives is unavoidable. As a social generation it’s natural that we turn this consideration outward, documenting our experiences and asking for feedback from our peers. Navel gazing is our modern philosophy because it considers the questions that are important to us in an effort to gain wisdom — even if that wisdom is how to be a better date. Becoming contemplative ascetics, denying any creative inkling we have that doesn’t pertain to a “serious” issue doesn’t create a surplus for someone else.

If you want people to spend their energy curing cancer and occupying Wall Street that’s great, but the fact is that the people who are going to think deeply about new ways to use science or the inequality that exists in the infrastructure of our economic system are the type of people who are going to think deeply about everything. Mental exercise is like physical exercise. Even if your only goal is to have huge arms, you still need to work out other parts of your body. The process of doing something less familiar to you can help keep you motivated and break through a plateau, adding to your overall goal even though at first it was only tangentially related. Luckily, as far as I know the internet is infinite and there’s room for as many conversations as we wish to have. TC mark

image – Perfecto Insecto


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  • God

    You are dumb. 

    • Michaelwg

      I’ve always wanted to say this: Shut up God, no one cares what you think. That you deign to comment belies your omnipotence. Suck it.

    • Jack

      God’s the ultimate naval gazer.
      Look at you gettin all High and Mighty!
      No one cares, so STFU God :)

  • Keisha Therese Doce Halili

    I disagree with God.

  • Gmo Saza

    It’s Lana del Rey, with an E.

    • Anonymous

      my b

  • ignoring

    watch Cosmos by Carl Sagan … even the Universe doesn’t give a shit what you think … and never has. No one cares what you do or think … even at a networking event … they only care about what you can give them so they can keep on NAVAL GAZING … the best you can do is whittle down your circle of contacts to a manageable size and try to pretend you care about them.

    You are no more special than the next over ambitious nit wit next door 

    • aaron nicholas

      ‘cept cosmos by carl sagan fills one with wonder and inspiration, and you seem full of spite and ignorance

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