Navel contemplation

In a recent post But Why? I wrote about the importance of curiosity, imagination, and creativity. I included all three in a flash fiction story that included an imaginary friend.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a navel story. It can include a belly-button, feature an omphalos (geological or cultural), or extend to navel-gazing (used in meditation or to describe excessive self-contemplation). Go where this oddity leads you.

I thought I’d try for all three again.

Navel contemplation

Billy watched Mother bathe Baby.

“What’s that?”

“The last bit of his umbilical cord. Soon it will fall off, and he’ll have a belly button, just like you.”

Billy lifted his shirt to inspect.

“What’s billy cor?”

“Umbilical cord – it’s where Baby was joined to me before he was born. Everyone has one.”

“Everyone?”

“Everyone with a mother.”

“So, Silas don’t have belly button.”

“Silas would have a belly button. Everyone has.”

“But Silas don’t have a mum.”

“Oh. But he would have had a mum. When he was born.”

“Nope. Not born. I made him up.”

What do you think? Did or do friends, born of imagination, have mothers if we choose to not give them one? Does the answer to this question impact the existence of belly buttons in imaginary friends?

At the conclusion of the previous story, I suggested that “Perhaps there are some things for which we may never know the answers; for example, Can imaginary friends die?”

I thank you for your responses, especially one questioning whether I have ever killed an imaginary character in a story. Something for me to ponder. I don’t think I have. Would I do that?

In her post, Charli also writes about dying, or what happens afterwards anyway, especially with cremation and “wildcat scattering”. I often, occasionally, sometimes, contemplate what may happen to my body when I’m finished with it, or it’s finished with me, whichever comes first. Or is it the same thing?

I would like an environmentally friendly disposal of my remains and hope that, by the time action needs to be taken, there are many such options available. At the moment, there seem to be few, so I was interested to listen to this TED talk. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

47 thoughts on “Navel contemplation

  1. julespaige

    There are some questions that have no answers. I enjoyed your flash.
    I read somewhere that there was a type of environmentally friendly burial so to speak with puting one ashes in some type of a salt urn. I think spreading ashes would be better? But then just like the last molecules of Caesars last breathe of ‘Et tu Brute’ are still floating around does anything ever really disappear… including imaginary friends?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Good questions, Jules. You’ve got me thinking. As you say, some questions don’t have answers, that we know yet anyway. “They” say we are made of stardust. I like that. I guess we return to stardust too. 🙂

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  2. Hugh's Views and News

    I think imaginary friends die when we do, Norah. Unless, of course, they’ve been written down somewhere (like in a book). Then, they will last forever, or until the publication becomes obsolete and the last of its kind is destroyed.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Interesting thoughts, Hugh. Thanks. I guess you’ve got a point. Imaginary friends can’t really exist when the imagination doesn’t. Unless they’ve been written down. Then they might “live” for thousands of years. But I wonder – are those ones imaginary friends, or just drawn from the imagination? I guess some could be both?

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Pingback: Gazing at the Navel « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    Norah, I think you are developing a genre of sorts about imaginary friends! I love this style of dialog and the natural twists a child’s thinking can add. Clever, though, imaginary friends not having a belly button. As for feeding the earth, I like that thought better out of any. We definitely have choices our ancestors didn’t have!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charli. I’m quite enjoying this genre. Children’s conversations are totally unpredictable, and they are very insightful. Children often seem so wise to me, as if they’ve experienced everything before.
      Not quite related, but I want to share. Yesterday my gorgeous 5 year-old G2 was telling me about an award she got at school for getting along. I asked her what she did to earn it. She told me she shared some memories with her friends. I asked, “What memories?” She replied, “I don’t remember.” Needless to say, we had a good laugh about it.
      Feeding the earth is a good thought, but only if we can’t live forever.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! That’s a great story about G2! You have tons of material to draw upon. Lest you forget, of course! I think what children say in these conversations is honest and unembellished the way we adults try to shape what we think is right. You also write the dialog well, giving a setting for the conversation and understanding the twist as a punchline of sorts. You got a good genre going!

        Okay! Option one — live long and prosper.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I hope I remember! I’d hate to lose my memories. Not that memory is a strong suit for me anyway. I always intended to write down the lovely, funny, or interesting things they say, but I haven’t. I do listen to children though, and hope I represent them authentically.I’ll see where your future prompts lead me.
          I like option one!

