You know how the earth looks so peaceful from the window of an airplane?
The cars in rush hour traffic flow with order and politeness. Agricultural fields look like quilts of green dotted with toy farms. The mountains break into crags of deep purples and browns. The oceans look like color field paintings.
The world appears organized, patterned and simple from high up.
This view, the 30,000-foot perspective, is called the “meta-view.” It’s the big picture removed from the tangled mess of reality. The meta-view focus brings clarity to what may seem chaotic or confusing from the ground, or, you know, at the level of experience we call “life.”
Here’s some examples of a meta-view to give you an idea of what I’m talking about: You’re in a time of transition. Life is calling you to play on a bigger stage. You’re grieving and regrouping after a loss.
The landscape looks different for each of us. Let me give an example.
As I’m writing this, I’m also watching The Post. I love a great journalism movie, and this one’s also a story of why and how the articulation of a meta-view matters.
It’s 1966. Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, becomes the first woman publisher of The Washington Post, the family’s paper. She gets the job after her husband’s suicide; it’s not one she anticipated nor feels prepared to wield.
But now she is asked to make a very consequential decision. Should the paper run coverage about the classified Pentagon Papers, exposing the immoral and criminal nature of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War?
In the film’s final scenes, we see Katharine, along with the paper’s editor and members of the company’s board, gathered in her home late at night. She must choose between the mission of the paper, to hold accountability to power, and the financial sustainability of the organization. She only has moments to decide to stop the presses.
What I love about Streep’s acting is you can almost feel her separating from earth as she aligns her perception with the meta-view of what’s at stake. It’s like she begins to float above the details of the present circumstance and look down at herself from above.
What is the landscape she sees? The personalities fade into the background. She sees the geography in a broader sense. She sees the lives of the young soldiers – soldiers who once included her son – and the moral obligation to expose the truth. This is not about her. . . but it is incumbent upon her to act with authority and conviction.
“This is no longer my father’s company. It’s no longer my husband’s company. It’s my company,” she says with conviction. “And anyone who thinks otherwise probably does not belong on my board.”
The printing presses begin to rumble.
Did Katharine connect to the meta-view perspective in her key moment? I think she did. Her meta-view was owning her voice and power. Was she scared shitless? I think yes. We can all feel the weight of the decision. You can see it in her gestures as she rubs her temple and casts her eyes down.
The truth is, understanding the meta-view imbues life with meaning and purpose. It helps bring clarity and intention to our present circumstances. It helps frame what we are experiencing or being asked to do.
And, I think, within the meta-view is the learning we are called to face, whether it’s to be more brave, bold, kind, resilient, etc.
Maybe your calling is to teach young people. Raise a family. Write a book. Start a company. Run for public office. Ditch the corporate life. Whatever it might be, life is designed to bring you opportunities to rise up to meet your highest self. Choose to see the challenges you face as a good thing, as part of the meta-view, because without that tension, you have nothing to define yourself against.
Just as we can see patterns in the geography from an airplane, we can frame own stories and lives.
Imagine that you can look down on yourself from an airplane above.
What do you see?
I’m Stephanie. I’m a writer, coach, and facilitator. I work with individuals, teams and leaders in creative, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit fields to improve communication, find a true purpose, and deepen connection and meaning. If you enjoyed this post, share it with a friend! And I’d love it if you would subscribe to my email list, below.