Colonel Chris Hadfield became famous recently for a YouTube clip he made; what made his video so extraordinary was where he filmed it. Set against the planet Earth in the background, he played guitar and sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity from the weightless confines of the International Space Station 200 miles above. He’s also been the first astronaut to regularly tweet from space, including daily pictures. He’s provided us a unique access to his perspective looking out at our delicate planet whilst hurtling through space.
He’s also done a great PR job to humanise life in the space station. Through his entertaining youtube clips he taught us how to make peanut butter sandwiches in zero gravity (use tortillas), showed us how they clean up spills when liquids float away and answered questions like, ‘what does space smell like’?
A New Perspective from Space
“To have that experience of awe is, at least for the moment, to let go of yourself, to transcend the sense of separation, so it’s not just they (the astronauts) were experiencing something other than them, but that they were at some very deep level integrating, realizing their interconnectedness with that beautiful blue-green ball.” – David Loy, philosopher
Astronauts through the years have described how seeing our planet from space altered their relationship with the world (as well as their philosophy) dramatically. They call it the ‘Overview Effect‘, a cognitive shift; for the first time, they discover what it is to be truly separate from the Earth. The umbilical cord is cut. Intuitively they comprehend the significance of the many deep yet tenuous connections humanity has to the world. If they are humble, it seems this understanding opens a new worldview, where humanity is seen as part of a ‘planetary process’, where humanity is no longer the center of attention but part of a bigger unfolding.
A Christmas Message
“This Christmas I think it is necessary for everyone to notice the beauty, joy and grace that exists all around us. It’s so easy to get focused on the distractions, the negativity and the things that don’t go right. You turn on the television and you are bombarded with the bad things until you almost believe that they are dominant. But they are not. ”
“When you go around the world every 90 minutes, when you see the repeated nature of how we live, you see it doesn’t matter where people are, they are just trying to find a little joy in their lives. When I asked people what they wanted me to take a picture of hundreds of thousands of people said “my hometown. I’m proud of it.” They wanted to get a perspective of where they fitted in on this world…and for me that was a tremendous unifying experience. ”
“At a time like Christmas it’s important to appreciate the shared beauty of our existence. ”
“And wherever you are why not look up into the sky and take a moment to think about those astronauts floating in the sky above, inside that little star that is the international space station. ”
You can watch Chris Hadfield’s inspiring video singing Space Oddity below:
*Quote reprinted from the Christmas Issue of The Big Issue