I am an avid YouTube fan and wander through its riches frequently. Recently I fell in love with a channel that shows NASA footage livestreamed from the International Space Station. With a background of soft New Age music, I like to watch when the camera is trained on Earth as seen from orbit. I never cease to marvel at the beauty of our big blue marble in space. As the space station orbits Earth, I can see the brilliant sparkle of sunlight off waves in the distant oceans. Clouds hug the surface of our planet and seem to glow with an internal light as they also absorb and reflect the sun. Continents become visible and are revealed as smooth expanses of brown under the clouds. At first, I thought the landmasses looked odd. They were just like the maps of my childhood schoolroom in shape, but they looked at the same time completely different.
When I was in school, a large glossy map of the world always hung at front of the room. I spent a lot of time gazing at the map, wondering how it came to be that South America’s shape could nestle like a puzzle piece into the coast of Africa across the Atlantic Ocean. I was not surprised when scientists brought forward the continental drift theory that the landmasses were all once a giant supercontinent, Pangaea, which broke apart billions of years ago. Another thing I noticed in those maps was that every continent was divided up by lines that enclosed shapes of different colors. Africa and Europe looked like patchwork quilts of many colors describing the various countries’ borders.
It was the lack of lines on the continents that at first made the world from space look odd to my eyes. There are no visible borders and boundaries on the Earth’s landmasses. There is no separation visible between nations, people and resources from space; it is evident that Earth is Whole. I was reminded of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
I like to imagine our world in peace, without nationalistic or religious fighting. I once read something about describing one’s address in purely ecological/geographic terms, not using man-made GPS coordinates or country names or political subdivisions of the earth. I tried it out for myself and found it difficult to avoid all “names” but with my new address I felt like a citizen of a whole earth community. Here it is: I live on planet Earth, in the northern hemisphere, almost in the middle of the longest landmass that extends nearly from pole to pole, in a vast desert which is the only place on earth where saguaro cacti grow, in a basin between three mountain ranges, in the Upper Santa Cruz watershed, west of the river itself, and east of the high pass of the western mountain range, near the base of a hill.
I like to watch the NASA livestream and think of myself as a denizen of this planet, unlabeled, undivided and whole and remember with Black Elk:
And while I stood there
I saw more than I can tell
and I understood more than I saw,
for I was seeing in a sacred manner
the shapes of all things in the spirit
and the shape of all shapes as
they must all live together
as one being.
I remember that I am the sparkling waters. I am the shining clouds. I am the blue Earth
and the blackness of space that swaddles it. I AM.
By Leah Hamilton, RScP