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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.

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An Almost Religious Faith in "Process"

March 9, 2012, 12:00 AM

When author Nathan Englander visited Big Think, I had one major question for him, which I asked in about six different ways. How, I wondered, do you dare to embark on a new work of fiction? How do you trust that when you walk out on that imaginative tightrope, it isn’t going to snap?

The question has been on my mind in light of The Pale King, the late David Foster Wallace’s unfinished work, its promising bits stitched together by an editor after Wallace’s suicide into a kind of monument to unrealized ambition. The Pale King is full of flashes – torrents, even – of brilliance that indicate what an important, definitive novel it might have been, if only its creator had won the battle with the demons he was attempting to exorcise in the writing of it. 

Englander downplayed the riskiness of writing fiction: “there are scary jobs in this world,” he said, “and there are real dangers that people face, you know, running into burning buildings and things like that.” But he agreed that, for him, the process is always terrifying, always a matter of life or death. He manages it by committing to “the story as a whole” and placing an almost religious faith in the writing process. Along with other successful writers, Englander believes that no matter how many false starts he makes along the way, perseverance will always lead him to a final draft. And while experience has confirmed him in this belief, each new act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) requires a new leap of faith.




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An Almost Religious Faith i...

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