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SPACE AND IDENTITY EXPANSION

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In the following years, author of The Overview Effect[1] Frank White recounted the many astronaut experiences of viewing the Earth from the vantage point of space and undergoing fleeting moments of transcendence — they saw themselves and the complex communities inhabiting the Earth in a pattern of complete interdependence, from top to bottom and bottom to top.

During the same period, I experienced complex communities here on Earth through the lenses of the Vietnam War, the Cold War, racial tension, intractable political disputes, religious hatred, marriages, and exploitative workplaces that suppressed people’s freedom and all too often, turned human energy into sludge.  The contrast between the experience of freedom and transcendent connections in seeing Earth from space, and the business-as-usual, right/wrong, win/lose, dominate/avoid domination, justify oneself/invalidate others in international relations, corporations, government, and dysfunctional relationships, became harder and harder to bear.

When Does the Overview Effect Happen?

Some have made the case that the Overview Effect happens only when someone experiences the world from low Earth orbit or deep space.  Others say that that space images and simulations can induce similar effects.  I’ve personally had transcendent experiences of being without boundaries, wonder, awe and unlimited possibility — in a Roman Catholic mass, in Native American tribal ceremony, in Gestalt Therapy, in transformational personal growth training, and in organizational intense culture change events in several corporations in a number of countries.  This effect has also been present in the New Mexico mountains, in deep friendships, in looking at my children’s faces, in listening to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King speak, in feeling how much my wife loves me, and with gratitude when seeing a client discover a life-altering new possibility and the experience of freedom.

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