Day 30: The Overview effect
This is the final day of my month-long project of writing a post every day. Of course, I haven’t written every day. I’ve missed weekends and weekdays, for no other reason than that I didn’t want to write that particular day.
I’ve often fantacized about having a life so simple that the only battle of the day would be whether I could muster up the enthusiasm to put together a few hundred coherent paragraphs that would make up a halfway decent story. My first job out of college, all I did was write. But I never felt life was simple. Rather, I felt it was complicated and scary, because I often felt I had to produce content that was worth the money I was getting paid. I often felt I didn’t do that.
But when I write here, I feel like I’m creating valuable content — or at least saying important things. Over time, I’ve learned that people will pay for the stuff that means the least to you. I suppose the fantasy I mentioned earlier has more to do with people paying for the things that matter to me. But that doesn’t seem to be how we parse out our money.
Today I sat in a room of people, all at least twice my age, and heard them talk about things that mattered to them. Many of those things did not matter to me, and I wondered if my theory proposed yesterday had any bearing. The world, to them, seemed smaller — smaller than the state of Connecticut, and perhaps even smaller than ths corridor that connects Hartford to New Haven. I was frustrated by the lack of greater perspective. One man, noticing this, said to me, “Alvin, don’t get old.”
By that, I wonder if he meant that I shouldn’t let the world get small to me. Because when the world gets small, we talk as if we know exactly how to fix it. We act as if we can control it, which we’ve learned that we cannot. I think, if anything, we’ve learned that we should respect the vastness of the world, and perhaps stare in awe of it, when it is necessary. Sometimes when I talk about the world, or the universe, I wonder if I’m talking about God. Some Christians take pride in being able to describe the characteristics of God. These characteristics were gleaned by apostles and disciplines and kings, supposedly because God spoke through them. But in their writing, one can’t help but see how these authors were influence by the universe — by the nature of, well, nature. I can conceive — and in fact, have by default, started to believe — that God may have worked through nature, or with it. After all, their brains aren’t made of spiritual dust. And perhaps because of his apparently control of the universe, I often have a difficult time parsing out the difference between the universe and God. Maybe this is approaching the buddhist believe in things — but I never thought this differentiation (and in fact, many other doctrinal differentiations) important enough to make much of a statement of it. In fact, the core of what I believe seems to be just that: belief. I have fully accepted that there is a gap between my belief and an objective reality. The only faith I have is that there is a tiny string that connects the two, and on the other side of that string is my creator.
It’s funny that, on the very last days of this exercise, I have inspiration to write about such grand things as God and the universe. If I did this six years ago, I’d have no trouble mustering up 5,000 words on this topic, filled with both personal and academic references that made a solid point about, well, something. But those firey passions seem to have dulled, and it seems far more difficult to pin down emotions or thought anymore. When that man told me, “Alvin, don’t get old,” perhaps that’s what he was referring to.
I have an inkling that freedom, the universe and God are all connected in some way. It is still amazing to me that we exist on this flying rock that is suitable for life, and that we could conceivable travel through space and reach other rocks. There is this thing called ths “Overview effect” which is a cognitive shift that occurs when you see the earth from outer space. Part of the realization is the fragility of everything we know to be our world. But I wonder if that also creates a sense of freedom — the sense that, no matter how backward our world is, there are so many other rocks out there, and perhaps God has creates on a few others out there. Perhaps there are greater truths that those other beings could provide.
But with all that freedom, I have chosen to do something that is eluded me for quite some time. I haven’t been able to finish writing a book. I’ve gotten 10 pages in. I’ve gotten halfway through. I’ve gotten 40,000 words in. But never finished.
I wonder if I could view the world from outerspace, I would have enough to write a novel. For now, I will only have to write with the delusion that I’ve been there, and hope that God doesn’t smite me down for writing about a creation of his that I have yet to experience.