The overview effect

I’ve been slightly obsessed by all things space-related recently, thanks to Brian Cox and his new series on the BBC, Human Universe. The first episode, and the one responsible for this recent foray into outer space charted mankind’s evolution from being neanderthals to being the only species to have ever left our own planet and that now lives outside it for long periods of time. From ape-man to space-man. All within the relatively short span of 250,000 years.

My meandering online led me to fascinating diary entries made by crew members on the International Space Station, to documentaries about the space race and its link to the Cold War, and to this, a beautiful short movie on The Overview Effect.

The Overview Effect is described as the often spiritual shift, the transformative inner journey that frequently occurs when astronauts view our fragile planet floating in the vacuum-sea that is outer space… and it is often at this point that they realise how meaningless the boundaries are that separate our countries, and just how utterly trivial are the apparently huge differences between us in language, culture and belief when placed within the grand scheme of things. It would be difficult to get a perspective grander than that seen from space.

You’ve probably realised that everything I write here relates to yoga in some way and this is no exception. I find it beautiful that everything is inter-connected and that laws of nature repeat everywhere from the most macroscopic to the most microscopic scales. There is a section in the video where someone describes the idea that if the earth becomes sick, we become sick. Sickness in one part of the planet such as the rainforests has far-reaching effects all over. The earth is a living organism just as we are, and there is a wonderful word to describe this when speaking about the body (although I believe it is used in architecture also – again, more repetition of the same principles) which is ‘tensegrity’. The idea that structures strive to balance space and tension and that stress in one part of a structure gets distributed across the entire structure. To make this less abstract, an example would be a sprained ankle having an impact on your shoulder or an injury in the muscles of the calf leading to pain in the back of the throat. This is becoming increasingly more understood through new research on fascia, the connective tissue that runs throughout our entire bodies. Strain one part of the body and the entire fascial web of the body changes as a result.

The Overview Effect reinforced my belief in the need to approach things holistically – a word I feel has become so overused that it induces shudders whenever it is heard. Maybe that’s just me… Despite that (it is after all, just a word), the ‘H’ approach is the one that resonates with me the most.

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