I also had much time to reflect and I’ll share some of those reflections today. Here is one.
When I first entered the hearing room, my wife, to remind me of what I was there for, bought me a miniature scale of justice.
I couldn’t take that scale into the room but every time I sat down, I mentally placed that scale between me and the refugee claimant. I was there to dispense justice. I was to be fair in everything I said and did. My words and deeds were, so to speak, funnelled through that filter. If what I was about to say was not fair, I did not say it.
Proceeding in that way gave me a game to play. I was committed to fairness. I could measure my words and deeds against that standard.
Since then, I haven’t really had a game to play. But over the holidays I addressed that lack.
However, the manner in which I addressed it reflected things I’ve learned since then. I had enough on my mind back then that I could only address one standard. But having only one invites difficulty. Say my standard is “truth.” What happens when the truth cannot be known? Am I to remain in stalemate?
Ah, but if I add a second standard – say, “fairness” – I trigger my mind in a subtle but actual way. My mind works in pairs of opposites. If I’m committed to two values, my mind will tend to prefer one and shy away from the other. In the worst-case scenario, my mind will make one right and the other wrong.
I see it doing this. So having two values is not a stable path of growth either.
It isn’t until I have three values that I find a combination that really produces growth. The mind cannot use “make-wrong” with three elements. If it makes one element right and the other wrong, it unintentionally raises the stature of the third.
Since my mind balks at doing this, I tend to stop my judging process and simply observe whether I am following the standard or not. I have short-circuited my mind by choosing three.
As it happens, anthropologists might tell us, three is the preferred number among Western Europeans. Four is the preferred number among native Indians, apparently. But our minds tend to pop at four. We seldom go beyond three in any sequence we describe. A sequence of three is regarded as somehow well-designed, appropriate – four as excessive.
Until I have a standard that I’m aligning with, or “truing up” to, as Werner Erhard might say, I’m not progressing as rapidly as I might. My efforts are uninspired and hit-and-miss. But once I have a standard, I can see how I’m doing and craft my behavior with more precision and impact.
So, over the holidays, I agreed to commit myself to three standards of value: truth, love, and fairness.
I reflected long and hard on why I didn’t choose truth, love, and peace. But then I saw that for me fairness = justice and justice includes peace. Many international charters and conventions of justice imply or state explicitly that, under most circumstances (not all), justice aims for and results in peace. So I felt that, if I committed to fairness, I was more or less committing to peace as well, whereas the opposite might not be true.
So over the holidays I agreed to commit myself to truth, love, and fairness.
In a world that operates a lot by fast judgments and sloganeering, this is a challenging decision to make. Our society can be a lot like dogs who pee on the same fire hydrant. It can be uncomfortable to leave the tribe or not to join what Alfred Webre calls a “meme.”
If you watch the rise of Islamophobia around us, you’ll see that this society is not firmly and stably grounded in fairness. We use labels and slogans and feel we’ve wrapped the situation up quite neatly and it feels hard to me to let go of that tendency once and for all. Instead of ensuring that I stay on the “right” side of public opinion, I’m agreeing to stay on the “right” side of truth, love and fairness.
It feels like the next place to go for me. I need a game to play, one that promises to ennoble, not to debase. And this game seems to fit with everything that is happening now at this time of the great cosmic shift that we all are a part of.