If you have spent any time with children, you have likely heard the words. Perhaps you have said them yourself. Or at least you have experienced the feeling even if you are too sophisticated to express it out loud. It is an almost universal lament.

But, it is stunning to hear the sentiment expressed by a ridiculously famous, glamorous, white, 53-year-old male celebrity, estimated to have a net worth of $240 million who, even himself admits, that in his life he “hit the lottery”.

And yet Brad Pitt in his recent GQ interview is reported to have acknowledged being driven by the troubling feeling that “life is not fair”:

“For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street,” he said. “I’m an asshole when it comes to this need for justice. I don’t know where it comes from, this hollow quest for justice for some perceived slight. I can drill on that for days and years. It’s done me no good whatsoever. It’s such a silly idea, the idea that the world is fair. And this is coming from a guy who hit the lottery, I’m well aware of that. I hit the lottery, and I still would waste my time on those hollow pursuits.”


Mr. Pitt’s honesty is refreshing. But the idea that he can “drill” for “days and years” on “some perceived slight” reveals a twisted dimension of the human condition that runs deep in the shadow side of our pysche.

Life is not fair; it has never been fair; it never will be fair. There is no such thing as justice. True justice is impossible.

Is this the face of justice in the country where Mr. Pitt resides?


Sixty-four-year-old James Ward, who has spent half his life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend over thirty years ago, speaking about a woman whose husband was murdered:

I could do 10,000 years in prison and it would never match what she has lost. When you think about unfairness my fellow murderers, think about her. That is real unfairness. Can I say that I have been treated because the Governor pulled my parole date? 

The problem with “fair”, as with the concept of “justice”, is that both operate in a world of measurement and calculation. They assume the scales can be balanced. They operate under the illusion that it is possible to make things equal, to come up with a sane, reasonable, achievable standard in which all people receive the same benefits and are equally privileged.

Nothing can balance the scales in a world where some of us are privileged to be born into circumstance of overwhelming abundance, affluence, good health, and relative safety (like Mr. Pitt and me), while others are born into a world of scarcity, poverty, sickness, and unavoidable violence (like half the world’s population).

It is not fair that in a world where Mr. Pitt has been divorced twice before reaching the age of fifty-five, I should be privileged this year to celebrate the enormous gift of forty years of marriage to the woman I married in 1977.

Life is not about fair. Life is about learning to live with unfair. It is about learning to navigate the reality of injustice and to live with the greatest possible compassion and grace in the face of  the dark and difficult forces that afflict us all to varying degrees.

This is not counsel to be indifferent to the real and tragic circumstances in which so many people are forced to live. It is simply a reminder that, no matter how privileged we are, we do better when we seek to live in reality. The universe we inhabit is not structured around equality and sameness. Life is not about measuring, weighing, and balancing. Every part of life is rife with diversity and inequality.

The challenge of living in this unequal universe is to find the beauty and richness of life just as it comes to us. The gift of an unequal world is we are given the opportunity to live with generosity, gentleness, and kindness no matter what circumstances we may have been dealt by the lottery of life.