The Nirvana Fallacy
Updated: Jan 29
Joe: Welcome to Solarpunk Life
Jason: Recently Joe and I took the crew to Roanoke, Virginia, where we had a very nice sit down with our friend Mark Davis. Mark is an artist. Mark is a teacher and Mark is very active within his community, uh, he's also a friend of the show and a friend of the movement, uh, you may see him on our social media feeds he's very active and very vocal, um.
Joe: What we did was we had a series of conversations with Mark and we thought we would break it up into multiple episodes and make a little series out of it so this is the first in the series where we talk about the Nirvana Fallacy let's get into it.
Jason: What about now? Okay?
Joe: “Electric antlers” that's our that's our band name.
Mark: It's a solar punk’s xenomorph over here.
Joe: That's right.
Mark: He carries his lighting with him absorbs solar lighting all day and just emits it when he has to.
Joe: that would be really cool.
Mark: Yeah. He’s an NPC we call him novella cause he's always sitting there with a book.
Joe: So one topic we definitely wanted to cover today, we talked about this beforehand, is the Nirvana Fallacy.
Joe: And soI thought maybe we just go ahead and start off with the topics we know we want to cover so, uh, really.
Jason: Joe tell everybody what the nirvana fallacy is.
Joe: Oh yeah you're to bring it down to me I see
Mark: Kurt Cobain is actually alive and in Seattle now.
Jason: I was really going to do this one in a Nirvana shirt and ripped jeans and a flannel but that's old Jason
Joe: right right so the Nirvana Fallacy it is the misconception that you should not take any action unless that action is absolutely perfect
Mark: I find this all the time when I'm trying to teach art I get people who show up they sit down at a potter's wheel and 15 minutes later they say well I’m not good at this. a best case scenario this takes a month to get up too crappy
Joe: right right
Mark: ...and people give up when 15 minutes are up right
Joe: I like to say the first step of doing anything good is doing it really badly
Mark: yeah right right if you want to be really good at something go out and suck at it
Jason: that's right that's right out of jake the dog from adventure guys getting good at something means suck it at it first
Joe: and the the problem happens not only in people sitting down and actually trying to do something but even just trying to come up with solutions for problems
Mark: and this is where the destructors come in “I'm just asking questions”
Mark: well what if someone's a one-legged pirate who has a blind dog right stop it right uh it's like
Joe: I knew this guy once who got a free sandwich from McDonald's so
Mark: yeah yeah
Joe: so that's bad yeah uh and i think what it ends up doing is it ends up cutting off avenues of exploration and it ends up sucking the oxygen out of the room and and you can't have a conversation when you've got a what about-er uh in the in that conversation you can't have a conversation when somebody is afraid to try those are like the two extreme sides of the Nirvana Fallacy I can't try this because it's not perfect
Jason: or insulted because they came to the table with something and it got immediately shut down with the negative side that we can't do this or we can't do that because then it stops them from coming to the table with something again and the whole point of of an intentional community or a movement like solarpunk is to incorporate ideas so it would be I come to the table with with an idea idea X all right Mark is like hey that's great let's you know let's let's pick it apart right Joe was like that's never going to work we can't do that he's like that
Jason: … oh no he's not
Joe: or not even or not even that's never going to work let's not do that it's like oh well yeah but that uses lithium which is bad
Jason: yeah so rather than put the idea on the table and dissect it you get that negative run so you put the idea on the table and you dissect it you take out the parts that don't work and you find the positive parts that do and if you have to add more to it you do that in a positive way it's not dumping on somebody the minute they come up with something we don't all agree on things we're never going to agree on I mean Joe and I couldn't agree on how the lights work in this episode today um but when everybody is open to everyone else's ideas things flow a little better
Joe: I think the other dangerous thing that happens too is um that people don't understand opportunity cost uh and opportunity cost is when you fail to do something it can cost you money right it's it's not so much that oh I've tried to do something and it cost me money because it failed but failure to try something can cost you in the long run as well they say you know it's really really hard to win the lottery for example but you can't win if you never play right there's an opportunity cost in business if you don't invest in your business you'll never grow your business that is an opportunity cost and so those two things kind of work hand in hand in that uh from a solarpunk perspective if we don't start trying to fix things now with imperfect solutions we're going to be stuck where we are with no solutions and so we have to allow for imperfect solutions to whatever problems we have or we're going to be stuck
Mark: and there's an opposite end of that that's a problem too it's the person who starts to read a little bit about recycling and now they're going to blame every person after they've taken one drink from something about what that's not the end-all be-all right uh the opposite of the Nirvana Fallacy is all your eggs in a basket with a hole in it
Mark: right uh but the arts are where I see it played out all the time I'm not perfect at this so let's stop right you also see it a lot in America especially in arguments about legislation right uh well if we make guns illegal well if we legalize drugs well i mean you know yes there will be a negative aspect almost anything
Mark: everything's a cost-benefit analysis and everyone, not everyone, so many of the people that we run into or some of the people that you talk to any cost is too much
Mark: the way I saw this played out really well was one of the airlines decided they'd be letting on any emotional support animal someone brought and a friend of mine said great I'm gonna end up on a plane next to someone with a pony I'm like you can't not help people because someone may one time take advantage of this
