When you are on a fast-moving train and you pass another train at a station, there is no way for the human mind to cognize whether the other train is moving in the opposite direction or is sitting still.
Everything is a blur passing by.
It is often a brief moment in time where you are uncertain of your own place in the universe — and uncertain of what the external world is like. For a brief moment, you lose your spatial awareness.
A passing moment
Flying on an airplane is a surreal experience, being suspended up in the air, looking down at people, cars, houses on the ground, all so minuscule in comparison. It puts into perspective both how inconsequential we are to the grand scheme of the universe, but also a hauntingly realization that each spec, each dot, is an individual life — a person who is the unique sum of a permutation of experiences. I am one of those dots on the Earth. Do you ever look up when an airplane is flying across, and wonder how many people are looking back down at you?
The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by astronauts when viewing the Earth from outer space. It is generally explained as the experience of seeing from a personal perspective the fragile reality of our world, hanging in the black void of space. I wonder how many people on Earth are looking back up towards those astronauts. I have to imagine that those astronauts viewing the world from outer space, who feel the overview effect, must come to some philosophical epiphany about their own life as well. I imagine that epiphany to be motivating, inspiring, and overwhelming.
To a lesser degree, I believe the overview effect can be applied to many aspects of one’s life – these passing moments, a blur in memory.
I am a gross overthinker and will dramatize the smallest things. My internal monologue won’t shut up. I replay 5, 10, 15 different scenarios before every event. Somehow I miss all of those scenarios despite having theoretically infinite guesses.
I’ve just submitted my econometrics exam and my philosophy dissertation which I spent 3 months working on. 8000 words, 20 pages. Sent. Am I satisfied with it? Likely not. But even if not, I need to learn to be. But even this soon will be a passing moment. I will still forever cherish my time here at Cambridge.
I have a tendency to set myself up for failure. Perhaps it is because I am afraid of what success might look like. Perhaps I am afraid of failure itself, so I never truly “shoot my shot.” I don’t want to regret not having done something in my life. I deeply cherish memories and relationships. I am so constantly depressed by my nostalgia for the past. Perhaps this just means I need to start looking forward more, rather than backward.
What a weird thing memories are. What a fascinating concept the overview effect has on understanding one’s own reality.