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Contemplate Our Navels

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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 their 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 padding, and if little thought is put into them, these scenes can be annoying — the poor viewers may find themselves sitting 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. Depending on the delivery, 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 "No More Holding Back" Speech. When a character frequently indulges in navel contemplating, they're 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. If the viewers get to contemplate a character's navel, it's Navel Window, Navel Outline, Exposed Animal Bellybutton or Bare Midriffs Are Feminine.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • Some navel-gazing occurs 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 it's lost all meaning.
  • One episode of Serial Experiments Lain consisted almost entirely of live photographs scrolling by while the Narrator provided Expospeak.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto depicts the Italian Renaissance through a Mono no Aware lens, from the point of view of 16-year-old Cesare Borgia, who does not get up to the kind of destruction the title would imply. Instead, he gazes at landscapes, seascapes, books, and all the sculpture in Pisa's cathedral, all lovingly rendered, and philosophizes, with a bit of political machinations on the side. The art is enough to make it not the least bit boring, and the musical makes it even more engaging with beautiful songs.
  • 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?"
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Koizumi Itsuki is an Olympic-level navel-gazer, who often finishes off his bouts of philosophy with a 'just kidding'.
    • When he could talk, Shamisen, who delivered such a successful spiel on the nature of consciousness that he managed to distract the characters from the fact that he was a talking cat.
  • Parodied in The 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 their 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.
  • Xam'd: Lost Memories 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 "Brain Scratch", as the climax of the episode is villain Londes' lengthy speech on the philosophical 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 Mobile Suit 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.
      • Nearly everyone in Gundam Wing does this A LOT. Whether it be the Gundam pilots themselves, everyday run-of-the-mill soldiers, rebels, or just politics. Zechs Marquise tends to do it the most, after Treize.
    • Gundam 00 is heavy on this in the same way as Gundam Wing. In fact, in Gundam 00, it appears that all the most awesome battles are the ones with most dialogue. The more epic the battle is, the more dialogue there is. Especially the final battle in Season 1 between Setsuna and Graham, where they argue about quite a lot of serious subjects in less than three minutes, and actually manage to get over every single detail about Graham and Setsuna's relationship, as well as a few other things! All while chopping each other's mobile suit to pieces.
  • Code Geass does something similar in the epic battle in the finale - somewhat justified in that they're freaked out by the way things have gone recently - the first nuclear weapon detonates over a major city where most of them have lived, a major coup happens, most of them find out about Geass for the first time around then, and all of their allegiances get shaken up to the point where more than half of everyone's allies were once enemies, and vice-versa...
  • Negi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi 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 makes it sound a lot more like an Author Filibuster than the Japanese original seems to intend — the Major is definitely not sure of herself in the Japanese voicing, yet seems 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.
    • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, if the Tachikomas actually had navels, they'd do this frequently.
  • ARIA as some elements of this. Mostly a rather fluffy series (in a good way), Akari's mindfulness at times makes 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 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: When They Cry'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.
  • The characters in Vagabond do this quite frequently; a lot of Musashi's character development happens through inner monologues where he questions just what it means (and how much it means, in the end) to be strong.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: As a child, Iceland spent a lot of time wondering about the nature of his existence. It makes sense, considering that he was born alone, and had no other nation around to explain anything to him.
  • 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.
  • Psycho-Pass: Several characters would usually discuss philosophy and societal issues with others or among themselves, most especially in the New Edit. Shogo Makishima is the biggest offender of this trope.
  • Cells at Work!: Basophil is an immune cell that tends to stand around in a raincoat and umbrella, not doing much but making verbose speeches that are supposed to inspire other White Blood Cells. This is because real-life basophilic cells don't do much but signal other cells to act by releasing inflammatory compounds like histamine and serotonin.
  • Chobits: Can persocoms feel, even though they only act out of human programming? Can a human and persocom love each other? Does such love mean anything if it's just programming? Whether they can love or not, what do such relationships mean for society as a whole?
  • Cyber City Oedo 808: A brief philosophical discussion about starlight happens in episode 3 and it continues on forever.

