The Overview Effect

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The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during their spaceflight.

As Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 has said: "You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty."

Viewed from the moon, or even from space, about 300 miles above the earth's surface, our planet takes on a new perspective. Largely blue, borderless, and hanging like a fragile sphere with the infinite space in the background, with a paper-thin atmosphere that nurtures life - just think about it, in an universe comprised of millions of galaxies, billions of stars, countless planets, an unknown number of black holes, this planet of ours is the only one known so far that has life on it.

As Stephen Hawking has said so profoundly: "The solar system is not even a speck in the universe."

Astronauts have said that looking from space, one suddenly forgets all the myriad differences, the squabbles, the jostling for power and pelf, and the mindless games that people play, and one feels the need, indeed an intense desire, to unify people and to protect and preserve this beautiful blue dot.

The Overview Effect is named after the Overview Institute founded by Frank White who says: "There are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through our behaviors."

There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that as individuals, those who want to do good far outnumber those who want to harm others. Experts have projected that the population on earth would reach 10 billion by the year 2100. Nearly half of this would be in one continent - Africa, currently perhaps the most neglected of continents. Can you imagine our planet with almost half the people being in some way disconnected from the rest?

In this season of joy, of hope, of kindness, of truth and righteousness, of compassion, of caring for the less privileged, let us pause for a moment and think how we can do good in any way we can.

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