A few weeks back, I moved house. Wow. What a whirlwind…
I traded near-city living for a more private yard. Here’s what I’m seeing right now as I type this:
Beautiful day, blue skies, gentle breeze, and the occasional visit from a thirsty hummingbird.
But not a single neighbor in sight. Almost two acres of grass lined with lush trees and conservation land. We’re talking PRIVATE.
So how could there possibly be a lesson about human connection here?
It’s simple. Anytime you move, even if you just switch seats, you’re given a new perspective.
New perspectives are crucial for human connection.
There’s been a lot of talk about US vs. THEM lately. Blacks vs. Whites. Republicans vs. Democrats. Americans vs. everyone else. And on and on…
One thing that has the power to overcome the implicit biases of stereotyping, racism, xenophobia, and all other forms of US vs. THEM is perspective-taking.
When you take someone’s perspective, they become an individual, instead of just a member of an out-group. Taking on someone’s perspective taps into your intellectual brain, not your emotional one – which is a good strategy for beating racism. When you stop to think about it, racism really is kinda silly. But if you let emotion take over, then biases crop up almost everywhere.
You don’t have to move house to shift your perspective. All you have to do is consider another person as an individual “US” and not as a member of a “THEM” group.
How do you do that?
Here’s another picture of my backyard from another perspective a tad further away:
Seeing the Earth from space has a profound effect on a person.
Upon returning from space, astronaut Ron Garan said, “As I looked back at our Earth from the orbital perspective, I saw a world where natural and man-made boundaries disappeared.” Apollo 9 astronaut, Russell Schweickart said, “You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see them. There you are — hundreds of people in the Mideast killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of, and that you can’t see.” The first astronaut from Saudi Arabia, Sultan Bin Salman al-Suad said, “The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth.”
Over and over, astronauts report similar transcendent experiences when viewing the Earth in its entirety. In fact, it is so common that the phenomenon has been given its own name, “The Overview Effect”. There seems to be something about seeing “spaceship Earth” – frail, fragile, and without borders – that creates an instant bond to the rest of humanity and a sense of interconnectedness to all of nature. Even the famous Carl Sagan reacted to the famous “pale blue dot” photo by saying, “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
Yesterday there was a rare solar eclipse. For about two minutes, people all over the world, of all races had an “US” moment. People cheered together and hugged together and studied together and felt awe together.
It was a perspective shift away from “THEM” thinking and toward “US” thinking.
The whole world may not be able to keep that going, but this week, amid the chaos of unpacking and renovating, I’m gonna try.