    Comic Books 
  • Most navel gazing takes place in text boxes to represent character's thoughts rather than speech bubbles, unless the character's actually talking.
  • Batman (Volume 2) #41 featured an attempt at navel gazing, done in Scott Snyder's deconstructive style. "Batman" then goes on to try to continue his entire inner monologue in "Bat-syle", literally thinking to himself "Bat-thoughts."
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac manages to make it creepy as all Hell, usually by having it end with a psychotic non-sequitur or be written in blood or something.
  • In the RoboCop Versus The 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.
  • In the Emmanuelle comic-book adaptation by Guido Crepax, Emmanuelle herself sometimes engages in navel-gazing.
  • In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, the action will sometimes grind to a halt so that Rowen can contemplate her navel. Sometimes, entire issues are devoted to navel gazing over various aspects of Wiccan beliefs, with forays into Purple Prose.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Brainstorm built an existential gun that, when accidentially used on Pipes caused such a bad case of ennui that he almost shrugged himself to death.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, has a tendency to do this. They tend to cap off with him going off a cliff in his wagon, attacking or being attacked by others, or some outside event otherwise intervening.

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, despite being more action-packed than its source comic strip, still has a touch of this.
  • The CLANNAD fanfic An End to All Things features Okazaki doing this periodically.
  • Terrance, in the South Park fanfic The Ballad Of Stoot And Argyle, combines Contemplate Our Navels with Gayngst in his internal monologues. It's not a very healthy combination.
  • The main character of In the Service can be somewhat philosophical about the nature of soldiering to his companion, Combat Cyborg Tre, because of her habit of taking on extra and in his eyes unreasonable guilt.
  • The ship girls in Kancolle Alt sometimes question their origins and contemplate life questions, the three guiding principles of strength which are talent, potential and experience, as well as the nature of reincarnation and the yin-yang nature of ship girls and Abyssals.
  • Life After Hayate includes a scene where Chrono and Zafira have a conversation about why Hayate was perfect for the Wolkenritter, and why Chrono can't be.
  • Child of the Storm indulges in this semi regularly, due to the paradigm shifts that the story brings about in the world, with various characters speculating on themselves, Harry's role and importance (considerable), the forces interfering in his life (vast) and his occasionally worrying similarities to Magneto. Thankfully, it doesn't become overbearing (... usually), but it is present and the author has admitted it's a bit of a problem.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 gloomy, depressive phase from the loss of his two closest allies, Zack and Aerith.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has one of these with a nice moment where Harry looks back at his unrequited love's apartment and sighs.
  • Oddly, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank has this mentioned in a very strange way part way through.
  • The Operative engages in some contemplation in a deleted scene at the end of Serenity. Mal, who's not in a good mood to begin with, still has a serious grudge against the Operative for his role in killing Mal's friends, and tends to dislike such contemplation, points out that the Operative doesn't find a better place do do so than right behind Serenity as she's preparing to take off, his contemplations are going to be cut short.
  • Reverend Toller from First Reformed spends most of his time writing in his journal, thinking about God, despairing, and not doing a whole lot of his job as a pastor. He gets called out by this by Pastor Jeffers, who compares him to author-monk Thomas Merton, who lived alone, wrote, and didn't do a whole of evangelization, worship, or other works of the Church.

  • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale states that he was "comtemplating 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 and 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. A scene from one of the Shadow books involves Ender's mom and Graff talking about whether it's intentions or actions that determine one's supernatural fate, for example. 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.
  • Invoked 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. Beatty is deliberately trying to fuck with Montag's mind. And it goes into a deliciously awesome Shut Up, Hannibal!
  • 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.
  • In The Good Soldier Švejk, a World War I novel by Jaroslav Hašek, private Baloun, the resident Big Eater, is at one moment literally desperately observing his belly, flattened by wartime shortage of food.
    "You should belong among the sect of hesychasts," said pityfully Jurajda, the learned cook, "they were also watching their navels for days on, until it started to seem to them that they had a halo around it. Then they concluded that they reached the third level of perfection."
  • In the Gospel of John from The Four Gospels is the most philosophical of the four gospels, containing some deep stuff, even in the first few opening lines.
  • Lord of Light: When The Buddha (AKA Mahatsamatman, or just Sam for short) is brought back from Nirvana, he initially experiences 'divine withdrawal' after his Unwanted Revival, leading to him spending a lot of time in quiet contemplation and refusing to engage with the world. Yama, Tak, and Ratri end up scratching their heads trying to find a way to get the former revolutionary leader back into the game.
  • George Zebrowski’s "Foundation’s Conscience": The unidentified researcher gets caught up in mulling over the conflict between destiny and free will.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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). 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.
    • In the final episode, Lorien comes to speak with Sheridan one last time. He starts with the first three questions, then adds a fourth which fits very logically into the sequence: "Where are you going?"
    • 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.
  • 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 Marenghis 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.
  • Get Smart. In "The Groovy Guru", Max and 99 have to infiltrate a hippie cult, and the guru tells them to contemplate their navels. Max immediately checks out a hippie chick in a midriff-baring outfit only for the guru to retort, "Your OWN navel!" 99 then pretends she's seeing visions, causing Max to complain that she has a widescreen navel.
  • 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.
  • Hell's Kitchen, of all things, turns into this whenever Marco Pierre White opens his mouth.
  • 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.
  • Parodied in the Dennis Moore skit on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Tod and Buz of Route 66 like to narrate about life, the universe, and everything in extremely metaphorical and existential terms.
  • In Scrubs J.D.'s (and occasionally, other characters') inner monologue narrations do this a lot.
  • 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.
  • The X-Files occasionally suffered from somewhat pretentious and long-winded voice-over monologues of this nature. Made worse that usually it was a teaser for Myth Arc episodes.
  • In the Doctor Who Serial "Planet of the Spiders", there is a rather literal example. Sarah Jane is brought in to investigate some strange goings on at a mediation retreat of some sort. Mike Yates tries to explain the meditation to her but she doesn't seem to really get it.
    Mike: They're just meditating. Watching.
    Sarah Jane: So what are they watching?
    Mike:They're mentally watching their tummies. Go up and down as they breathe.
    Sarah Jane: Like contemplating their bellybuttons?
    Mike: You could put it like that.
    Sarah Jane: Well, I hope you all know what you're on about.
    Mike: Probably seems a bit daft. It's an exercise in awareness really.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Visa", when George ends up double dating with Jerry and Elaine, he asks Jerry not to be funnier than him so that his date won't leave. His date comes back to the table and says that it's her aunt's birthday. Jerry then launches into a depressing spiel about birthdays.
    Jerry: Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we've grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it's not to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; happy birthday? No such thing.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray decides to give Ally The Talk. She is uninterested in how babies get here, instead she wants to know why babies are here. More specifically, why are we here? Why did God put us here? This prompts a discussion among the adults as to the meaning of life.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sarah's narrative diary monologues at the opening and closing of each episode, presumably her "chronicles". These are largely absent in the second season. Catherine Weaver, aka the T-1001, is also unusually fond of long monologues with biblical overtones.
  • Robert Ford of Westworld is very fond of this where he talks (usually to Bernard) about his control on the titular park, his view on consciousness and free will and his nihilistic and misanthropic view on humanity.

    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.
  • Munchkin has the card "Contemplate Your Navel: Go Up a Level."

  • Cats: The moments of happiness... We had the experience but missed the meaning and approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form, beyond any meaning we can assign to happiness... The past experience revived in the meaning is not the experience of one life only but of many generations - not forgetting something that is probably quite ineffable...
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Cerberus is distracted talking to himself as he ponders the meaning of life.

