Matt and the World Dance


At the end of last year, I blogged about the Overview Effect, a phenomenon experienced by astronauts as they view the earth from far above. To many it is a life-changing experience.

But, not all of us can go into space.


Today, I want to talk about someone who managed to not only experience this effect in a major way without ever going into space, but also provided a vehicle for the rest of us to do the same. His name is Matt Harding, and if one searches Google for the single term “Matt’, he’s at the top of the list. From his own site, this is how he starts his story:

Matt is a 36-year-old deadbeat from Westport, Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames[sic]. He got lucky, landing a job as a game designer in Los Angeles at a young age, and figured he had everything pretty much figured out.

But in the end, video games weren’t really for him after all. In 2003, he took what money he had, quit his job and went wandering. As he traveled, he did his “stupid’ dance… in cities around the world.

First he posted the video on his blog. Then, in 2005, it debuted on YouTube.

It was a success, and sat in the top 10 most viewed videos on YouTube for a number of years.

Around this time, the gum manufacturer Stride asked if he’d like to do another video like the first one. And, as an added bonus, they’d pay for the whole thing. He just had to work out his itinerary, travel to the places and dance. As one might expect, he jumped at the opportunity, and we, the happy netizens, received another great video of silly dancing at world landmarks.


Once again we were shown the natural and man-made wonders of the planet. The sheer diversity is staggering.

And, in just a small handful of clips, a few people danced with Matt. The seeds of change were planted.

Video #3 was released in 2008. Pay close attention to what happens at timestamp 00:52.

By this time, Matt’s videos had become viral, and had been seen by millions around the world. People wanted to dance with Matt. Arrangements were made, and things were put in motion. As Matt traveled the globe, again under Stride’s sponsorship, he met people and they all danced together. There was universal appeal.

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
Martha Graham

But for Matt, there was still something missing.

In 2012, another video was released.

This time, it wasn’t just about dancing with Matt. It was suddenly more about dancing with each other–participating in a global “moment’ to send the message that we are all really the same.

Overview Effect achieved.

Every one of us is a child of God. We know that. Let us never forget that we are children of God at all times and in all circumstances and in all conditions and in all environments in which we might find ourselves….
President Gordon B. Hinckley

post_url 2012-12-31-becoming-colorblind

Where the Hell are Matt’s 2012 Outtakes

May 27, 2013 08:36

Matt’s videos are among my very favorites. Thanks for reminding me of them. I need to see them every few months, just to be grounded. The power of seeing what unites us, instead of what divides us, is remarkable and uplifting. I had not connected them with the experience that astronauts describe, but now I can see that they get at exactly the same truth.

Trev Harmon
Jun 10, 2013 01:25

I’ve been a fan of Matt’s videos for a long time. I have to admit I bought the music from the last video “Trip the Light” on iTunes. I think my favorite lines in the song is, “Travel far from what I know, I’ll be swept away. I need to know I can be lost and not afraid.”

But, to your point, here’s another section of the lyrics:
— I’ll find my way home
— On the Western wind
— To a place that was once my world,
— Back from where I’ve been.
— And in the morning light I’ll remember,
— As the sun will rise,
— We are all the glowing embers
— Of a distant fire.