THE OVERVIEW EFFECT: Putting Life Into Perspective
“Humanity must rise above the earth, to the top of the atmosphere and beyond. For only then will we understand the world in which we live.” – Socrates
The Overview Effect is a term first coined by space philosopher and author, Frank White, referring to the mental clarity the astronauts felt in space when they looked at the earth as a tiny dot from above. The overwhelming and awesome feeling of the Overview Effect is the reality of earth’s small part in space, seen only as a tiny and delicate entity in a much bigger picture. It is the perspective to see life’s fragility and fleetingness.
When Peter died, I had no perspective on life. I aimlessly flailed in a lonely world, buoyed by friends and family, trying to find my way on the path of grief. It took hard work and a crap load of courage to continue to move forward and find the correct course which would help me adapt to my new existence alone. I was blind to the big picture of life. I was numb, and could only warily move one foot in front of the other.
Two years later, I am now able to see the Overview Effect on my life. I am able to take a few steps back to sniff the hell out of the roses and appreciate what my life has to offer. I am able to witness an eclipse of the sun both physically through protective glasses, and metaphysically to find the wonder in life again. I am able to relish the small moments of joy life throws at me, and cherish them. In two years of traveling through grief, I have found the perspective to view my progress on this demanding journey through the muck and mire of grief. I am able to applaud and find the self-compassion to honor my passage. I am able to say “Brava, Laurie. Just look at what you have done!”
You don’t need to travel in space to change your perspective on life. When you witness the amazing vision of a breathtaking sunset or you wonder at the awe-inspiring panoramic view of the ocean, you know you must adapt and find a way to take these pleasurable moments and integrate them into your life. Grief diminishes one’s self concerns and renders you more altruistic by its very devastation. You witness how very diminutive your petty life was before your loss, and ergo you vow to try to enjoy what life offers, and donate to the cosmos with more good karma. You discover a new sense of how to problem-solve and be more adaptive to your life. You discover the sacred in the mundane of daily life. I don’t need to venture into space to change my perspective on life. The astronaut Edward Gibson said it best after his space odyssey: “You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe…The result is that you enjoy the life that is before you…It allows you to have inner peace.”
I don’t know if I have inner peace yet, but I do know that I have the strength and ability to forge forward into my new acceptably different life. Maybe that will bring me inner peace? Who knows what life will hold for me as I move forward? I do know that I am not afraid of progressing onward and maybe a little bit excited to see what befalls me as I continue on my journey of restoration.
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