Creating Your Own Overview Effect

As you’re reading this, humans living in a football-field of solar panels and sealed tubes are strolling around our planet at five miles per second. The International Space Station can fly over every human that’s ever lived in less time than it takes to watch Good Burger (92 minutes to be exact). The experience has such a profound impact on astronauts that sociologists have given it a name.

The Overview Effect: A cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.

It’s a fancy, science way of saying, “Space makes you look at stuff different.”

Earth looks a lot smaller. Governments seem less impressive. You feel the fragility of humanity and become more connected to the world and all the people living on it. But most of us aren’t going to be strapped into a sky-scraper full of controlled explosives and shot into orbit anytime soon. So, how are we supposed to experience something like that?

TWO QUESTIONS

I’ve found it helps to ask myself two questions every now and then. They give a sort of “Overview Effect” for my little world:

  1. What do you want more today – to be famous or to be faithful?

    Not that these two things are mutually exclusive, but let’s face it – one will drive the other away in our own hearts. And, in a time where we have myriads of platforms to attempt fame, this question has become more and more important. Do I want to hear crowds cheering, or the ancient voice from Galilee saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”?

    This second question has to do with my children.

  2. What do you want Mae and Bear’s grandkids to say about them at their funerals?

    There’s a lot of assumptions in this quasi-morbid question. For starters, I have no idea what God’s overarching plan is for the lives of my kids. They may never marry or have children (who marry and have children), but it’s not a long shot to think they might.

    So, if that day ever comes, and “Blake Hudspeth” is just the name of another long-dead great grandparent, what do I hope would be said about Mae and Bear?  What kind of kids do I want my kids raise? And their kids to raise?  When I think about both of them being wrinkly, white-haired grandparents, it gives some perspective. An Overview Effect.

YOUR OVERVIEW EFFECT

What are some questions that give you perspective? Think about some today and write them down. Here are other ways that might help:

  • Study Scripture slowly. Too many times, I rush through a passage rather than poke around and experience it in full.
  • Read books that pull you out of your context. History and culture are two genres that work best for me. These are a few I’ve found helpful this year:

The Benedict Option – Rod Dreher

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World – Steven Johnson

Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance

“Unaccompanied Sonata” – Orson Scott Card (short story)

  • Listen to podcasts from people inside and outside your “tribe.” We all have our go-to pastors, leaders, and authors (and for good reasons). But venturing out every now and then helps give me perspective. Here are some to consider:

The BriefingAlbert Mohler
(A daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview)

The Moment Brian Koppelman
(Interviews with cultural influencers and the “moments” that impacted their lives the most. Sometimes, there is explicit language)

Building a StorybrandDonald Miller
(Ways to build your company or organization so that the customer/volunteer/employee is the hero of the story. Great insight for sacrificial leadership.)

Studio 360 Kurt Anderson
(This is an NPR production that covers everything from politics to television to race. It’s always interesting no matter what)

What are other ways you can help others create an “Overview Effect?”

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