For my participation in the Compassion Games, I committed to small acts of kindness. Whether it was holding the door for someone hot on my heels at the store, or assisting my mother around the house, I tried my best to better emphasize the energy I expend on others—for the sake of others.
Compassion, as framed and presented by the missives in the Compassion Games varies widely depending upon the context of any situation. For my participation, spending time with others and caring for animals were largely where I practiced my compassionate efforts. Spending an evening with my mother and visiting family, I tried my best to focus on everyone else in the group. Listening to them, participating in the conversation when it was appropriate. Extending this effort to focus on others, I tried to do the same when with friends (a serious feat, considering our group dynamics).
Another mission that I particularly enjoyed was considering the complexity of nature. While I didn’t use this to better understand protein biosynthesis, I did care for a friend’s dogs. I took care of a young pit bull puppy (Vox) and a poodle mix (Teddie)—two active, but attentive and inquisitive dogs that seemed to play well together.
However the final request by the Compassion Game organizers interested me more than the others. Using the framing device of an antidote one could develop within themselves and the world, they asked the participant to give this antidote a name—or rather, a word, to define it. Unrecognized is the word that I selected for this particular activity. Because of my personal and academic interest in ethics and value theory, I think about compassion, volunteerism, philanthropy and charity often. A problem that I find in philanthropy in particular is self-interest. When there is an incentive to give to a community, cause, charity, etc., does that make the compassionate act authentic?
Without getting bogged down in dense philosophical discourse, I will just sum my answer up: no. This is why I chose the word unrecognized. For me, the most important and impactful type of compassion someone can have is when they don’t feel the need to seek out recognition. Behavior like this should be second nature to us all, and the only way to begin instilling that within each other is to recognize how integral it is in civil society—but in such a way that does not advocate for self interest or personal gain.
As cynical as that sounds, I did enjoy the compassion games. It was interesting to see an organized effort to push for compassionate action across the world. Hopefully in the short term an annual event like this can catch on in the general public. However I hope that in the future, compassion and caring will be intrinsic and inherent in us all. While the Compassion Games were prima facie concerned with going out of your way to assist others, the subtext and underlying themes of the event were of introspection and self-reflexivity.
– Ian Murray, Americorps VISTA