I continue to be intrigued by the fairness argument. Not particularly at a personal level-although my episode does seem unfair. But more by our wish to see the world as fair in the first place. I’ve just re-read the first account of Creation in Genesis. There is a simplicity to it. A sense of order and purpose with each part making an overall picture of the Universe. It is an ordered place. Then in chapter three we get the story of how Adam and Eve choose knowledge that they seem ill equipped to deal with. The rest, as they say, is history. The first murder occurs and everything falls apart. This seems a high price to pay for knowledge except that it has been worked out so many times over the centuries. Knowledge is power. And each leap in knowledge adds more power to a group somewhere. (What would the world look like to us if we never sought knowledge?)
I am very aware as I write this of being in a position of great privilege. I live in a house I love. I have a garden that complements the house. This is situated in a small enclave of privilege in a town that is comfortable. I am sitting in my study writing on my computer with my one or two questions sitting in my mind but none of them are life threatening questions. I am not a refugee in a camp in the middle of a desert .I have not had my wife and children blown up by a missile sent from another continent. I am not likely to be arrested and tortured by the ruling elite because they dislike something I have written. ( I have no idea what I would do in any of these situations and, frankly, hope to never find out.) It is unfair that due to a succession of accidents I am where I am.
Which brings me back to my central question about why suffering occurs. The origins of “fair” are in the idea of something beautiful to the eye. Thus the idea of morality being attractive.(And the opposite. Unfairness is also displeasing to the eye.) Justice is also connected to fairness in the sense of an item of clothing being a just or a good fit. So a just person is one who is appropriately dressed in clothes that fit. Justice is supposed to be a good fit.
So, going on from here we have to face a world where many things do not fit well. Teenagers are murdered and dismembered. Classrooms full of students are gunned down “because I don’t like Mondays.” Where is the fitness in all of this? And why does so much of the world seem determined to keep its neighbours badly dressed?
In some ways having an omnipotent God in charge is simpler. “I don’t understand His purpose for my life, but I trust that there is one.” (In my fundamentalist days we called it The Cross. ” I don’t understand why this is happening to me but I believe it is for my own good. My sinful self is being crucified so that I may better serve God.” I now find that a most ill fitting argument but it still sells well.
The other option is that everything is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds. Which works until I look out from my refugee camp somewhere and see how other “best worlds” are out there to which I don’t have access.
The other options take as much time and energy to explore. I haven’t come anywhere near offering an answer .Maybe, to quote my chaplain colleague, the only answer is there is no answer. In which case, why bother? Just accept that Life is Not Fair. It’s simple. It fits all cases. But… it feels unsatisfactory to me. A kind of off the peg fit. Not made to measure.