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The One Where Richard Dawkins Taught Me About Cooking And Learning Languages

Growing up, mother was tight-fisted like an immigrant. 1 We never went out to eat. Not even ice-cream; it was always “I’ll get you a whole tub at home!”. Not even the movies; it was always: “man up, it’ll be on TV in like two years”.

And we all know how two years is literally like twenty years when you’re a kid.

Anyway, so we never went out to eat. And as I grew up, I stopped even really wanting to go out any more; I had no taste for it. But these past two years (there it is again), I’ve been acting like a teenage Amish kid; I went off the farm and ate out practically every meal, every day, completely forgetting how to cook in the process. I no longer knew how.

Then, over the past three months, I started hanging out with people who cook all the time. Erry day. At first I thought their efforts fatuous: “come on, let’s just buy something”, I said. But I ran with the dogs and caught fleas: their habits rubbed off on me. Now, slowly, I’m starting to eat home-cooked food again. It started with baking and it’s slowly been spreading out.

And it is shocking.
How good it is.

Yesterday, I even made my own muesli, from scratch (yeah, I grew and harvested the oats myself </exaggeration>).
And as I crunched and munched, I said a silent prayer, wondering: “Oh Richard Dawkins, why the FARK can’t they make it this good at the store?!” 2

And Richard Dawkins said to me:
“Because they’re not you”.

And then he said:
“Also, Khatz, I, Clinton Richard Anita Dawkins, want to make it abundantly clear that you are the most handsome creature in all creation and anyone who questions you is a blasphemer, and anyone who doesn’t buy AJATT products is using the money to buy pictures of little boys”.

Now, some of you are all:
“Khatzumoto, those pictures are legal in my country and Richard Dawkins doesn’t exist; it’s just autosuggestion; he’s a mental construct in your head”.

No. Richard Dawkins does exist. He is real. I have seen him. He was born in Kenya and he exists and he walks this very earth with us today and he spoke to me. And he said, the Richard Dawkins in my head said:
“Because they’re not you”.

And it hit me why school sucks. Why classes suck. Why things where you’re not free, suck.
“Because they’re not you”.

Now, there are a great many great restaurants out there. Due to the (often monopolistic) nature of school, there tend to be far better restaurants than schools, but that’s besides the point (interestingly, my friend Eisuke (who graduated from Waseda, the Princeton of Japan) says that cram schools in Japan, which function as a total market meritocracy (and are totally optional to boot) are better and funner and educationaler than school — at least the one he went to).

And I still eat out. I’m not my mother 😉 3. BUT. There are things no restaurant can ever do for you because that restaurant is not you. There are things you can do to and for yourself that no restaurant can do for you. And those things include making food that is hyper-perfectly matched to your exact tastes. 4

Learning’s like this, too. Even if Sir Richard Dawkins himself had come down from Mount Olympus, magic wand in hand, and given birth to Sir Ken Robinson and had Robinson design the curriculum for you, there are benefits that only freedom, only autonomy, can bring. There are ideas only you can have, things only you can like, combinations that will only ever occur to you, and you’re the only one who can bring these to pass — iff, that is, you are set free to do so.

People like guidance. I take guidance. I give guidance. It’s not like I cook food that’s never been cooked before, made from ingredients that didn’t previously exist, using plants that I genetically engineered and pots and pans that I created with nanites ex nihilo. 80~99.9% of what we do my be imitation, but it’s that 0.1~20% that you must have — or forcibly claim — the freedom to control, because that’s what will work (bloody marvelously) for you and that’s what will make you happy. Creativity may just be old wine in new bottles, an iPad may just be a Newton with a color screen 5, but that doesn’t make it any less important or valuable. You must be free 6; if your learning process is ever to work for you, you must be free to mold and tweak and mod and add and remove and shrink and expand.

Take the guidance; good guidance is good. Copy good ideas. But don’t take commands. Your experiences, predilections and preferences are truly unique (in combination if not in content). Forge your own path.


  1. You would be too if you had four kids going to private school simultaneously (lol).
  2. Why can’t the boffins at Alara and Alpen work this one out? Come on, boffins! Actually, Robert Kiyosaki once famously pointed out in a lecture to college students (IIRC), that anybody and their mentally challenged dog could make a better burger than McDonald’s, but that’s not the point — McDonald’s isn’t a restaurant: it’s a system (and a damn good one) in which food is an ancillary concern. Taste may be your top concern, but at Mickey D’s, it’s about as important as Princess Diana’s big sister: it used to date the Prince of Wales.
  3. Hi, Mum!
  4. Interestingly, it’s been observed that America and similar countries’ obesity epidemics correlate more or less precisely with the expansion and normalization of the “eating out” lifestyle. Clearly, there are health choices strangers will make for you that you would never make for yourself. Many sane people drink soda pop but no sane person would actually put that much sugar into a drink they made at home, from scratch.
  5. Seriously, if an iPad is “just” a Newton, then give me your iPad and I’ll get you a Newton
  6. You’re obligated to be unobligated? Weird…

  2 comments for “The One Where Richard Dawkins Taught Me About Cooking And Learning Languages

  1. Pingfa
    January 6, 2014 at 02:33

    “Take the guidance; good guidance is good. Copy good ideas. But don’t take commands.”

    True words. A lot of people don’t realize the difference. I remember once being called a sheep because I read personal development books, the same person also said I was a sheep for watching movies by specific directors, proudly stating ‘I don’t care who directed it’
    Yet, those words were not their own, and that sentence has been said many times by many people.
    If you’re speaking a language spoken by other people, you’re a copycat, you’re not ‘thinking for yourself’ If you’re watching something seen by others or reading something read by others, you’re not doing anything unique. After all:

    “It’s not like I cook food that’s never been cooked before, made from ingredients that didn’t previously exist”

    So yes. I’m a copycat. Our existence is the result of copycatting, so our creation was nothing creative.
    To say someone is not individual for using something they did not create is like saying to a cat ‘you’re not the only one to use a litter tray, you know?’

  2. 魔法少女☆かなたん
    January 7, 2014 at 04:28

    “Many sane people drink soda pop but no sane person would actually put that much sugar into a drink they made at home, from scratch.”

    Obviously, someone has never made the perfect lemonade.

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