It’s powerful to think that seeing the world from above necessitates some fundamental change in the psyche of those who see it.
They call it the Overview Effect and many astronauts speak of it: the sudden realisation that this vulnerable, sunlit blue sphere hanging in the void is of unique and supreme importance.
In this moment of overwhelming clarity all war seems pointless and the importance of protecting the natural world becomes self-evident.
(These are realisations, by the way, that are possible to reach without a journey into low-Earth orbit)
Visiting “space” is also said to have appreciable positive impacts on mental health. Not unlike the use of hallucinogens to activate a “higher state of consciousness”, floating–very literally–in a “higher state” above the Earth has been reported to produce a pronounced reduction in the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
And yet, as passenger crafts begin to shoot up through the atmosphere and allow more and more people this unique experience–this unique view–I do not feel the hope this is supposed to engender.
For as the earth becomes a glinting jewel in the light of the sun; and as that light is reflected in the heart of the onlooker (who is good), I fear the void that surrounds our planet is likewise mirrored in the hearts of humanity.
In that void, pure nihilism, a nothingness that reaches to infinity. An emptiness of rocks. A different sort of clarity.
And the Earth itself, suspended against that backdrop of black velvet, becomes the only thing of value–the only thing left to “be attained”.
The gem is not without its flaws, but look at the way it shimmers. It is the only one in existence, the only one ever found. And it is for all of us. It is all of us. It is mother and father and everything we cling to.
All memories, all histories, all creatures and creations, all blessings and curses and victories and mysteries, all comes from this sphere, this singular, spinning gemstone.
What a treasure to behold. To witness. To comprehend these ideas–even in part–is in essence what the Overview Effect is about.
And it belongs to all of us.
This post was originally published as “18102021“.