((This is the text of the speech I was planning on giving at Ignite Ann Arbor on Friday, November 7th. Due to a conflict, I had to cancel my appearance, but I wanted to share the speech regardless.))
For 2 years I’ve been giving away free pie, mostly to people but also to the occasional dinosaur.
The whole idea is that I made the pie, but I needed countless people to plant fruit trees, harvest wheat, churn butter, drive produce trucks, and install electricity in my house first, so how can I claim that the finished product is 100% my effort and 100% mine to hoard to myself? It’s not.
In order to pursue this dream, I quit a stable job in the non profit sector, throwing away my first shot at health insurance and a stable income.
As a four time college drop out, by all rights I should have held onto that job, but within 6 months of starting the pie project, I knew I couldn’t do either half way. Faced with the choice of stability and boredom, or chaos and fulfillment, I picked chaos.
I know that sounds really brave and at the same time really reckless, but for me, it actually wasn’t much of a choice. It was more of a decision to stop trying to force myself to do the normal thing, the expected thing, at the cost of my mental and emotional well being.
Giving away free pie has been a lot of fun. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of really fantastic, supportive people from coast to coast, and I’ve also gotten a lot of criticism.
Things that people have actually said to me: Is the pie vegan? Is the pie gluten free? Do you use organic apples? Do you use biodegradable plates? Isn’t this really unhealthy? Sugar is processed with the bones of animals. If you use sugar you’re basically endorsing murder.
Twice during the course of our 2013 road trip, we offered vegan pies. The first time was because I was trying to impress a local author, who didn’t show. The second time was mostly by accident, because the people who hosted us offered us vegan baking materials. But since then, I have stood by our recipe, which includes horrible murder-sugar.
Here’s the thing. This is a labor of love, and also a labor of picking up pennies in parking lots. We could make one cruelty free, organic, single source, stone ground, artisan, vegan pie … or we could make a dozen murder-pies.
And since my goal is to share delicious pie with as many people as possible, I’m going to keep using butter and paper plates.
Moral purity is the enemy of actually getting stuff done. I struggled with it all the time on the road trip. Should we have gotten a smaller, more fuel efficient car? Should I have been buying carbon credits or planting trees? Should we have just stayed home and donated the money to a “real” charity?
But if I had been aiming for moral purity, I never would have gotten anything done. The price of moral purity is far too high, not just in dollars and cents, but in time and effort.
I could make a pie, but I need to use organic ingredients. Not palm oil though, destroys the rain forest. Has to be local. Can’t drive my car to the farmer’s market, that’s hypocritical, need to upcycle a bike from craigslist.
Can’t use plastic bags, need to sew a dozen reusable bags from old pillow cases. Can’t get the pillow cases at Salvation Army, they’re homophobic. Good thing we have Joann Fabrics around here and not Hobby Lobby, or I wouldn’t be able to buy sewing needles. It’s like a really sad version of “If you give a mouse a cookie.”
Follow the rabbit hole deep enough, and the only option becomes retreating to a cave and subsisting off of moss and rain water. And then I’d never interact with anyone. I’d have no impact on the world at all.
So, I’ve made peace with the resources I have available, and with my limitations. In the end, a real pie made of murder sugar and GMO franken-apples that I actually serve to someone is FAR better than a morally pure pie that only exists in my head.
A stumbling effort, undertaken with humility, is better than no effort at all. There’s always room to improve, but in order to improve, you have to begin.