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

451 - A Map of Four Well-Travelled Tales

March 22, 2010, 6:13 PM
(click on the map to view it without the annoying sidebar)
Great stories are rarely isolates. Even though Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are founding epics of ancient Greece, and we tend to think of Shakespeare’s work as the culmination of Elizabethan culture, both bards were inspired by older texts, and inspirational to later artists.
This map charts the geographical (and historical) progression of four such powerful tales through the arts. Curiously, the four stories chosen for this map all follow a roughly similar trajectory – originating on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, gaining artistic traction in Europe in literature, painting, music and dance, crossing over to America, and cinematography.
The four stories are neatly synopsised as:
  • A man falls in love with his female creation (Pygmalion);
  • A king unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother (Oedipus);
  • A man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge (Faust);
  • A mythical sea monster terrorizes the deep (Leviathan).
Remarkably, in their original stages, (c) and (d) are almost neighbours – if we are willling to overlook the intervention of almost two whole millennia. The four stories later rub shoulders in the great cultural centres of Europe: London, Paris, Rome, and (the politically more fragmented) Germany.
In America, the two main receptacles for these tales from the Eastern Mediterranean are New York and Los Angeles. Some more eccentric destinations are Uttar Pradesh, Tokyo and Pittsfield, Mass.
Many thanks to Rick Thomas for pointing me to this map, found here in Lapham’s Quarterly, a magazine of history and ideas, dedicated to finding historical threads in big issues like war, money, nature and education (which might explain the genesis of the above map).

451 - A Map of Four Well-Tr...

Newsletter: Share: