There’s a Stoic exercise referred to as ‘the view from above’ in which you imagine looking at the world from a distance. It could help you achieve some mental equanimity and a more realistic perspective on your life.
Powers of ten by Eames reminds me of this exercise. In the video the camera zooms out from a scene in a parc towards the edge of the universe (and then zooms in again to DNA-level).
I tried to create my own view from above guidance based on a biological classification. Here it is in reverse order:
Galaxy: Milky Way
Life on Earth
Subgenus: Homo (homo)
Species: H. (h.) sapiens
Datestamp: Late 20th, early 21st century AD
You could expand the above in time with this beautiful video from the American Museum of Natural History about seven million years of human evolution:
We’ve got distance and time covered. We could add size with this interesting video by Harry Evett:
Maybe these videos affect you too. I find they have a soothing effect. They kind of ‘put me in my place’ by highlighting the fragility of my life.
… a young sea squirt navigates the great oceans until it finds a rock that is secure, located in water that is just the right temperature, and surrounded by food. Having found a home, it settles down. Sea squirts are in fact sessile animals; once they take up residence, they never move again, come what may. The first thing a sea squirt does after setting up home is to eat its own brain. And why not? It’s possible to live and be a sea squirt without one.
— Giulia Enders in Gut (Scribe Publications, 2015).
Maybe I shouldn’t overthink it. I have a brain so I have to walk …
Update 13/10/2020 — I recently picked up In Praise of Walking by Shane O’Mara on an unplanned visit to a book store. He mentions the sea squirt as well:
Eventually, as it grows, the squirt transitions to a fixed stage, sticking itself to a convenient rock. There it consumes its own semi-brain, spinal cord and eye, none of which it now needs. (…) The larger lesson is clear: brains have evolved for movement.
O’Mara also mentions that the reverse pattern exists in certain jellyfish. They start out as polyps attached to rocks but then ‘start to develop a nerve net that allows them to engage in patterned movements, to attack prey and to ingest food.’ Couch potatoes can aspire to be more like jellyfish …
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