Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm Participating in Omphaloskepsis, What Are You Doing?

I have come to realize that my dad was full of interesting expressions, foreign words and turns of phrase. Some can be repeated, others, not so much. Here's one such example.

"What are you doing?" mom would often ask dad as he sat quietly, clearly doing nothing.

"I'm contemplating my navel," he would respond every time.

I didn't really give it much thought when I was younger. I'm retired now and yet, I get the sense that every minute of my day should be filled up with doing something...anything. Although I have no interest in wasting the years I have left, I also have no need to rush everywhere and stick to rigid schedules unless absolutely necessary. I think I'll make more of an effort to set aside some time to contemplate my navel.

I haven't often heard the expression, "I'm contemplating my navel." In fact, I've never heard it except from dad's mouth. He obviously picked it up someplace. I decided to do some research because, after all, it had to originate somewhere and if it didn't, perhaps I could attribute something else to dad's huge list of lifelong accomplishments.

Naturally, I went to the source of all information "Google" and typed in "contemplate my navel". My initial reaction  upon seeing what showed up on Wikipedia was to lol....that's laugh out loud for those who have been living in the jungle for the last ten years. I discovered this word "Omphaloskepsis" and a full description of contemplating one's navel as an aid to meditation. Seriously.

When I learned that the origin of the expression was the novel These Barren Leaves written in 1925 by Aldous Huxley, it all made sense. Dad was an avid reader and had advanced ideas and thoughts. He was a fan of such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, H.G. Wells,*C.S. Lewis and of course, *Aldous Huxley.

Dad often told the story of his younger years when he was placed in a travel bed atop a china cabinet for his afternoon naps. Instead of sleeping, he said that he used the time for introspection, thinking, imagining...contemplating his navel as it were. It seemed like a strange story, but then, parenting habits were peculiar in previous generations. We asked no questions.

Contemplating one's navel, is not to be confused with naval-gazing, although in some cases they are interchangeable. The latter refers more often to an activity by people who are self absorbed or egocentric to the point of narcissism. If I recall correctly, many Shakespearean characters fall into this category.

Well, now that I've made connections with some new information, I think I'll find a quiet place to absorb it all. I hope my navel can handle an influx of contemplation.
***I found out something else today as I researched this navel contemplating information...irrelevant and yet, interesting I find. Did you know that on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, both C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died? Curious? Significant?

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