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Lillian Daniel: What's Your Big Idea?

November 04, 2014

"I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people. Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters." -Joel 2:28 

When David Christian was a young professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, he grew frustrated by the rigid categories and divisions in scholarship. Teaching a class in Russian history, he wanted to examine his subjects from a number of unconventional angles. 

For example, when he looked at the 19th century, he realized that on average, 40 percent of Russia's revenues came from vodka sales. In a New York Times article, he explained, "So what I realized is that if Russians stopped drinking vodka, you can't pay for the army, and the superpower collapses. Here's a modern government building its power by selling a mind-altering substance. I was looking at it at the fiscal level, at the treasury level - but also in the village and also in the tavern." You couldn't look at that from only one angle. Everything was connected.

Could he apply this "everything-is-connected" idea to an even larger scale? This prompted him to ask himself, "Could I teach a course not of Russia but of humanity?" That question drove him back in time to the Big Bang and a wildly popular "History of Everything" course that debuted in 1989. His lectures then spread through the Internet to a broad audience of learners. 

One avid, long-distance student was Bill Gates, who watched the lectures from his treadmill. Gates was so inspired that they are now using the Big History Project with high school students.

Don't be afraid to think big. You never know who will be affected by your big idea. 

Expand my dreams and ideas, God, and let the limits of my small thinking fall away. Amen.


From UCC's StillSpeaking Devotionals. Visit

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