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  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Ha! Love the flash. Great ending. And I laughed out loud at this: “I thank you for your responses, especially one questioning whether I have ever killed an imaginary character in a story.” Can they die? Well…depends. But it’s interesting to ponder. Do you think they move on if you don’t need them anymore? (If that intrigues you, I’d like to suggest a ridiculous movie for a night when you’re feeling like you can handle some silliness: Drop Dead Fred.)

    As for, um, environmentally friendly…disposal, I thought there was a Great Barrier Reef cremation option. I LOVE that idea. I didn’t watch the video yet (so it might be in there) but I thought there was this option. Of course, you’d know a lot better than I.

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      1. Norah Post author

        Wow! Thanks Sarah. I wasn’t aware of that, and it’s an Australian company. I’ll be looking into it – not the Barrier Reef, but the eco-friendly burials linked to from the article. I didn’t think they were possible in Australia yet, but maybe it’s only Queensland that hasn’t yet caught up. I’m excited.
        The Barrier Reef story reminded me of a TED talk I listened to earlier in the week about an artist who makes art works for a similar purpose (but not as burial chambers).

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        1. Sarah Brentyn

          I know. It’s an amazing thought. Being part of the earth. I mean, I guess we all “give back” to the earth when we die, but this is something else entirely. Amazing and lovely. ❤ We are literally part of the coral reef and giving life an opportunity to thrive. Will watch the artist's video. Thanks!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Nope, I don’t know of the Great Barrier Reef option. I only know it’s dying. 😦 There was no mention of it in the video.
      I don’t know about Drop Dead Fred. Maybe I’ll just have to read a summary of the plot. I don’t make much time for movie watching these days. I know I’m missing out, but I’m prioritising other things at the moment – not enough hours in the day.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash and the comments. It’s been a wonderful discussion. Maybe IF do move on when they’re not needed any more. Perhaps I’ll have to summon some from wherever and ask them. I do think there’s good fodder for a book here. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Patricia. I’m pleased you like the ending. Purification is a comforting way of thinking about it. I just hope I’m really dead when it happens. 🙂

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  6. Deborah Lee

    Can’t argue with his logic! I love the naivete of that conversation. I often think the imaginary friend is sort of absorbed into the child who created the friend, as they find other sources – often themselves – for what the imaginary friend provided. That’s just a guess, though. I didn’t have an imaginary friend, and neither did my kids, so I’m hardly an expert.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not an expert either, but I’m enjoying reading everyone’s views. It’s an interesting topic. Your suggestion seems as plausible to me as any other. Thanks for joining in.

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  7. dgkaye

    Much food for thought and to ponder in this post Norah. I don’t know if imaginary friends die, or quite sure where they go. My niece had a trio of imaginary friends since she was 3 years old. I remember her talking to and about these friends throughout her childhood. She’s 31 now, and about a year ago I reminded her about her childhood imaginary friends and she had no recollection of having those friends. I found that odd. Maybe they don’t die, they just disappear? 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s interesting, Debby. I’m surprised your niece didn’t remember her friends. I wonder if they do disappear when they are no longer imagined. Perhaps they go to the same place belief in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy goes. Maybe there’s an island of forgotten imaginary friends somewhere. It could form the basis of an interesting story one day. 🙂

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      1. dgkaye

        Great point Norah! A good story indeed! I also wonder if these imaginary friends appear for reasons besides some just out of creative imaginations.
        My niece grew up in a volatile homelife, she’s very much like me, more than my sister (her mother), she’s very in tune with her surroundings and I knew her sensitivity as a child more than her mother did. I believe those friends were her escape from her surroundings. Although I’m miffed as to how those three could have been her friends for almost 10 years, she’d tell me all about them, and I’d catch her talking to them often, yet she doesn’t remember them now. So weird I remember them. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Are you sure you weren’t imagining it. 🙂
          It is an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it. How can any of us ever be sure if we did or did not have imaginary friends if we don’t remember them?
          I can fully understand that imaginary friends could be an escape for unpleasant situations.
          Thanks for sharing.

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  8. thecontentedcrafter

    I have to say that I think our imaginations are not bound by ‘grown-up’ realities. If they were our world would be a dreary place! As imaginary friends belong mostly to little kids, who have no real interest in the biological necessities of life (we often mistake their endless curiosity as a ‘need to know the facts’ status, long before they need to know the facts or are ready to deal with the facts.) Imaginary friends are there to proffer support, love, friendship, companionship – and to take the blame for when things go wrong 🙂 they need no other reason for existence.

    I can’t imagine you would ever kill off a character Norah – but I’d never say never either. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Wow! I love your thinking. Thanks Pauline. I’ve had some wonderful responses to my question. Thank you for giving it more consideration that I thought it might. But how interesting. You’re right. Let the children imagine what they want. If a friend doesn’t have a mother and therefore no belly button, so be it. There are probably times when most of us thought (or wished) we didn’t have a mother. (But not you or I, of course!)
      🙂

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  9. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    I love this story – such a sweet and innocent exchange between mother and child, him exploring the world he sees and explaining the one that we do not. It’s an excellent question about imaginary friends, and one that I think could prompt a grand discussion. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Lisa. I’m pleased you enjoyed the story and that it gave you things to think about. I have really enjoyed all the responses that my question has received. They in turn give me much to ponder. Thanks for your contribution.

      Liked by 2 people

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  10. Annecdotist

    I loved your flash, Norah, and hadn’t anticipated that last-out-loud last line, although your question is beyond me – I think I’ll leave that for the kids!
    I’ve been fascinated by death rituals since reading Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One in my teens which was influenced by Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death. So was interested to watch the video. As a keen gardener, I’m excited by the prospect of transforming bodies to compost and look forward to that catching on over here.
    While I knew about the Tibetan and Jain traditions, it also reminded me of incomplete cremations on the banks of the Ganges – rather disconcerting to go out in a boat and see a body part floating by. But I do think we’ve done ourselves no favours by avoiding contemplating our own deaths and those of our nearest and dearest, but I sense that there is a movement afoot to reclaim it.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your interesting response, Anne. I agree that we do no favours by avoiding contemplation of our own deaths. We are in agreement about the possibility of becoming compost after this journey ends.
      I am not aware of The Loved One but a number of years ago I read Theo’s Odyssey which did for the world’s religions and death rituals what Sophie’s World did for philosophy (IMHO). It was fascinating and included some of the rituals you mention. While I found some of them rather morbid, some go to great lengths to honour their dead.
      The experiments, mentioned in the video, into decomposition I found a little confronting but accept that it’s a good thing and perhaps will help us consider our place in world, now and in the hereafter.

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  11. LucciaGray

    To answer your question, here’s my take. There are different types of imaginary friends. Some may have once been real, such as a dead sibling or friend, these would have mothers etc. Others are only there for you as a sort of magical entity or fairy, they exist on their own, of course I’m no expert! Regarding other imaginary people such as characters on a novel, they should be as real as people outside the novel…

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for contemplating and answering my question, Luccia. There have been some wonderful responses to what I thought was a fairly simple question. I’m enjoying all the responses. I agree with you about the difference between imaginary friends and characters in books. Unless it’s a sci-fi book with aliens. Maybe?

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  12. Steven

    Well I would say that you have succeeded again. Another fascinating talk as well and I think it is wise to consider ones mortality. I have casually thought about the subject on occasions and had essentially concluded that when ones body is dead, then in most cases it serves very little use to anyone else (or the departed). I guess that is similar to what the video was discussing.

    As for the imagined friends, I will leave you with four different interpretations to ponder:
    1. Of course they have a navel… unless they are specifically imaged not to,
    2. They only have a navel if they have/had a corresponding imaginary mother,
    3. They don’t have a navel because they are bound to the imaginers mind,
    4. They don’t have one by default (unless imagined otherwise) because they are not biological.

    I would say that interestingly number 1 is most likely due to our natural ability to apply human traits to anything.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank for your comment, Steven. I agree. I think once I’m gone, I’m gone, and they can do with what was once me as they please. I will be no longer interested. I assume. 🙂
      I am intrigued by your four interpretations. What a lot of thought you put into my “throw away” question.
      1. I’m am not sure about this. Wouldn’t they only have a navel if we imagined them to have one? However I agree with your reasoning that we apply human traits to everything.
      2. Do we have to have imagined their mothers for them to have mothers, or is it taken for granted that they would have had a mother (unless they’re teenagers of course. They don’t have mothers!)
      3. I like this one. They only have a navel if the imaginer imagines it.
      4. This one cycles back to 1. I never had an imaginary friend, that I can remember anyway. But I think some people consider them “real”. Would this also make them biological – to the imaginer?
      Steven, thank you for honouring my question. You, and many others now, have contemplated my question and given very thoughtful responses. What a fascinating discussion. Thanks for getting the ball rolling.

      Like

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  13. robbiesinspiration

    Ah Norah, you have definitely come up with something for me to think about. Do imaginary friends need to have mothers – if not where do they come from. Maybe like the giants in the BFG by Roald Dahl they just appear. Nice post.

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