Gravity and the Overview

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

I saw “Gravity” last night.  It was a fun thriller, relatively formulaic; and yet, also of great importance.  It is significant that “Gravity” has been the top seller at the box office three weekends in a row.

The film suspends us above the earth through its duration – awesome in 3D.  And it made me think of our experience with the GeoDome and the great work of David McConville.


Among a number of affiliations, including serving as President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, David is part of the     Overview Institute.  David effectively argues that each of the stages of human development comes with its own cosmology, and that cosmology always includes a visual map.  We like visuals.  Our maps evolve as we evolve. 

  ” The Overview Effect 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, angling in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.  From space national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us 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”.

Watch the video above, and get a feeling for this.  Some of you might have caught that brief moment on the show Mad Men, when different characters comment on the felt experience of seeing a picture of an “Earth Rise” for the first time.  They talk about awe and about loneliness, about wonder and fear – we get in touch with a primal feeling, our own sense of awe this miracle of our existence.

 Today, our cosmological awareness is reduced to a fact in a book.  It is not a felt experience.  I try to do things that remind me of this perspective, that help me to understand that we really are suspended in a void of incomprehensible scale.  Try it next time you are sitting at the beach, staring at the horizon.  The film “Gravity,” in its own Hollywood way, sends viewers into a contemplation of earth in context.

Growing this awareness, turning it into a felt experience, will be an essential part of saving the planet from the harm we’ve caused it.  We need a new map.

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