Don DeLillo on the overview effect

In “Human Moments in World War III” from The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, an astronaut gazes down at Earth from orbit:

The view is endlessly fulfilling. It is like the answer to a lifetime of questions and vague cravings. It satisfies every childlike curiosity, every muted desire, whatever there is in him of the scientist, the poet, the primitive seer, the watcher of fire and shooting stars, whatever obsessions eat at the night side of his mind, whatever sweet and dreamy yearning he has ever felt for nameless places far away, whatever earth sense he possesses, the neural pulse of some wilder awareness, a sympathy for beasts, whatever belief in an immanent vital force, the Lord of Creation, whatever secret harboring of the idea of human oneness, whatever wishfulness and simple-hearted hope, whatever of too much and not enough, all at once and little by little, whatever burning urge to escape responsibility and routine, escape his own over-specialization, the circumscribed and inward-spiraling self, whatever remnants of his boyish longing to fly, his dreams of strange spaces and eerie heights, his fantasies of happy death, whatever indolent and sybaritic leanings, lotus-eater, smoker of grasses and herbs, blue-eyed gazer into space—all these are satisfied, all collected and massed in that living body, the sight he sees from the window.

Complement with Maria Popova on reality's density of wonder, a counterintuitive way in which science empowers us, and there aren't even any endings.

***

Get new posts delivered straight to your inbox:


***

Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a reading recommendation newsletter and lives in Oakland, CA.

This blog exists thanks to the generous support of loyal readers. Become a member.