September 25, 2016

What does it mean to be fair?

Snow White

By Marc Gafni

What does it mean to be fair? In one sense being fair means to be just and good. To be fair is to be honest and have integrity.

Fairness implies appropriate weights and measure. To be fair means to give things the right weight and measure accurately.

When my sons were young the phrase that would indicate that they were the most upset or disturbed was the mixed English and Hebrew idiom, “Zeh Lo Fair.” It’s not fair. When they said that, they were appealing to a universal standard of the good and the just, which has ultimate natural authority.

The word “fair,” however has a second meaning as well. To be fair means to be beautiful.

The Queen asks the Mirror in the famous Snow White legend, Mirror on the Wall, “who is the fairest of them all.” And of course there is My Fair Lady. To be fair then is also a quality of aesthetics.

This reminds us that a lack of fairness is not merely an issue of justice but also an issue of beauty. Goodness and integrity are beautiful. To be unfair is not only a violation of justice, it is to be ugly.

All too often in the spiritual world fairness is seen as a practical obligation and an ethical value. And it is that as well. But it is so much more than that.

When someone — anyone — is treated unfairly, a kind of sordid ugliness is born into the world. It can be papered over with a thousand popular albeit numbing spiritual platitudes. It remains just as ugly.

In a forthcoming book (Radical Kabbalah, 2012) I trace the original texts in Hebrew mysticism that talk of the goddess, especially in the work of one pivotal Hasidic master. From a careful reading of that the entire Eros of the goddess is really about justice. The erotic passion of the goddess in Hassidic teaching is about the radical erotic commitment to fairness.

It is in that sense that some of the minions of the goddess in this world are sometimes called fairies. A fairy is a gentle yet sacred and seductive incarnation of the goddess. The fairy is both fair and fair. Beautiful and just. Any good devotee of Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle knows is that to believe in fairies is to give them life. If we would chant Tinkerbelle’s mantra, “I do believe in fairies I do, I do,” fairies come to life as integrity and beauty are once again united and made manifest in the land.

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