    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 does this from time to time, usually at the worst possible moments. Towards the end of Metal Gear Solid, 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.
    • Also 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 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. Bonus points for dying and hanging on long enough to finish his speech.
  • 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 after you have just found out your mission wasn't to kill giant bugs but to kill innocent fae. And then there's even more after the second revelation that Earth has only five years left and the shadowy mining company you work for 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.
  • Oracle of Tao: Nearly 1/3 of the plot is devoted to existential issues. Justified (sort of) in that the hero is trying to become an oracle and in the process learns all manner of things.
  • Used literally in Star Control II. 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.
  • Kreia, from KOTOR II. Kreia is an excellent example of this, as nearly everything she says argues a Nietzsche-like philosophy, but her grandmotherly tone renders it profound, not mere filler. Gamespy says "Kreia can teach a player more about basic moral philosophy and the flaws of Nietzsche in one game than a full semester in college -- and make a trip full of heavy-duty thought a whole lot of fun.".
    • In a nastier example, the Jedi Order (and Jedi Council in particular) were doing a lot of this; contemplating a possible external threat rather than deal with the Mandalorians trying to conquer the galaxy. Their inaction ultimately led to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when Revan said, "Screw this" and went out to fight, getting Drunk on the Dark Side in the process.
      • Interestingly, their suspicions are revealed to be correct in Star Wars: The Old Republic and its associated media, which shows that there indeed was a threat manipulating the Mandalorians. Whether their course of action was correct is still up for debate.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog has had this in his own spinoff title to the point where it has become exaggerated by the fanbase.
  • Used literally in Kingdom of Loathing - one accessory is entitled the Navel Ring Of Navel Gazing, and confers incredible contemplative powers.
  • Used in Final Fantasy VIII when Squall monologues about how he doesn't want people to talk about him after he dies. Due to being lost in thought, he suddenly panics over the idea of being missed and blurts out that he doesn't want people talking about about him "in the past tense".
  • Linear RPG: "Kliche considers the fact that destiny and fate are really the same thing, but perhaps the old man was referring to a deeper truth in the causality of the universe and the phenomena that make up his life..."
  • In Pokémon Black and White, a lot of N's dialogue is like this.
    • Roughly 75% of Cheren's dialogue after he meets Alder.
    • A few other NPCs do this, most notably a preschooler you can meet early in the game.
    "Rrrraaaaar! I'll run! You gonna chase me? You run! Am I gonna chase you? Change your perspective — and the reality changes."
  • Street Fighter IV had a particularly rousing one during its credits roll.
    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.
  • Solving a puzzle in Antichamber will reveal an apt quote about the solution, or sometimes about the next problem. It is hard to be sure which.
    • For example, at the end of a training track with the blue block gun, you are shown a door and a block. Look away from the door, and it will vanish behind you. The game then has a quote about keeping important things in sight.
    • A trippy one comes from learning about a feature that isn't advertised about the green gun (the game normally provides a simple puzzle immediately after the gun as a tutorial). A first time player may attempt a puzzle they've come across many times before that involves green blocks, but it's still unsolvable due to there being too few. After finding another, carefully tucked away puzzle, it teaches the player about the green gun's second ability: cube farming. And then the game provides a quote on precisely what the player just experienced ("Solving a problem may require using abilities we didn't realise we had").
  • In Robopon, Dr. Zero does this in the second game after you beat him, listing off every positive virtue in the book as he wonders how Cody was able to defeat him. Then he declares that it doesn't mean anything when you have money and power.
    • Blaze, the first of Zero's cyborgs, does this, lampshading whether robots have sentience and saying he doesn't want to find out by dying.
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL the end has the characters discuss the true meaning of their ordeal, with Washington thinking it's a postmodernist deconstruction of modern feminism. And swear gratuitously... even G, though he's just mocking Washington.
  • Quite a bit of dialogue is this in The Talos Principle, though this is largely because philosophy is a major theme of the game.
  • Along a similar line, SOMA dwells heavily on what it means to be human, with a number of in-game conversations discussing the topic.
  • Mega Man (Classic): The prototype of the highly advanced Robot Master class of robots, Proto Man, is one of the series' more philosophical characters due to the fact that, unlike future Robot Masters, he was created without a singular directive or purpose. Combine that with the fact that a malfunction in his power core is implied to have given him much greater freedom of choice and thought than any Robot Masters after him, as well as the fact that he was the only robot of his kind for a while, and thus had no other sentient robots to interact with. He often grapples with how to define his identity, and for a time was Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. Mega Man Powered Up and the Archie comics expand on his struggle:
    Proto Man (in Powered Up): Robots are machines that follow orders. I'm a machine that doesn't, so what does that make me?

