Sanity: Bad For You, Bad For The World

This entry is part of 5 in the series Systems

Less than eighty years before I was born, in a country built on murder and piracy, a country that did not recognize international patents and copyright law, a country that until only forty years earlier, had allowed human beings to be bought, sold and used as cattle…two bicycle repairmen flew through the air.

People had been in the air before. There’d been balloons for ages. There’d been gliders. But this was special. This was powered flight. This was heavier-than-air flight. “Proper” flight.

What happened? What had changed?

Well, the laws of physics had not changed.
The size and strength of the Earth’s gravity field had not changed.
The laws of the country had not changed.
Human DNA had not changed.
Human beings had not collectively become any more or less intelligent.

People had tried to fly before. Smart people. Plenty died trying, like that one German guy who jumped off a cathedral with wings 1.

So what had changed?

Methods had changed. The method(s) people were using to try to fly had changed. No more flapping 😀 . And after enough tries and enough tweaks, the changes were good enough to produce real, human-powered flight.

The “no more flapping” part is important.
Although I read and watch a lot of X-Men, I’m still quite convinced that human beings aren’t born with the ability to fly. Even eagles are born flightless, but they kind of grow into it. Humans can’t even do that.

But we fly now. A lot. We fly better than we drive — certainly more safely. During my teens, two of my friends died in separate car accidents in separate countries. None of my friends have ever so much as thrown up while flying. We fly better than birds — higher, faster, comfier. We fly so much we complain about it.

We fly 2.
Step back and take that in.
Because this is not something sane people do.

You (most likely) and I were born after the jet age, so we take all this for granted. But there is a healthy madness in flying. Before those crazy bicycle repairmen from North Carolina did their thing — and even for some time afterwards — normal, sane people must have been like: “of course those idiots are dying trying to fly; they’re rebelling against [insert deity] and Nature; if human beings had been intended to fly, they’d have wings; it never says anything about flying in [insert book of desert legends]”.

↑ That’s the kind of bull#### logic that sane people have.

You cannot afford to be sane.
The world cannot afford sanity.
Sane individuals and sane groups — sane societies — achieve nothing and amount to nothing.

You need to be insane. Insane enough to think you can. And insane enough to keep trying and tweaking and testing methods until you figure it out.

Nothing we’re doing here, on this website, is as awesome as human powered effing flight.
All we’re doing is trying to imitate sounds and lines that hundreds of millions of other people have already invented and demonstrated  over and over and over again.

And maybe we’re having trouble with even that, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
You don’t need to be born an eagle to outfly an eagle.
You just need to be insane.

Wanna fly?

  1. Stop thinking and doing things that don’t help you fly.
  2. Start thinking and doing something — anything — else.
  3. Go back to step (1), until you..
  4. Fly, I mean, write, read, understand and speak Japanese.

The Earth’s gravity field did not need to change in order for human flight to become possible. It’s just as strong as it’s been since…pretty much there was an Earth to speak of. Japanese does not need to change in order for you to use it.

You’re not stupid, but your methods probably are.
Don’t ask for an “easier” language.
Ask for an easier method.

Series Navigation


  1. His mistake wasn’t trying. His mistake was failing to make failure cheap.
  2. “We” is a strong word. It’s not like I helped. But I did have the controls of that glider one time

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  17 comments for “Sanity: Bad For You, Bad For The World

  1. ライトニング
    June 22, 2012 at 00:31

    Almost died of laughter from the part about the book of “Desert Legends” xD
    But yes, I find this post very helpful. I’ve always changed my ways of doing sentences and stuff, and then I’m like, “Why didn’t I just do this from the start!?” and get a little frustrated with myself, but in the end, we always find better ways to do stuff. Even when I reach my dream of Japanese pwnage and moving to Japan, I’ll still probably find a better way to learn than I did.
    Same thing with planes, We mastered flying quite a while ago, but we always build on top of it on how to make it even better.

  2. June 22, 2012 at 05:28

    I know I’m missing the point when I say this, but isn’t saying, “We fly” in this context sort of like being in a boat and saying, “We swim”? I know I’m knit picking here, but what seems more interesting to me is the fact that instead of trying to fly themselves (like that guy who made himself a pair of wings to flap), some smart people decided to make a machine that did the flying for them.
    Let’s stop trying to fly, and just build a machine to do the flying for us. I think that sort of outside the box – and perhaps even lazy – type of thinking may be a beneficial way to look at learning Japanese as well. 
    [Note: when I say “some smart people”, I’m not referring specifically to the Wright brothers. As far as I know, mechanical flight was a concept created before their plane, they just happened to be the first to make it all work.]

