Planetary Perspective

“…The Earth, as Buckminster Fuller used to famously say, is a spaceship, Spaceship Earth. We are in space already. It’s just that we haven’t brought that into our perspective as we live here on Earth. The Overview Effect is simply the sudden recognition that we live on a planet, and all the implications that it brings to life on Earth.”  --David Beaver, Co-Founder of the Overview Institute

Today we celebrate Mother Earth. As I contemplated how best to share my gratitude and awe of our planetary home, I remembered two websites that made the rounds a while back. Each of them offers a unique perspective from which to view our place in the universe, and hopefully each will offer even more reason to celebrate Earth today.

It’s easy for me to get stuck in the mental construct that my reality is all that exists and that I am the center of the universe. Heck, we are all at the center of our own universes, right? Scrolling through the interactive “Scale of the Universe” is an easy way to dispel this self-centered mind-state. By scrolling left and right you get pictures depicting the relative scale of everything in the universe—from the smallest to the largest.

I’ve looked at this site a couple of times, and each time it humbles me and fills me with awe. How can we be both so huge, compared to the smallest unit of scale, and yet so minute, compared to the vastness of the observable universe? It makes me feel lucky to experience life on this planet, in this form. Our Earth holds so much of our reality, but is just a tiny piece of the fabric of the universe.

Unifying the vast and minute, former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell shares a realization he had upon seeing Earth from space, “…I had studied Astronomy, and I had studied Cosmology, and fully understood that the molecules in my body, and the molecules in my partners’ bodies and in the spacecraft had been prototyped in some ancient generation stars. In other words, it was pretty obvious from those descriptions, we’re stardust.” The largest and the smallest, we’re all made of the same stuff!

Growing up, I wanted so badly to be an astronaut. Then I realized how much math and science were involved, and I decided to look for other career options. But I think that this video about the “Overview Effect” experienced by astronauts like Mitchell explains why I wanted to go to space. If you haven’t watched it before, give yourself a 20-minute break and enjoy.

In the video, philosopher David Loy describes what some of these astronauts came away feeling. “…That experience of awe, is at least for the moment, to let go of yourself, to transcend the sense of separation. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them, but that they were at some very deep level, integrating, realizing, their interconnectedness with that beautiful blue-green ball.” This description makes me smile, because while I didn’t become an astronaut, my meditation practice has offered me a similar understanding.

So happy Earth Day! I hope these sites will help you to take a moment today to revel with wonder and awe at our glorious home.