What’s wrong with the world: a view from the sky

On the surface of the Earth, we can only see things that are around us and above us. As we wander the world, we meet many people, see new sights and have new thoughts. But being on the surface too long limits our vision.

Up close, we see the little differences between us. Because we cannot see very far along the expanse of the Earth, we do not get the chance to learn about people distant from us; and sometimes we come to fear them. Even the smallest differences lead to discrimination, because we believe that our ways, ideas and beliefs, the ones we know best, are best. We think what we care about are the most important things in the world, and that what we think about them is right.

The ground we live and walk on is sacred to us, because it is the place of our ancestors. Anyone other than us who occupies and thus desecrates the land we cherish because we know it best must be killed. We build walls and barriers and draw long lines around what is ours. All the earliest religions were and many of today’s are based on the land. In addition to the old religions, most of the world’s citizens espouse a modern religion: the worship of the collective.

Because humans cannot see very far over the wider community of all life on Earth, we choose groups that we are most aware of. We do not care what our groups are based on, whether race, language, membership in the same country, possession of revealed truth or shoe size. We simply feel the need to belong. Because of this need and people who know how to manipulate it, we now live in a world divided into 200 political entities that cover the surface of the Earth like a skin disease, any of which you can be denied entry to if you are from the wrong one. Their members tell and retell stories of heroes long ago, filling hearts with pride; of battles between good and evil, of tragedies and victories, and how to apply their lessons to the people around us. Some people are so compelled by the need to belong, or so indoctrinated, or so lacking in critical thinking that they are willing to commit any kind of atrocity in the group’s name.

The people we meet might not say the words we want them to say, so we stop listening and stop respecting them. When we do not listen to or respect people, we do not understand them, and we might hurt them. If we hurt them, they will hurt us back. This idea seems obvious, but it is forgotten every day. When people do hurtful things to our group, or someone we see on the television, we forget to listen and demand revenge. Revenge is rational, as it is designed to prevent further violence against oneself. However, revenge tends to come back and bite.

From the sky, however, people are dots. Whether holding a gun or a shovel, whether going to war or playing soccer, they all look the same. There is no good or evil in the sky. It doesn’t matter what you think about what is happening on Earth because you have no influence on it. The realisation that you do not have to control everything you care about liberates you. The ground you can see all looks the same too, no sacred places anywhere, just beautiful colours. There are no lines except rivers, no walls except mountains. From the sky, you can count the history of the Earth’s surface in millions of years, and the stories you tell are of the formations of mountain ranges, seas and continents. When we rise above, we can achieve the calmness necessary to see through the clouds of our groups and our differences and learn that we are all basically the same.

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