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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Human Norms

Fairness

...the Hindu tradition has a deity know as Vishnu, who both destroys and bestows life, often in that order. Although fairness and justice are beautiful gravities by which we human creatures try to live with one another, the storm and the germ, the termites eating the foundation of your home, the errant stone breaking your windshield, the wave swamping your little boat—these molecules of experience do not understand what is fair. They just bombard us in the endless cosmic dance of life that just keeps happening.”
Mark Nepo (The Book of Awakening)

The first sentence in Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled, is: “Life is difficult.” It is stated in the Gospel of Matthew (5:45) this way: [your Father in heaven] “makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the just and the unjust.” Fairness is not part of the contract we have with the divine realm. The idea of fairness only occurs to humankind. I watch the girl-dogs in my care (all 5 of them) sort things out by way of who is the alpha dog—and she may not be the largest one of them. They think nothing of snatching each others toy or cookie—if you get there first, it's yours. Fairness comes into the equation only when I impose it.

We humans claim to have a deep sense of fairness—we don't always live by it, but we know fairness when we see it, and we know injustice when we see it. We're perfectly capable, however, of being in denial about what is and isn't fair. We're known, in fact, to call what is best for us fair, and what is best for someone else unfair. We know how to parse these complicated human-only concepts in ways that benefit us—we just have a bit more finesse than the dogs. It is our religious beliefs and our societal norms that say we should treat one another fairly. Commandments like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and that long string of “Thou shalt not..” come into play mostly when they agree with our own wants and desires. If that sounds cynical, it is, but it's also true.

Life is going to be unjust for each of us in different ways. I may have some random illness that you do not. I may be struck by a drunk driver who narrowly misses you. You may have someone hack your accounts and steal all your hard-earned cash, while I don't. What happens to any of us may seem unjust, but truly is just the luck of the draw, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are, however, injustices in this world that we have some control over. Prejudice, for instance, especially institutionalized prejudice based on all those categories we quote—race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, nationality—are things we can do something about. These are behaviors on our part that can be addressed and changed. As people of conscience, we owe it to our souls to root prejudice out of our own hearts, and free ourselves from its toxic influence.

                                                           In the Spirit,

                                                                Jane

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