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

Caravaggio is Italy Incarnate

February 3, 2012, 12:00 AM

Italy, says Joseph Luzzi, is a chiaroscuro nation – a land of sharp contrasts. Luzzi, the director of Italian studies at Bard College and the award-winning author of The Blessed Lens: A History of Italian Cinema, calls Caravaggio – the "incarnation" of Italy's dualistic spirit. Caravaggio's works are characterized by chiaroscuro effects – dramatic contrasts between light and dark with little transition between. And the man's personal life, filled with sensational acts of violence, stands in stark contrast to the emotional sensitivity and technical precision of his work. 


File:Caravaggio - David con la testa di Golia.jpg

David with the Head of Goliath, 1609–1610, Galleria BorgheseRome.

The painting above captures not only the light/dark dualism for which Caravaggio is famous but also the seeming paradox that lies at the heart of his life and work – and, according to Luzzi, at the heart of Italian culture. It depicts the moment in the Old Testament tale after David, the future King of Israel, has beheaded the giant Goliath. Note the expression on David's face as he gazes at the severed head in his hand – one of pained empathy rather than triumph. Goliath's face, too, is contemplative rather than defiant. Taken as a whole, the scene treats violence as both tragic and inevitable. 


Readers – Do you see a contradiction here? Are violence and empathy opposites?

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter



Caravaggio is Italy Incarnate

Newsletter: Share: