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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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Demystifying Truth

The Big Idea for Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"What exists my knowledge, exists without my consent," says The Judge, the terrifying antagonist from Cormac Mccarthy's Blood Meridian. 

The Judge is an example about what is so scary and imposing about the need to know everything, about the contempt for mystery. But that impulse doesn't have to be scary. Need proof? Consider Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens, whom the world has sadly been without since December 15, 2011, resented the foggy and the unknown. But his wish was not, like the Judge's, to destroy it. His wish was to illuminate it.

But not everybody thinks that is a noble goal. Andrew Cohen, for one, thinks that Mysticism is necessary.

And the conversation over what goes into finding truth is not a black and white issue. Novelist Tim O'Brien is famous for thinking that a fictional account can be more rightly called "true" than can a factual one.

Hitchens, for one, quested tirelessly through his life to dispel the fallacies and the ignorance which plagues all humans, whom he thought to be a bit irrational and prone to hysteria. As he was fond of phrasing it, "evolution has meant that our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some unhappiness and disorder."

So, in contrast to The Judge, he suggested a healthy way to deal with the resentment of the unknown, which was to try our very best to gather facts, to reject superstition, to encourage discourse, to value reason, and to recognize our limitations as to how far that is possible for human beings.

That is how to demystify life.


  1. 1 Christopher Hitchens: How To Demystify With The Best Of 'Em
    Nicholas Clairmont The Big Ideas Of Our Time
  2. 2 Tim O'Brien Offers A True Fiction
    Tim O'Brien
  3. 3 A Review of Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
    Nicholas Clairmont Book of the Month
  4. 4 Why Mysticism Matters
    Andrew Cohen The Evolution of Enlightenment

Demystifying Truth

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