Jason: well there was that there was that lady who tried to bring the emu on
Mark: uh there somebody was traveling with a peacock i read
Jason: maybe it was a peacock it was it wasn't it was a big foul not something you want to sit next to on an airplane I'll sit next to a monkey all damn day I'm not sitting next to an emu it's just not happening
Mark: so we're going to block ten thousand golden retrievers because one person travels around with an emu
Joe: right right right
Mark: uh i want to live in a world where somebody travels with emus right
Joe: I want to live in a world where the airlines have seats where an actual leg room
Mark: would be nice I think we should I think we should all be issued a golden retriever when we show up to the airplane right it's pretty anxiety-inducing experience
Jason: your flight puppy
Mark: if you'll fold down your golden retriever in front of you you can feel better about the flight
Jason: you know this principle and I I actually this morning I was I was in the shower ~~shower thoughts~~ no um i was thinking about in ninth grade
I had a science teacher who took part of a quarter he took his entire class and taught etiquette and manners right out of emily post now this was 25 years ago maybe I was in the ninth grade um and he went through everything taught you how to answer the phone taught you how to talk in polite company taught you how to dine taught you how to exist then he had like this big dinner at the end where everybody you know dressed up in the
Joe: the science teacher?
Jason: he was the right fork you know so it was kind of like a social sciences so he got away with it and it worked because it was it really educated people on what to do but we moved on from that and we moved into making rockets like you know bottle rocket things and I took mine up to his desk and I said what do you think about this and he said you know I really like it you've got aspects of this this and this and I said I don't feel like I like it very much and he looked write me splurge dead square in the eye and said you learned nothing last quarter did you and I stopped and I said i'm really sorry I asked for your opinion you gave it to me and then I dumped on it and he said apology accepted he said just remember that I think it's really good it's not perfect but you're doing a great job with it he said but when you ask someone for their opinion and they give it to you don't immediately be like well I don't like it he said because that that's it's insulting that that's always stuck in my head you know uh that that that lesson plan and everything and and it popped back in this morning when I was thinking about how to set this episode up so I think we're gonna go long-winded and tell that story but this is exactly what we're talking about um it's not about being positive all the time
Joe: no definitely not
Jason: it’s very hard to be positive all the time
Joe: I I do like to ask people though what kind of feedback do you want
Mark: like we have this discussion a lot we have this discussion
Jason: are you ranting or do you need advice do you want me to help you fix it
Joe: do you want help do you want a listening ear and if you want help what level of help do you want
Mark: I always think about it as the ZW because uh when I'm painting when I'm making things I'll look at my wife and say “Zat Work?” and Zat Work? is eeeh or a nod right and then other times it's it's what do you think or fill me in about this and that's when you you want somebody to expound upon what you're doing and get a full critique but the big ZW is Zat Work it's worked well between us yeah no
Joe: I like that um uh I do you know I'm a software engineer and so we do code reviews at work a lot of times and so uh what that involves is me showing my work, my code, to another person and them going eeeeh you know and and giving a judge a value judgment on it and so you can get everything down from I think you need some more comments to support your code or I don't understand what's going on or why did you build it that way right? and those are three three entirely different levels of critique in in my profession um you know like if somebody if you were to go to somebody and say Zat Work? and you're showing them a picture of the shape of a blue hippopotamus yeah on a black field and they go why didn't you paint a pig
Mark: yeah I like pigs right
Joe: and the thing is not helpful
Mark: what kills me about tying in with the Nirvana Fallacy and the people who come in with these things is I always want to tell them we don't have to go looking for failure we can find it together real easily right
Joe: the devil doesn't need any advocates
Mark: ...and you'll learn this one quickly in the art field you get crushed out of it if if I sell to one percent of the people who show up at a show I'm an amazing hero yeah right uh nobody hits one percent if I if I were to sell one percent of the people in this county people would come and write articles about how you pulled it off we can find plenty of failure right why are you bringing that to me make it shine it polish it right uh make it work
Joe: this comes back to something else that Mark has talked about a bunch that's called the the gross theory
Mark: gross theory is one of my favorites
Joe: and so I'm going to let Mark expand on what the gross theory is
Mark: uh a gross is 144. a gross is a dozen-dozen right. Well when we were becoming people from becoming things that lived in trees and looked a lot like people that weren't quite we ran around in about a gross. A gross of people is enough that we have enough genetic diversity that no one's giving birth to a blob right uh but it's not so many people that we can't find leftovers from the lions and berries on the bushes and feed us all it's a really magical number to cruise around in and in the modern world especially with technology and communication I live in a world of 8 billion I don't live in a world of 144. so when I go to dance I get compared to Gene Kelly the the Fred Astaire whichever one of them danced and Gene Kelly was a cowboy
Jason: they both danced
Mark: I get compared to Fred Astaire. If I want to sing I get compared to some incredible singer. I think what's important to remember is we're meant to be in these groups of 144. And if we grabbed 144 random people off the street I may be the best potter in the world.
