The Scales of Justice: Dream-Like or Eternal?
Are “equality” and “justice” and “fairness” archetypes that have some kind of actual (subtle transpersonal) existence, perhaps in the mode of Platonic Forms?
Or are they bona fide attributes of the Divine: qualities that flow forth spontaneously via a bodymind that is fully transparent to its eternal Source?
Or are they merely conceptual abstractions, valid only in relative contexts, say in the mode of Wittgenstein’s “language games”?
Sharing A Cake
I have no idea. But just for fun, let’s explore the simple activity of sharing a cake.
Say I’m spending time with a friend. A chocolate cake appears, along with a knife and two plates. Fairness, justice, equality would seem to dictate that we split the cake 50/50 – use the knife to cut it down the middle, place one half of the cake on each plate, each of us then enjoying the same amount of cake (while also enjoying our shared commitment to fairness, justice and equality).
But while the concepts of fairness, justice and equality exist at the level of mind – and perhaps their essence belongs to a transpersonal archetypal or eternal “dimension” – the act of eating a cake is at least in part (large part?) a phenomenal event. And no two human bodies – the phenomenal locus of the “act of eating” — are identical.
Decisions: Weighty or Light?
My body, for instance, weighs about 140 lbs. – and has a certain corresponding need for daily calorie intake – along with a specific level of efficiency of the digestive system. Now let’s imagine that my friend (a professional basketball player) weighs 240 lbs. – and so has a daily calorie intake requirement that is probably a good 70% higher than my daily calorie intake requirement (“all else being equal” which of course it isn’t, but we’ll just assume for now).
Let’s imagine, further, that it’s 8:00pm, and neither of us have eaten anything earlier in the day: This cake will be the first and only food for the day. Given the substantially larger size of my friend’s body, is a 50/50 split of the cake still the choice that’s in greatest alignment with fairness, justice and equality? An argument certainly could be made for a 70/30 split of the cake – which would equalize the percent of daily calorie intake that each of our bodies was receiving, given our respective body weights.
Justice & Mathematics
The point, I suppose, is that what is “fair” or “just” (or “appropriate” or “skillful”) isn’t necessarily a mathematically “equal” distribution of whatever it is that is being distributed.
Some other scenarios to illustrate the same point: (1) my friend has a severe gluten allergy, so even a single bite of the cake will be hugely detrimental to his health; (2) I have a severe chocolate addiction, so anything less than 80% of the chocolate cake means I continue to suffer from withdrawal symptoms; (3) my spiritual values place generosity above equality, so I’m actually happier offering 70% of the cake to my friend, than I would be splitting it 50/50; (4) my friend harkens from a culture whose central value is ascetic minimalism, and I know that he will be offended if I offer him anything more than 10% of the cake.
The bottom line: what will be most beneficial in a given context can never be wholly predetermined via abstract notions of justice, fairness or equality. The power of spontaneously perfect action — what in Taoism is known as wuwei — is precisely its spontaneous quality: It’s “rightness” is wholly non-conceptual, while at the same time intimately attuned to the radical uniqueness of the moment, with all its (apparently) phenomenal texture.
Cakes & Cakes
Another way to explore this fairness, justice and equality issue is to allow our cakes to be made of ingredients other than flour, butter, chocolate and eggs.
* What about a “cake” made of C-notes? As we slice it, we’re met with the face of not one but hundreds of Benjamin Franklins, cascading out onto our plate with frosting-like majesty. Is our impulse (or lack thereof) to share 50/50 greater or less than it was when the cake was made of flour and eggs?
* How about if our “cake” is made of beef: a meatloaf? If we’re a vegetarian, what’s the most moral choice: to offer our friend 100% of the meatloaf (so we ourselves won’t have to eat any of it) — or to offer our friend none of it (saving them the karmic repercussions of doing harm to another sentient being)?
* And how about when our “cake” is a beefcake (of the human variety)? I have a crush on the same person that my friend does. Do we share this person 50/50 – with fifteen nights of the month allotted to each of us (and a coin-flip for the final night of months with 31 days)? Or in this case are notions of fairness, justness and equality eclipsed or at least modified by rites of competition and/or rights of ownership, of one sort or another?
Cakes, Sharing & Pure Awareness
And what effect does seeing clearly our non-conceptual, transpersonal “equality” within the “space” of Pure Awareness have on how we answer any or all of these questions?
Just food for thought ….. (Bon Apetit!)