    • June 22, 2012 at 16:14


      Forget flapping. Anki is my airplane. 

  3. June 22, 2012 at 07:39

    This is the kind of “kick sanity to the curb” goodness I love. My sanity especially get’s stabbed and left on the curbside to die after reading “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. Insane self-confidence for psychopaths.

  4. PB
    June 22, 2012 at 17:27

    The poor German guy who tried to fly with wings however ended up in a coffin.
    The moral of the story is: most of the ‘insane’ people end up dead, maimed or scarred. Only one ends up the winner. Each of those dead people thought he or she was going to be that winner. But they didn’t.
    Don’t knock sanity.

    • June 24, 2012 at 01:12

      I’m not sure, but I think this whole comment rating system is getting a little out of hand. Like, this person (PB) just stated his/her interpretation of things, yet this comment is hidden due to poor ratings. I’m not sure why opinions that are unpopular should be hidden or marked as bad. Wasn’t Darwin’s opinion on nature unpopular? In fact, wasn’t the idea of AJATT originally unpopular?

      I don’t know, I’m not about to lose any sleep on this, but still, it may be nice if the idea of changing the rating system was at least thought about.

  5. ジェイソン
    June 22, 2012 at 23:40

    Sometimes you show true flashes of brilliance. They may be just flashes, but if you string enough of them together you’ll end up with one helluva firework display!

  6. kyle
    June 23, 2012 at 01:51

    Question that is unrelated to this post but i want to know nonetheless. For those people who have Ajatt Plus, does Khatz talk about his progress in cantonese? Like the if he’s making tweaks to his learning styles and things of that nature?

  7. Pingfa
    June 23, 2012 at 12:12

    ^ I’m pretty sure he’s relatively fluent in Cantonese by now. I seem to recall he posted something in late 2009 where he said he could understand virtually anything on Hong Kong TV.

    Aha, here ya’ go:

    I really want to know about his Mandarin progress, though. As I once read one dude describe it, ‘Mandarin is more a super group of dialects than one language’ There’s not really a clear standard for Mandarin like most other languages, so I feel it will inevitably take him longer to reach a proficient level in.

    Anyhew, a good post, Khatz. To remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. We’re just copying what countless number of others have done before us, not trying to blow up the Death Star.

  8. Kyle
    June 24, 2012 at 03:41

    ^I’d actually say he’s more fluent in Mandarin than cantonese. I mean, he has silverspoon mandarin and not silverspoon cantonese. But thanks for the article. Never read it and it was quite useful. Time to go back to watching telenovas. 

  9. Kyle
    June 24, 2012 at 03:42

    ^I’d actually say he’s more fluent in Mandarin than cantonese. I mean, he has silverspoon mandarin and not silverspoon cantonese. But thanks for the article :). Never read it and it was quite useful. Time to go back to watching telenovas. 

  10. June 24, 2012 at 13:51

    Classic AJATT.
    I do have to say that PB’s perspective is a worthy counterpoint though.

  11. ひまわり
    August 17, 2012 at 02:24

    I feel compelled to point out that the Wright Brothers weren’t from North Carolina, they were from Ohio. North Carolina just happened to be a remote work site for their flying experiments. I grew up in their hometown, so I’ve heard about them ad nauseum since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

    Speaking of the Wright Bros, however, you might be interested to know that they considered their first “successful” flight in North Carolina to be a failure. They returned home completely dejected, but ready to start over. When they decided to set up shop and do most of their experiments locally, the townspeople thought they were crazy. All of the “sane” people told them they couldn’t do it, that “if man were meant to fly, he’d have been born with wings.” But those “crazy Wright boys” didn’t give up, working in all kinds of weathers, having to dodge cows in their flying field, and constantly having to rebuild and recover from crashes.

    And do you know what I find awesome about the whole story (tying this whole thing back into AJATT and methods)? The Wright Brothers didn’t go to college, and I think one of them didn’t even finish high school, but not having “credentials” didn’t stop them from being successful. Their methods weren’t entirely their own, but they learned from others’ mistakes and improved on them to make something that worked. Their major turning point came when they figured out that a fundamental principle (might have been physics or math or something, I can’t remember exactly what it was) that everyone else in the world had been using as a basis for their calculations was WRONG. Suddenly they were operating on a different playing field, and this paradigm shift led them along the path to greatness. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Methods change. Ideas change. S### happens. Don’t sweat it. The most important part is just not to give up because something isn’t working the way you thought it would. I’ve been following AJATT for just over two years now, and I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. Thanks Khatz. I’m flying 🙂

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