What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Joshua Mehigan Has Written the Best Poem You'll Read This Year

March 1, 2013, 12:01 AM

Well, if the New York Times Magazine can write a headline like that about fiction in January, why can't I borrow it for poetry in February? Anyway, it's true: Joshua Mehigan's "The Orange Bottle," published recently in Poetry magazine, is such a tour de force I doubt we'll see it surpassed in 2013.

The poem is a long narrative ballad, something you could fairly call an endangered species. The style verges on the comic, even going so far as to incorporate nursery rhymes, but the story is both a hair-raiser and a heartbreaker. I have a particular fascination with "light verse" turned to serious purpose--it requires a certain bravado; think of a sculptor carving busts with a shrimp fork--and this is an especially distinguished example. W. H. Auden took a similar approach in "As I Walked Out One Evening," itself an old-fashioned ballad, as did Elizabeth Bishop in "Visits to St. Elizabeth's," whose singsong quality and oblique treatment of madness may have been a starting point for Mehigan's poem.

In "The Orange Bottle" a man goes off his meds. Plagued by severe bipolar disorder (or possibly schizophrenia), he experiences a brief manic high before plunging into psychological hell:

And the sky was the firmament!

His life was never better.

Each small white spotless cloud that passed

was like a long-wished-for letter. 


But then he remembered his promise.

It came like a mild cramp,

and it sat there all day in the back of  his mind

like a gas bill awaiting a stamp.

The "promise" is the promise to keep taking pills. Notice how the "letter" and "stamp" similes play subtly off one another: both of these images are homespun, yet resonant and exact, a balance Mehigan maintains throughout the poem to increasingly eerie effect. When a doctor enters "trailing / a spiderweb of cologne," the phrase not only makes our noses tingle but evokes the web that has ensnared the patient. The same doctor reenters later, "gently restraining a yawn" that recalls the cruel restraints under which the patient has suffered all night. The most wrenching moment comes after our paranoid, erratic hero has been beaten and jailed:

Lying on his side like a child

at the end of a big day,

he gazed up through the window

and watched it all slip away.

Is it spoiling the delicate irony to point out how far from home these lines make us feel, how terribly they underscore his lack of comfort and coddling after his "big day"? 

The temptation with a poem like this is to say that it "criticizes the treatment of the mentally ill in our society." It doesn't. It issues no pronouncements, adopts no predetermined stance. It tells a single human story, vividly and faithfully. Any shame we feel as we read it is ours to grapple with.


[Image via Shutterstock.]


Joshua Mehigan Has Written ...

Newsletter: Share: