In 1948 astronomer Fred Hoyle predicted that, “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available…a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” So begins Overview, an extraordinary 18~minute video. In it, astronauts share their reactions to, not a photo, but the real~time beauty of our planet as viewed from space.
Gravel~voiced and craggy~faced Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell describes his experience in a spacecraft rotating in “barbeque mode” as it travels back toward Earth after a lunar mission. “Every two minutes, a picture of the Earth, the moon, the sun and a 360~degree panorama of the heavens appeared in the spacecraft window...That was pretty awesome.”
Mitchell goes on to describe his scientific brain’s struggle to understand the personal effect this experience had on him. He was led to an ancient Sanskrit term savikalpa samadi. Mitchell defines this as a visceral state of “ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness.” The echo of transcendence is still evident as he adds, “That’s exactly what the experience was.”
Most of us will never see Earth from this vantage point. We now, though, have pictures galore, many of which are included in Overview. We have, too, the words of those who have been there.
Shuttle astronaut Ron Garan describes the Earth as a “beautiful oasis out in the middle of nothingness…this oasis against the backdrop of infinity.” Having seen it first hand, he shares how sobering it is to realize that the atmosphere, “that little paper-thin layer, is all that protects every living thing on earth from death…(and) the harshness of space.”
As Hoyle suggested decades ago, images from space have loosed a new idea~~that Earth is a uniquely hospitable abode within an unfathomable vastness. Earth's elements provide us these bodies. Her dynamic, living ecosystem nourishes them and offers the air that, at this very moment, flows into and out of our lungs. And this miraculous offering comes amid such beauty!
To the scientific mind, all this is the result of eons of life elegantly begetting more life. To the spiritual heart, this bounty is love bestowed, a wondrous offering of life to be lived. When human hearts are healthy, love given is easily returned and demonstrated in tangible ways. When human minds think clearly, they foul not the exquisitely intricate garden that feeds them.
The intent of celebrations like wedding anniversaries and Christmas is to encourage a felt gratitude every day and a living awareness of our connection to something greater than ourselves.
May it be so with us in relation to our planetary benefactor this Earth Day, Monday, April 22nd, 2013.
You can see Overview by clicking here. I promise you, it is well worth the time!