Joe: right in that world.
Mark: yeah in that world and that's all we really should be aiming for be able to sing at your neighborhood picnic yeah right uh be the best painter in your neighborhood be the best darn data atlas on seventh and montrose right right uh it doesn't you don't have to be that exceptional to make an amazing contribution. I teach literacy and there's teachers out there I'm sure do amazing things and go to conferences and stuff. I'd really like to be the best english teacher in this building, yeah. right that's all i really need that's an amazing contribution. But we're all pushed if you don't dance like Britney Spears while singing like someone who doesn't use auto-tune while you know being a jet mechanic and inventing radar like that Hollywood starlet all at once.
Mark: uh we worship the apex of the pyramid and those people are supposedly invulnerable and the rest of us were walking around with pretty amazing skills. If you self-publish and 10 people buy your book you're an amazing part of gross theory. Right if three people chuckle when you tell a joke you're an amazing comedian you don't have to be on a night at the apollo and make saturday night
Jason: if if five of you watch what we produce all of our stuff we're doing right
Jason: we're we that's that's our expectation is is we want we all the followers in the world are fantastic like and subscribe um but but if there are that handful of you guys out there who really like what we put out and really follow everything you you've made you've met our purpose and one we thank you for that and two that's that's that's the intent is to not be the premiere you know web series
Joe: I was yeah i was talking about that
Jason: it's just to be the best we can be and be happy with what we put out
Joe: I was uh in getting my car serviced and the guy at the shop noticed my bumper stickers and so we started up a conversation about things because I got bumper stickers for bands that friends of mine do for movies that they've produced um you know a a review of the art of dungeons and dragons called “Eye of the Beholder” yeah yeah and “Of Dice and Men”
Mark: probably some “Kindred Crow” in there
Joe: got Kindred Crow on there right
Jason: Lost Colonies soon to be Torakand
Joe: yeah yeah um so you know my bumper stickers now strike up a conversation and I was talking about solarpunk and Solarpunk Life and the channel and whatnot and the guy that goes and pulls it up on his phone because i'm going to subscribe to you right um but he asked me “what's your goal for your channel?” and without stopping a beat I said “I want to change the world.” but yeah you know that's the goal but we're not I'm not expecting to change the world entirely because of a video that I put out right I changed the world because I've changed one person
Mark: not looking to restructure the entire economic system in the in the geosurface of the planet
Joe: no but if I want to
Jason: change Joe's world and Jason's
Joe: yes and then that ripples out right and that grows and you know we've got people that are watching this channel now from all over we have confirmed from Denmark at least right
Jason: sorry about that package
Mark: if you want to know everyone wants to tell you if you want to be powerful you have to get all these people together or you have to get a huge movement going and they'll believe that when they're negative but listen to them when they're negative in another way they'll tell you well I can't anymore because of the feminist how many people are we talking about because of the hard I can't before because black people don't let me I can't anymore because the politically correct won’t let me or the environmental lobby won't let me that's a little tiny sliver of people right uh I I think if you'll if you'll take a poll and look around you'll find between 10 and 20 percent it varies all over uh of american population is homosexual some people say as little as eight but a lot of time now the gay mafia runs everything well man I didn't know I could take over with only eight percent
Jason: we didn't know that he was going to say that gay mafia all right I know we're going to send you the money sorry it's uh
Mark: but but if people feel like they're being bullied by these minority groups it must not take many people doing something different to make a huge difference well actually
Joe: it's it's kind of funny I was going to say that i've read that it takes three percent if three percent of a population in a country is very actively political they can influence an election they can influence policy and what scares me about that of course is that when you look at the statistics at least in america right now at least six or seven percent identify as white supremacist scares the crap out of me
Mark: are either of you familiar with 100th monkey theory?
