The Overview Effect

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Life is ironic. It’s both wonderfully funny and tragically sad at the same time. I am not talking about my life – although I find that this applies both on a micro level as well as on a macro level – I am talking about life as a whole, our entire journey in space-time, on a little “blue marble”, a place that is home for all of us.

If one would try to describe the world, in relation to us, using a single word, what word would that be? If we were to be realistic about it, I think most of us would use “separation” as the word that describes us best. All of our political and social institutions are built on separation. Our industrial system, our economic system enacts and thrive on separation. Our relationship with nature is one of separation. Countries, parties, religions, doctrines and social classification, we are living in a world that reflects this myth of separation back at us. All that we do, we act like we don’t do it to ourselves, like somehow we will escape those consequences because we are separate.

Maybe in our consciousness we begin to reflect, and start questioning this situation, and listen to this inner knowing that we all have: that we are not really separate. That we are one. And it’s true, but it’s a different experience for all of us, some just feel it, some kind of learn it after experiencing the world… some may need to go to outer space to have what is known as The Overview Effect.

The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.

The very act of seeing this tiny, fragile blue marble, hanging there in the cold void of space, protected by a very fragile layer of atmosphere, changes one’s self. When in space, astronauts have repeatedly reported inexplicable euphoria, a “cosmic connection” or an increased sensitivity to their place in the Universe.

So why is this? Is it because zero-gravity creates new connections in the brain? Or is it a natural mechanism of the brain, as a response to the vastness of space and realizing just how small we are in comparison? What ever it is, it seems that after astronauts are back on solid ground something in them has changed profoundly.

On March 6th, 1969, Rusty Schweikart experienced a feeling that the whole universe was profoundly connected. Two years later, Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell reported experiencing an “Overview Effect”, describing the experience as a profound sense of connectedness, a feeling of bliss and timelessness. These are not isolated anomalies, many other astronauts have reported similar experiences ever since.

What is also interesting to note is that, here on earth, experiences like these are mostly reported by religious communities who practice meditations. Meditation can lead to a view of the cosmos as an interconnected quantum web where consciousness is not separate, but a part of the Universe.

Whatever your path is, this article is meant to put things in perspective, a bit like The Overview Effect. Before ending, I want to leave you with an enlightening quote from Ronald Reagan, held at United Nations general assembly, Sep. 21, 1987.

Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?

…and this cool documentary: The Overview Effect.

 

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