Overview effect = big picture

By Dave Henning / August 3, 2023

“The overview effect is all about seeing the big picture.  We share common ground with every person on the planet.  And, I might add, common grace.  It’s a paradigm shift that puts our planet in perspective.”- Mark Batterson

In Chapter 15 (“The Overview Effect”), the final chapter of Please Sorry Thanks, Mark Batterson tells the story behind an iconic photograph.  On Christmas Eve of 1968, As Apollo 8 completed one of its ten lunar orbits, astronaut Bill Anders saw Earth coming up over the horizon.  As a result, he grabbed his high-resolution Hasselblad camera to capture that remarkable image: Earthrise.

Consequently, when astronauts leave the earth’s atmosphere and get a glimpse of the earth, the view from outer space changes their inner space! It’s called the overview effect.  In addition, astronauts returning from space find themselves less focused on individual achievements and personal happiness.  Instead, they’re more concerned about the collective good.

Therefore, Mark asks, do we focus on our many differences?  Or do we choose to focus on our common identity as image bearers?

In one experiment, psychologists randomly assigned Manchester United soccer fans one of two short writing tasks.  Fans either wrote about why they loved their team or about what they had in common with other soccer fans.

Next, researchers staged an emergency where a passing runner slipped.  He screamed in pain as he held his ankle.  Above all, the ‘injured’ runner sported the T-shirt of MU’s biggest rival.  Finally, the writers were asked if they’d help the man.  Of those who wrote about their common bond with other soccer fans, 70 percent helped.  However, the other grouped checked in at only 30 percent.

In conclusion, Mark cites C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory:

“There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal. . . .  It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit.  This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.  We must play.  But our merriment must be of that kind . . . which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Today’s question: How can you apply the overview effect in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Christianity is spelled done”

About the author

Dave Henning

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