As permanent members of this planet, our view of others, our problems, and the horrors of this world are what we experience daily. Their importance fills our lives and troubles our minds to the point of being fully consumed by them. The good news: it is possible to put these events into perspective.
In 1968, members of the Apollo 8 mission spied the Earth from a distance for the first time. They described seeing our planet as “hanging in the void” of space, dangling precariously. They then reported experiencing a profound cognitive shift in their consciousness, citing that they understood the “big picture” of our existence and how fragile our planet and its inhabitants are. These astronauts recorded that they felt as if we were just one small cog in a larger, more intricate process of the universe.
The astronauts experienced what is more commonly known as “The Overview Effect,” where individuals view the world from space and feel as if Earth is nothing more than a tiny ball in a much larger universe, suspended in the vacuum of emptiness shielded by a paper-thin atmosphere. When experiencing this effect, astronauts have reported that all the conflicts that divide people and the boundaries that break us up suddenly become incredibly unimportant, and a need for universal harmony and peace is instilled. In other words, they learned not to sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff. The pettiness we experience on a day to day basis just isn’t worth fretting over or fighting about, because in the larger realm of things, it just isn’t that significant.
This week, I felt a profound shift of my own. I had been worried about school and developing my lesson plans, how I was going to fit in certain activities into my life, and being able to maintain my day to day lifestyle with enough time, energy, and money for everything that we needed in our household. My world then came to a complete halt when I discovered that a close family member had died. As if at the drop of a hat, everything that I was so worried about previously didn’t matter in the slightest. Priorities like school, activities, and deadlines became meaningless. The surreality of my existence and a new set of priorities eclipsed everything else and my life was brought into a new reality and perspective. Much like those astronauts, the small stuff no longer mattered, as I firmly grasped the frailness of life.
Sometimes our lives can be so overwhelming that what we really need is a different perspective to realize what is truly important. Although my moment was sad in nature, it really drew me closer to those around me, helping me see past the triviality of daily life because my perspective had been changed. In our daily walk of faith, we too can be bogged down by the minutiae that negatively affects us and eats away at our emotions. Psalm 90.2 helps us to get that proper perspective, one that shuns out all the superfluous noise: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” To know that God was, is, and always will be, erases a lot of what plagues us daily. He was present before anything else, and He will outlast any and all of our problems and squabbles. A shifted perspective onto Him and his vastness leads us to a cognitive shift that resets our priorities and helps us to see what is truly important.
Focusing on His everlasting nature helps us to see the bigger picture, that everything on this Earth is delicate and temporary, that our problems are much smaller than we realize. This week, take time to meditate on God’s existence, remembering that He is bigger than any problem we have in our lives. With a proper perspective, our focus on the particulars of this world quickly blur, as our vision on Him and what’s important comes into sharp focus. Amen.