Krista Tippet from “On Being” in conversation with Nikki Giovanni:
Ms. Tippett: I was thinking, as I was reading — your passion about space — you’re such a space freak, as you say. Have you ever heard of this language of “the overview effect”? It’s actually a documented effect of something that happens to astronauts, people who have been in space, that they get this sense of perspective that is kind of life-altering, that changes the way they then come back to culture. … I mean here’s one way somebody described it. It says — it refers to “the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in a void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ becomes both obvious and imperative.”
This brings to mind what I would call “the underview effect” which I would describe like this: The experience of seeing firsthand the reality of all phenomena, meaning ourselves and the world we live in, without the filter of our concepts and beliefs. We then see all of existence from the ‘underside’, or from the perspective below the level of words and conditioning. It is the direct unmitigated experience of all being of the One Substance. It is being moved as the Mysterious Principle moving Itself.
As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it: “When we are not caught in the notion of being a separate self from other human beings, there can be harmony between us.” (At Home In The World p. 31) Then also “national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ (and our direct connection to our Eternal Essence) becomes both obvious and imperative.”
It takes effort to become an astronaut and it also takes continual focus and mindfulness to be able to stay at the threshold of perception before conditioning kicks in and velcros us onto mass consciousness. For those of us who are not on the path to becoming astronauts the path to the “inner view” – which is to become an explorer in “inner space” – is available to each of us if we stop feeding the dynamic of conditioned consciousness – if even for just a moment. Try it and see what happens.