I remember vividly, soon after being diagnosed with ALS, reading about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ Stages of Grief. And, as I was learning about the Anger stage, I actually experienced it right there and then for the first time, triggered by the realization that my father — who’s now 90-years-old, who often made my life miserable when I was growing up, who has been a Type II diabetic for many years, who has had several heart attacks, who has been losing his eyesight due to macular degeneration, who is living in an assisted living facility — by the time he dies, he will have had 30+ years more to live than I’m going to get.
THAT, I thought at the time, is NOT fucking fair!
Of course, there have been and will be plenty of people WAY worse than my dad who I will manage to outlive before I’m gone.
For instance, it’s now looking pretty good that I’ll reach my 57th birthday, coming up on August 28th, whereas Adolph Hitler, that evil sonofabitch, thankfully shot himself in the head 10 days after he turned 56.
So, I got that going for me, which is nice.
But, you know what’s REALLY not fair?
I’ll tell ya what’s not fair!
The word fair is not fair!!!
If you’ve been reading my Owl writing, you know that I occasionally like to get my English-Degree-Geek on by citing dictionary definitions and etymologies of certain words and phrases, just as I did at the beginning of my previous post. It’s part of a very common starting point for me and my process: An idea comes to mind, I think about the variety of ways I could use language to encapsulate the idea, maybe by playing around with a title for the prospective piece, followed by googling for meanings and origins, sometimes this leads to choosing different words and/or phrases to state the original idea, other times it yields better ideas that I hadn’t seen coming, and other times still it leads to a dead end and a laptop lid slammed shut in a fit of frustration.
Well, after scrolling through the Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry for the word fair for the first time — yes, it required scrolling, quite a ways in fact, even on my 17″ laptop screen — let’s just say that if my hands and arms weren’t so horribly weakened by ALS, once the laptop lid had been slammed shut in that fit of frustration, if I could have I would have flung the computer, frisbee-like, across the room.
Between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, I counted nearly 30 distinctly different uses of the word.
Fair, at just four freaking letters long, simply has no business having so many meanings! I mean, there’s another 4-letter F-word that famously has many different uses, but at least it’s a helluva lot of fun to say fuck.
For adjectives alone, there are 11 top-level listings for fair, and 4 of those listings have 2-3 sublistings each.
Hell, Merriam-Webster could add the following as a 12th listing under Adjective for this thoroughly unsexy F-word, and fewer than a handful of people on the planet would ever even notice:
fair – adjective – \ ˈfer \
12 :categorically unfair
from Fish & Bicycles
Ok, getting back to how it felt to realize that my dad would outlive me, here’s something else that’s unfair about fair.
The other day, that bit of information about my father and how I reacted to it three years ago came to my thoughts, and, three years removed, I felt surprisingly uncomfortable with having categorized it as unfair. But, rather than feeling good about, perhaps, having made some progress in moving on from the Anger stage of grief, that sense of accomplishment did not at all feel justified, and instead it felt rather pompous to claim that I had somehow transcended dualistic notions of fair/unfair.
No one likes a braggart, especially an Agnostic Pilgrim braggart, and of course I still consider many things to be fundamentally unfair. For example, I become nearly apoplectic when I think about the fact that 9 million people die every year from starvation, it’s estimated that the cost of ending world hunger ranges from $7-$265 billion, and just three of the world’s 2,755 billionaires — the three billionaires currently conducting their own obscene private space race — have a combined net worth of $380 billion.
That said, my above-described exploration of the word fair, and an excruciating hour or so spent reading the results generated by the search term “quotes+life+fairness,” were so deeply demoralizing that I very nearly gave up the idea of writing anything on this subject at all. Regarding the quotes, let’s just say that the overwhelming consensus of many minds great and/or obscure is that life is decidedly NOT fair, and one standout quote, born of an historic traumatic event, even made this humbling assertion:
“Death is the fairest thing in the world. No one’s ever gotten out of it. The earth takes everyone – the kind, the cruel, the sinners. Aside from that, there’s no fairness on earth.”
― Svetlana Aleksievich, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
F*** This F****** Rabbit Hole!
Listen, Lewis Carroll was just making shit up when he plunged Alice down the White Rabbit’s hole, transporting her to Wonderland, and Beatrix Potter was doing the same when she outfitted the hole beneath the very big fir tree where Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail lived, as if it was a cozy English country cottage.
In reality, rabbit holes are dirty dark tunnels — no lights, no candles, no plumbing, no furnished kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms — and they are NOT portals to some trippy alternate universe.
Yes, they do house tremendously adorable furry bunnies, but, sorry to say, these bunnies, as opposed to the pet shop variety, don’t want to have anything to do with you!
Now THAT — that being reality — is exactly what the rabbit hole for the word fair is like, and I really wish I had never ventured in.
So, take my advice, please, don’t spend too much of your precious time pondering fairness.
Strive, of course, for what’s fair and just, equitable and inclusive, for these things truly are important, and they are possible in that Margaret Mead-esque small-group-of-committed-citizens kind of way.
Just be prepared, there will be challenges, there will be motivation-draining defeats, like that time the scoop of ice cream fell off of your cone and landed in the sand at the beach while your brother or sister continued enjoying their ice cream, and there will even be temptations to conclude that it’s/we’re a hopeless cause.
All I can say is, however true the statement Life’s Not Fair may be, it’s really cynical and depressing as a philosophical conclusion.
Yeah, try your best to NOT be the Life’s Not Fair person … and please, go get yourself a pet bunny if it helps.