I can blot you out, out of sight.
Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo, little Earth.
- Kate Bush, “Hello Earth”
Why does this matter?
It matters because we tend to bring abstracted space into human scale, and it just isn't. We look at a map of the United States, and it's a friendly looking shape (or an unfriendly one, depending how you're thinking). We don't see "vast space it would take you more than a year to walk across." And so we make incorrect assumptions how things like nations and continents and the world as a whole are unified in ways they simply aren't, and or can simply be understood in toto in ways they can't.
This is not to say they cannot be understood, but our understanding of these big spaces is, by necessity, abstract. It is not direct and personal.
Which brings me to theology. This is actually where I've been heading all along—sorry if it feels like bait and switch. But the problem of mismatched scale is one that is frankly a big one for us as modern humans. We know there are supernovae and colliding galaxies and all kinds of stuff going on in an incomprehensibly vast universe, and yet we think the God of Everything cares about our petty pain? Or on the other hand, we experience grace and love and beauty, here on our very local and personal scale, and expect that to match up with the Crab Nebula? The scale differences in how we now understand the universe to be constructed, the impersonal hugeness and incomprehensible smallness of the subatomic world (not to mention the atomic world)—these things tend to make the universality of a single (loving) God really hard to reconcile. I think (anecdotally, talking to one of my relatives, and thinking about the "amazing universe" speech I keep hearing variants of from atheists) that looking at the stars and really thinking about them has made a lot of atheists in our world.
It's one of the things that makes me just stop cold at anything even remotely like Biblical literalism. I love the story of Adam and Eve and that tree of Knowledge. There's something really important that snakes its way up through it. And reading Lloyd Lee Wilson's Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, I understand finally the shape of the early Friends' understanding of their place in history: restoring, through Jesus, Mankind's state before the fall, when the world was rightly ordered. Essentially, if humans could all join in that Gospel Order, the universe would all be right again.
That vision of right order is so powerful. And it's a beautiful thing to think about as we look around us, right here: our home, our friends and family, our life, all in order with what should be. I want that too. But our rightness won't make the next asteroid not hit the planet and make a giant tsunami that wipes out every coastal civilization on the planet. It won't make the eventual death of our planet as the sun expands disappear. It may not even prevent global warming from radically changing what we mean by "habitable planet."
Order is scalar. Right order among people is different from right order among planets, and right order among quarks. And this is OK. It needs to be OK. What I think our job is, living here in 2013, is to figure out how to make it OK, how to live rightly in a universe that we are not, after all, at the center of. We can be the center of something—that's important—but we cannot hold the world in our hands, and there are no hands that can. We're not actually blotting out the moon, or the earth, with one hand. We're covering our eyes.