Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Musings on Fairness.

I've been thinking a lot about the connection between fairness and happiness of late. It seems like there are so many people who are clamoring for everything to be equitable and fair. But, my thought is that there is really no such thing as fairness. We aren't going to receive the same blessings, or material goods in life. Nor are we going to all have the same opportunities or trials or consequences. Everyone is different. Each person is born with different talents, and abilities. In addition, circumstances in life are constantly changing and shifting.

My most recent demand for fairness came this morning. There is a saying that many teachers hang on their walls which says, "Fair isn't everybody getting the same thing, fair is everybody getting what they need to be successful." As a teacher, I kind of buy into this theory. I know a lot of backstory for each student. I feel that I am often aware of special needs that certain students might have. So, I might buy lunch for one student (because I know that a family is struggling), but not buy lunch for everyone. I remember having a gifted artist in my class a few years back. School was often frustrating for him. He was operating at a different level than any of the other students in the class. He was a deep thinker, a worrier. I remember getting permission from his mom for us to go to a museum together one summer afternoon. I knew that he needed to see that he wasn't alone, that there were other people who also viewed the world differently. We were standing in front of a giant painting by Sandow Birk, and it just blew this kid away. He could see Mr. Birk's intense vision of the world. Would all of the students have appreciated the museum visit? Probably not.

Sometimes we feel inspiration of how to help others or how to interact with others. Personally, I believe that this inspiration is divine. It's there if you want to listen to it, and it doesn't have to be there, if you choose to ignore it.

The world isn't fair, and this causes much unhappiness for many people. Personally, it doesn't seem wise to entirely tie your personal happiness to external situations. I listened to a book about a slave named Amos Fortune in my studio last week, while I was working. It was a perfect example of realizing that life is absolutely not fair. But, the main character, after recognizing this situation, continued to strive for his own measure of contentment. It was hard to listen to the many obstacles and tragedies that he had to overcome. But, he went through life doing his best in his struggles. And, felt that he had done what was right with the life that he was given.

So, find happiness in small things. Gratitude often brings the greatest happiness. There are so many small things that can spark joy. Instead of worrying that others are mistreating you, focus on how you are behaving towards others. Some of the unhappiest, most bitter people that I know constantly keep track of slights. They count them up. They ignore their personal actions, focusing instead on infractions. Be responsible for yourself, and how you behave. Be more observant. Look for the upsides to situations. There almost always is an upside.

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