On Hazelnuts and Humility
Any fool can know. The point is to understand. —Albert Einstein
Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle. —Ian Maclaren
Above: Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that some things must be experienced to be known.
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The difference between belting out “Piano Man” alongside thousands of concertgoers at Madison Square Garden and taking in Billy Joel’s raucous performance from the comfort of your own home is deep, wide, and unfathomable.
The chasm between turning the pages of Cyrano de Bergerac and pocketing an engagement ring after a failed proposal is similarly mammoth.
Experience is unequivocally the best teacher; a hand laid atop a hot stove leaves more of an impression (quite literally) than a word of warning.
These examples are endless: a teenager’s first kiss, a freshman’s first Notre Dame football game,1 a person’s first scoop of Nutella.
Some things can’t be taught, conveyed, or articulated, instead they must be lived. I call these Nutella Lessons.
(There’s a lesson here about AI’s inherent paradox: how it “experiences” nothing yet knows everything. But that’s a thought for another day.)
I use the ooey gooey spread as an example because of its distinctiveness.
No matter how vividly I describe its decadent, not-too-sweet-but-just-right flavor, its viscose, creamy silk-and-velvet texture, or its comforting-yet-indulgent milky quality, you will never know the pure chocolate bliss that comes from smearing a generous dollop on fresh, crumbly biscotti and taking a big bite.2
You may think you know from the preceding, adjective-rich sentence, but you don’t. You can’t.
Perhaps no scene better encapsulates these sorts of lessons than the below found in Good Will Hunting:
William’s brilliant words and inimitable delivery are timeless:
You're just a kid, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about…You've never been out of Boston…
If I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.
If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus of your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.
You're a tough kid and if I ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.
If I ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you.
You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart.
You're an orphan right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in.
In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel writes:
Your personal experiences with money make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.
As with money, so too with life; decisions that seem irrational to others often make perfect sense to the person making them.
Again, some things can’t be taught, conveyed, or articulated, instead they must be lived.
Our personal odometers vary and our tire treads wear down in different places. There is no one right way to do things, only the most right way for you.
So the next time you’re inclined to judge or criticize a fellow traveler, spoon a hefty glob of Nutella, take a bite, and remember its lessons.
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on
With sincere gratitude,
As legendary Irish Coach Lou Holtz remarked, “Those who know Notre Dame, no explanation's necessary. Those who don't, no explanation will suffice.”
More, calling to mind the chocolatey, hazelnut-ty nectar engages all five senses—it is something visceral that you can taste, touch, hear, see, and smell.
Per John Medina’s Brain Rules, people who learn using multiple senses retain information better than those who used only one sense—even twenty years after first acquiring the information. More, multisensory learners show much greater problem-solving skills than single-sense learners. This is logical; if you remember a recipe, you probably did more than just read it. Instead, you engaged your senses of smell, touch, and taste by preparing and then cooking it.