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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

THE (UN)FAIRNESS OF LIFE

You can believe that #Life is unfair, or you can think that it's fair, just as it is. Guess which choice is going to di(stress) you most?

The fairness debate reared its head in the context of #CasterSemenya's emphatic performance in the recent #RioOlympics. It's not a debate confined to the likes of Caster, but actually to every aspect of our lives.

As far as Caster is concerned, the debate is whether it is fair for her to compete as a woman given that she has natural testosterone levels reportedly three times higher than most women. Her competitors and detractors say that this isn't fair because women just shouldn't have that much testosterone and speculate (unproven) that that's what gives her super-powers over other women. Well, yes, but does that entitle Justin Gatlin and every other competitor ever beaten by Usain Bolt to complain that his superior size, leg length and quick twitch muscles are unfair and therefore he should not be allowed to race? And has anyone ever bothered to measure Bolt's natural testosterone levels? Or should swimmers be heard to complain that Michael Phelps has freakishly long arms which should be trimmed? Or would it become fair if Caster Semenya were to compete in the men's events despite the fact that she is a woman? I don't recall her complaining that she came from a poor background, or that many of her First World competitors have had access to massive government funding, advanced training programmes and facilities and first rate nutrition all their lives. Is that fair given that many African athletes simply have to make do with what is available to them and rise above their circumstances? Does more natural testosterone outweigh the advantages of sustained funding, proper training facilities and nutrition? The trouble is, you can't make Life fair.

Certainly, you can make sure that your kids get equal sized portions of food at dinner-time, or that they get the same education, or that sports teams each get a relatively equal chance to play with or against the wind, but that fairness only occurs when someone has some control over the situation. For the most part, we have no control over what Life delivers of its own accord, so if Life chooses to gift (or curse) one person with different physical or intellectual attributes than the next, or more money and privilege, we can either bitch and moan that it's unfair, or we can accept that Life is perfectly fair just as it is.

How often do we hear about people born into poor, abusive or dysfunctional families rising above their circumstance, not by chance but because of the very circumstances in which they found themselves? It is easy enough to blame your circumstances on what Life delivered you in the first place - your inability to run fast, your family's poorness, your parents' alcoholism or your unfortunate looks - but whilst those circumstances may seem unfair relative to Mo Farah, Bill Gates or Brad Pitt, sometimes those circumstances can also be the very catalyst which motivates you to take a stand for yourself, learn from what Life has to offer and excel in something.

The moment you compare your life to those of others, it is easy to conclude that Life is fundamentally unfair and then you invite into your life stress, dissatisfaction, resentment or whatever else follows the meaning which you put on unfairness. When you stop comparing and simply get that Life is exactly as it is, the limiting thought processes that go with the 'unfair' judgement dry up and all sorts of creative possibilities manifest themselves. It is the difference between feeling sorry for what Life did to you and feeling grateful for what Life delivered to you. Your athletic gifts may not be the same as those of Olympic athletes, but your intellectual gifts may far exceed them. You may not have as much money as Donald Trump, but then again you might  feel very blessed not to be Donald Trump. You might not look like Angelina Jolie, but you might have your health intact.

Life can never be fair, if fairness means equality with your neighbour in every single sphere, but Life is inherently fair if we just accept that it delivers as it sees fit, whether we asked for what it delivered or not, and its invitation is to see what you can do with what you got.

Our mind-set when we demand that everything should be fair is wide-open to discord and broad dissatisfaction. Our mind-space when we accept that Life is fair as it is opens up to peace and all sorts of creative possibilities. 

Where would you rather be?

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