Mark: there was a book that came out in the 70s it was anti-nuclear war and the theory was the 100th monkey and the story they tell which I I can't confirm was that a group of researchers were on a small island off of Japan where there's a string of islands and they were observing some macaques now like good scientists they would never interfere with their subjects so during lunch they'd cut off a piece of yam and throw it to a monkey and a young monkey took one of these yams but had sand stuck to it and they were always brushing off the sand and eating and took it down and washed it with salt water well when you take something sweet and put it in salt water it gets sweeter and the sand comes off and its mother watched it do this and started watching her yams then a third monkey started washing their yams and this went up and up and when the hundredth monkey theoretically not exactly started washing their yams monkeys on the other islands started washing their food because we are part of a collective consciousness and their theory when they wrote the book was we'd like to disarm all nuclear weapons we've got 99 of us would you like to be our hundredth monkey right are you the 100th monkey and there's a little drawing a drawing of a monkey on every page with a sign that said nuclear war is bad for flowers bad for children bad for Jason bad for monkeys right uh but and i've seen this over and over again there is a tipping point in every situation and people like to pile on after the tipping point yes think about how good it feels to be the last person before it dips right
Jason: war period right this nuclear war period
Mark: yeah yeah think about how good it is to be the first person on the teeter-totter right there's a tipping point there somewhere maybe it's a hundred maybe it's ten thousand but it's not going to happen until we find out where it is
Joe: solar power is now confirmed to be the least expensive source of electricity in the world
Mark: it makes sense
Joe: it's less expensive than coal it's less expensive than nuclear power it's less expensive than anything else and
Mark: and it creates more jobs
Joe: cost per kilowatt hour um it also creates more jobs uh and the to bring it back to the Nirvana Fallacy you'll find people in solar punk groups who are arguing against solar power because of the the minerals that are necessary to make the the panels are mined in some places in an unethical way
Mark: so and I think everyone's looking in the Nirvana Fallacy for that perfection and I like to bring them back to world war II if your grandfathers went over to Europe and fought world war II and the nazis had held Germany would you be ashamed of these people for fighting nazis
Mark: right sometimes you're gonna fight and lose uh there's a meme that goes around with Picard and he says you can do all the right things
Jason: that's my favorite one of his favorite quotes yeah
Mark: do everything correct and still lose that's not unfair that's just life
Joe and Jason: that's just life
Mark: yeah you have to you have to fight the good fight uh if you're not please go home I got somebody else who can put on that jersey yeah get out of the way yeah yeah
Joe: lead follow or get out of the way
Mark: right yeah lead follower I will sit you down
Jason: so let's let's uh let's let's wrap up the the Nirvana Fallacy conversation by saying don't always look for the perfect solution right off the cuff
Joe: don't limit yourself don't let perfect become the enemy of good
Jason: don't, yeah, don't let that be the enemy of process and progress um
Joe: try things be a bad potter make a terrible song you know cook something for your friends that they kind of go (makes face)
Jason: and you know and and when someone brings that idea to the table think about how you would feel if it was your idea and everybody stepped on it and
Mark: I don't don't just attempt it if you don't mind me saying so uh document it uh we all at this point we curate our lives for the internet and for social media. I love to record my failures right? I get a lot of people who ask me I've had spills on paintings, I break things they're like why do you post that I'm like I don't want you to feel bad about being you right I'm not here to for idolatry I screw up a lot right and I think my screw-ups are pretty entertaining
Joe: well it you know and and and to continue from that we learn from failure
Mark: yes it's the only way we learn
Joe: the only way we learn and we can learn from other people's failures
Mark: that's what makes us unique yeah well uniqueish
Jason: So there you have it there's the first in our series with Mark Davis and we covered the nirvana fallacy. Don't forget to like and subscribe follow us on social media and if you'd like to continue the conversation about the Nirvana Fallacy use those networks that we have set up and we'd be more than happy to discuss it with you. And as always do good
Joe: be good
Joe: we use this when we cut away because we screwed something up
Mark: I used to get three minutes every Monday at the noon news at my local station in Bluefield to talk about arts and I went out in the first lady even though I've been interviewed a lot it's always been on the street or in my and this was my first time and she I said what do I do she says just no matter what you do don't look at the camera and what she meant was don't preach into the camera right and I came in I interviewed and I did this and then yeah I was like I was like right like it was a weeping angel or something right
Joe: make sure you like and subscribe to follow us (garbled mouth noises)
Jason: you want me to take that one