Overview Effect

I often wonder why certain people — myself included — have such different views when it comes to living our lives. By different, I mean not conforming to the majority of people.

Obviously, because I think I’m smart, I believe my views of what constitutes a life well-lived are a notch above someone who — for the sake of argument — believes one should not think too much about things, preferring instead the facile answer, often from a book or self-described mystic. 


That is the primary reason I think some people, myself included, see life different than most. Large as opposed to small and self-centered. 

It sounds as if I’m giving myself airs . . . au contraire mes lecteurs. 

Completely the opposite, actually. I think myself an insignificant spec on this Earth, let alone the Universe.

I don’t think I have a purpose and that me being here is nothing more than a fluke. Had I not been here, someone else would have been and the Universe would not care any less or more, and it would unfold no different.

I don’t claim I’m the beloved creation of a demented and blood-thirsty god, nor do I believe some elevated plane of existence awaits me after I die. I will return to nothing, my passing unnoticed by all but a few. 

I am only important to myself and perhaps a few more who are also important to me, but neither I nor anyone I know holds any significance to the very Universe the human species claims as its own. In fact, the whole of the Earth and everything and everyone on it could be obliterated tomorrow and the Universe would be indifferent to it. It wouldn’t even register anything out of the ordinary happened. 

In the last post I “fretted” about the state of things. 

Understanding “large” helps me see the silliness of it all even as I recognize its impact on my life.   

It’s difficult taking people seriously when they speak of humans as important to the Universe. When they claim this or that knowledge based on stories from people who lived here:


I mean, I get it . . . some people need to feel important. For them to gain importance, they have to reduce the importance of everything else around them. 

I believe that’s why religious people don’t like science . . . science shows them a Universe so incomprehensively large that it’s impossible for them to dismiss it, to diminish it. 

At some level, I think even the most ardent believer must realize the idea that they, the devout believer, has some importance to a god who created the Universe, that that idea sounds pretty wacky. Best deny science and concentrate on the warm and fuzzy they get when some guy in gaudy robes tells them they are important.

That narrow view is helped along by ignorance. 

If you are a believer, I’m going to do you a favor. There are two podcasts you should listen to. One is called Philosophize This (the bottom of that page has episode 1). The other is Literature and History

If you would rather read the information in each episode, you are in luck; they both offer transcripts of each episode. 

I peripherally crossed much of that information at various stages of my life, especially in my teens and early twenties when I was trying to get a handle on this whole religion thing. However, these two resources consolidate and present a lot of information in ways accessible to the layperson . . . no need for a degree; just the willingness to read/listen and learn. 

It’s important and relevant stuff . . . you should know it, or at least of it. It might help you explain yourself to yourself. It also exposes you to thousands of years of people asking the same questions you are asking. Don’t you think it’s worth knowing what thousand of years of thoughts came up with?

I showed a neat video at the beginning of the post . . . I will now link another . . . 

The Overview Effect is “a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.” (from Wikipedia) 

Basically, people seeing the Earth whole, just hanging there in space, get a sudden realization just how fragile our existence is and how foolish out petty differences. Unfortunately, a photo doesn’t quite do it. It works best on people who have actually seen the view live . . . about 500, at last count.

This organization, The Overview Institute, tries to educate people and get them involved in thinking literally from “outside”.  

Personally, I think they have an impossible task ahead of them.

But, per my thinking, the same effect can be achieved with knowledge. Actual knowledge, not made-up shit designed to make you feel important. Knowledge about the formation of planets and solar systems and galaxies. Knowledge about the Universe, life, ourselves, Earth . . . anything and everything. Even as I say this, I know few will ever join those of us who think large and recognize ourselves as small.

I say that because I know very few people who are interested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Worse yet, few people want knowledge; they want answers.

Above it all, fewer yet are happy when the answer is “You. Don’t. Matter.

Again, that answer is only true when one is contemplating one’s place in the Universe. 

Much closer to home, you matter a lot. You matter to your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your offspring. Heck, you even matter to your dog; most of all your dog. 

Your cat, not so much. 

In fact, you can think of the Universe as your cat . . . you are insignificant to its existence.

So, there you have it. Why I have a different view of myself and my place in the universe than the majority of people on Earth . . . because I know I don’t matter and I’m perfectly fine with it. Giddy, even. 

I’ll end this with a useful resource when confronted with questions. In other posts, I linked websites that teach you critical thinking. This one, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, is a place where you can find information about all sorts of crazy stuff humans strive to consider relevant but it’s also a good reference for topics such as logic, science, philosophy, etc. 

Here’s a photo because, you know, you’re important to me.


Those are the telescopes atop of Mauna Kea. Humans reaching out to unlock the mysteries of the Universe and in so doing adding both to our insignificance and our achievements despite it.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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