Editorials and Opinions

A farewell to South; the beginnings of a new legacy

By Alice Lee
Published: June 2010

Barring the unforeseen, this will be the very last time my name appears in the Denebola.

What a feeling!

I hope that suffices as an introduction. I’ve never been good at introductions.

Traditionally, this editorial is meant to be an end-all, a wrap-up, a good-bye-high-school, a what-I’ve-learned, a how-I’ve-grown. But hey, I’m already breaking most of the ironclad rules I fanatically adhered to in my days as editor of this section’€use as little casual voice as possible, avoid excessive use of first person, have a clear opinion or thesis before you start writing, and for God’s sake, no navel-gazing.

And plus, I figure, golly gosh, I’m graduating. So I’m going to take some creative license.

Here’s the thing. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that nobody likes reading the works of a navel-gazer’€someone excessively introspective or self-absorbed. Teachers especially acknowledge it, considering that they’re the ones who have to grade the philosophical self-directed reflections of the student without a thesis.

But when the end of senior year rolls around, not only does navel-gazing become more acceptable, it is in fact encouraged. You’re asked to reflect on your high school career, on how you’ve grown, on what your ambitions are’€hell, you have to write a ten-paged essay on it. In some privileged circles, you can write long articles for school newspapers.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am and always have been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of examining myself and elaborating on it in written form. I took a somewhat deist approach to it, figuring that whatever’s going on inside my head seems to be working just fine and so I should just leave it that way. Maybe it was because of the years of negative reinforcement from teachers, maybe because of self-consciousness, or maybe just because of my inherent fear of being considered a navel-gazer.

It’s funny, the term “navel-gazer wasn’t coined for the purposes of the definition we now know it by. It actually references omphaloskepsis (a word that looks suspiciously like oompa loompa and has probably been seen in print only once outside Wikipedia, and that is here), which refers to the contemplation of one’s own navel for the purposes of meditation.

According to Hindu belief, the deity Vishnu’€the “all-pervading, the protector of the world’€was contemplating the creation of humankind one fine day before the universe began, when a lotus bloomed from his navel. The lotus’s passenger was the four-headed Brahma, who would likewise become a god of creation, and the flower itself would become the sun.

In that sense, navel-gazing is something profound and beautiful. You contemplate your personal center of birth and godliness’€in fact, what an idea: that everyone should have a navel, a point of incarnation, a little button where something profound can be born.

That’s an idea with which I’m more comfortable. My deepest respect to the extant forms of omphaloskepsis, but here’s my interpretation.

Navel-gazing in the truest sense shouldn’t be about exploring the crevasses of the self, the wells of the past, the finer points of one’s own personality. It should be about potential, about what is to come, about our own four-headed god still waiting to be born.

Well, hey. That’s a familiar graduation-related theme.

Here’s the heart of the matter, which I reached in typical roundabout form. Self-examination in the purest form shouldn’t dwell on memories or on re-living the past. To be fair, acknowledgement of growth and change and the experiences that brought it about are necessary’€but necessary in the sense that they’re means. I won’t say means to an end, because the “end isn’t really a finite end, but more of an overarching idea. It’s idea of potential, the idea of what’s sitting on your own lotus flower, waiting to sprout from your navel.

Alice Lee, graduating senior, over and out.

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