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Leonard Pitts: A moonlight hymn to our common humanity

Have you ever seen the moon?

You will likely answer that you have, many times. But a new short video by filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh may have you reconsidering whether you’ve ever actually seen it at all.

Their names will be unfamiliar to you. A check of the authoritative IMDb website turns up resumés thin to the point of translucence. Overstreet, for example, is listed as “Miscellaneous Crew” on “Taking Chance,” a 2009 film starring Kevin Bacon. Gorosh has directed two short films, “The Electronic Afterlife” and “To Scale: The Solar System,” neither of which generated Oscar buzz.

But their three-minute film, “A New View of the Moon” has people talking — and looking, having racked up over a quarter of a million views on YouTube alone. The premise is deceptively simple. The pair wandered around Los Angeles with a telescope, an odd-looking (to us nonscientific types, anyway) contraption vaguely resembling a snare drum that slides up from a round canister.

“What is that, bro?” a guy on a bike asks.

“It’s a telescope,” says Overstreet. “Do you want to check out the moon?”

The offer is made over and over to a cross section of passersby in a cross section of places across greater L.A. And one by one, they put their eyes to the viewfinder and gaze upon what they’ve looked at a million times yet never seen.

Interestingly, Overstreet and Gorosh show us very little of the actual moon. No, what holds your eyes, and lifts your soul is the way these different people in different neighborhoods all respond in precisely the same way — with gasps and shouts and whispers of naked wonder at the sudden nearness of lunar soil.

“I’m looking at the moon,” says a young, cap-to-the-back white guy into his phone. “Hold on real quick.” Then he puts his eye to the viewfinder. “Oh, my God,” he says.

“Oh. My. God,” breathes a black man in a hoodie.

“Oh, my God,” says a little kid, laughing.

“Oh, my God,” says a guy with a mane of gray hair.

“Oh!” says a woman, as if startled. “Oh, my God.”

There is something quietly profound in their awe, something that stirs you somewhere deep within like a light breeze moving among tall grass. If you are a person of faith, maybe you have that sense of settled and centered peace that comes from feeling the Creator nigh.

But even if you are not, it will be hard to escape a conviction that we spend too much time looking down and across. We look at our screens and bank balances, at our bills and test results — and we look at one another, too, at all the ways in which skin tone and hair texture, faith, sex, wealth, geography, education and age seem to make us unfathomably different.

Except that we’re all just passengers on a rock sailing through an infinite sea. Consider that the greatest scientific achievement of our kind, the one we point to with pride as evidence of the inherent greatness of us, is that after millions of years, and at a steep investment of money and lives, we managed, one day 49 years ago, to fly over to the next rock. We looked around, gathered up some smaller rocks and came back home.

We are, in other words, small against the fabric of All That Is. So far as we’ve been able to determine, we’re out here alone. So each other is all we have. But then, it should be all we need.

Overstreet’s and Gorosh’s little movie is a gentle reminder of this, a hymn to our common humanity. It is an invitation to put down the remote control once in a while. Put down the cellphone, put down the bills, stop yelling at one other.

And look up.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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