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Spoofed/Lampshaded in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, during case 3:
      Trucy: This is no time for navel-gazing! Let's crack this case!
    • Made fun of in Justice For All.
      Edgeworth: This is a trial, not the Phoenix Wright Wax Philosophical Power Hour!
  • Narcissu and its prequel, Narcissu 2nd, are made of this trope. There's not really much of a plot, just sick chicks musing about life, fate, and religion before they (inevitably) die.
  • Incredibly common in Dies Irae with many characters being prone of various forms of philosophical musings. The main villain, Reinhard, is especially guilty of this. He is especially prone to long internal and external monologues about the nature of morality and fate.

    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 The 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:
  • Bob and George: George contemplates free will.
  • Familiar Ground: Why are we here?
  • Karkat in Homestuck engages in this during a three-year journey between universes, musing on the unfair and Do Well, But Not Perfect nature of a world where You Can't Fight Fate, and its implications for any meaning life might have, and morality therein. Its a natural thing to wonder about when passing through the dream-bubbles of a myriad of doomed-timeline versions of dead friends... and yourself.
  • This xkcd comic.
    "Sounds like masturbatory navel-gazing."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace and Nanase engage in this together.
  • Bits And Bytes: Nolan and Gretha do this a few times when some of their favorite gaming companies closed down (THQ, Atari, LucasArts for example) and how the gaming world has changed around them since they were younger.
  • Most of what the characters do in 1/0.

    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-058 is a bovine heart with legs and tentacles that attacks everything while spouting philosophical-sounding gibberish.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The phenomenon is parodied with the episode "The Firebending Masters", when Zuko and Aang are exploring an ancient temple and accidentally trigger a trap that imprisons them. "Now what do we do?" Aang demands. Zuko suggests "contemplate our place in the universe?"
    • The episode "The Guru" is an entire episode of this, at least while Aang is on screen. That he is unable to continue his passive detachment when faced with visions of his loved ones in danger means he ends up Incompletely Trained (for a brief but significant period at least)
  • 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..."
  • The Rick and Morty episode "The Vat of Acid Episode" involves Rick using a fake vat of acid to get out of getting killed by people so they think he and Morty died by suicide. Rick just knows that people won't just desert the vat and so has created measures to ensure they don't find out they're inside green water. To Morty's chagrin, this trope comes into play by their pursuers having long conversations about how incredibly nuts Rick was to get himself and Morty "killed." And to make matters worse to an annoyed Morty, he's forced to fake his own death in a second vat, but the many people he offended for messing up with a portable Reset Button remain behind until Rick tells them to leave.
  • 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!"
  • The South Park episode "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000" 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.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • One episode has Brock go through a bout of this, when he began to doubt his own bloodlust, so he goes to Dr. Orpheus who has him do a spiritual journey at a meeting with an indigenous Brazilian shaman.
    • The episode "Twenty Years to Midnight" played with this at its ending, although it's ultimately subverted.
  • Adventure Time gets into this a lot in the later seasons, in sharp contrast with the zany humor of the earlier ones. Episodes like "The Mountain", "Hall of Egress", "The Comet" and others all revolve around themes of making peace with one's place in the universe and letting go of one's earthly ties (or voluntarily choosing not to), often accompanied by appropriately symbolic visuals and the occasional Koan.
    • The early-season episode, "Astral Beast", parodied this concept in a sillier way, though it does introduce Finn's spirit animal (butterflies) which are often used for symbolic purposes in the later navel-gazing episodes.
  • The Midnight Gospel runs on this trope. Much of the dialogue comes from interviews on "The Duncan Trussell Family Hour" podcast. Clancy and his friends discuss mindfulness, meditation, Buddhism, Jesus, psychedelics, and the search for enlightenment while having bizarre and fast-paced adventures inside a multiverse simulator.
    • Deconstructed as the series goes on, as it is clear that Clancy uses these sessions of enlightenment to avoid deal with much more real and grounded situations of his personal life, like the grief of losing his mother and his complicated relationship with his sister in the aftermath of her death.

    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 practices of Eastern religions.

What are you looking at? A plothole?

Alternative Title(s): Navel Gazing