If you feel like joining a multilogue on “Overviewing” after reading this, please join us on Tuesday, February 16th at 17:30 CET - https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIofuqpqj0oGNTGQsVYvxH7iY_0Y0GWHD2h

When looking at the Pale Blue Dot from outer space, astronauts often experience something called "Overview Effect".

It is an instance of what happens when you get to step outside of the system you are usually embedded within and have the opportunity to look at the system from an outside perspective - allowing you, you actually see the water in which you swim and generate a fundamental shift in your world literacy.

Physically removing oneself from a system in order to achieve overview is one thing - but what happens when you socially remove yourself from a system?

When i was ten years old my family moved from one city in Europe to another one, 800 kilometres and two countries apart - only the language is (roughly) the same.

Where we landed and where we came from people speak entirely different dialects of German and both entirely different from the German spoken in my family. My parents had exported a version (academic-hippy-subtype) of German from Germany in the beginning of the Seventies to the US and then re-imported this outdated version first to Switzerland, then to Austria, making us effectively alien in all German speaking countries.

While living a deeply happy childhood in Switzerland, i was not even aware that my language was different from that around me - it was a non-issue. This abruptly ended in Austria.

I am putting so much emphasis on the language because it was the only noticeable difference between my peers and me at that age. But it triggered an enormous racist reaction in the children at school. I was spat out of the social sphere. I was called all sorts of nasty versions of how they referred to "Germans" and i practically spent four years alone - as a total outsider.

It was painful beyond words. I spent afternoons in a state of paralysis, too sad to cry. i was confused - i searched for reasons for such a strong reaction in myself. What did i do wrong? In what ways am i wrong? How can i change? All i wanted was to be accepted.

A central element of our human condition is our capacity for adaptation. Once i had found (relative) peace within myself, the situation offered freedom of exploration - already being an outsider, i did not have to worry about being expelled or scapegoated. Instead, i could explore the world around me and within me, free of social boundaries, shame or fear.

I watched the social dynamics from the outside, almost like a movie - maybe like an anthropologist. It was fascinating to experience the struggles for dominance and power, acceptance - to witness various social strategies towards a wide range of objectives - to watch some fail, some succeed and all break apart again after a while.

After four years i spent one summer practicing the Austrian dialect. And when i went back to school speaking like they spoke, all of the racism evaporated almost immediately. This was the most shocking and world literacy altering part of the experience.

This episode of my life has changed the way i look at humans forever - i was lucky not to fall into a cynical perception of humanity (more on that later). Instead i understood how deeply most humans are embedded in systems they have no control over, systems they don't even are aware of - they don't know the water they swim in.

This episode made me extremely sensitive to nurturing my own capacity of seeing the water i swim in. Where do you swim?

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels