War Outside My Window

Kim DeRosa


I can’t close my eyes, I can’t fall asleep.  There is a war outside my window.  Bombs are exploding and shaking my home.  The sounds of gunfire fill the air, and the only scent is that of gunpowder and smoke.  The noise is frightening.  Things seem to calm down, and then, all of a sudden there is an explosion of some sort.  Each explosion sends my heart thumping so fast as if it was going to beat out of my chest.  The noise is bearable compared to the fear.  The fear of wondering if my family members and friends are alive or dead.  The fear of what happens next.  The fear of a bomb landing on my home, or maybe a nuclear bomb exploding and destroying everything.  Everything as in every hope, dream, and good will of many people.  Everything as in new, compassionate ideas that could have changed the way that we are living now.  What if?  What happens next?  Goosebumps run down my whole body and I’m unable to move as I lay on my bed, stiff as a board.  As I continue to shiver, I start to develop a feeling of guilt for every time I thought of only my self interest.  As of right now, I know I'm not the only one who can’t sleep tonight.  Everyone around me has the same fear and guilt as I do.  We want to hold each other close and say I’m sorry and I love you.  I decide that if I survive this war, then I am going to be a better person.  My hands are soaked from the salty tears that I am constantly wiping from my eyes.  At this moment in time, we all have all come to realize how alike we are.  How we are all part of one family.


The feeling of fear when being caught in the middle of a war is too much for any mind to handle.  According to the writings of both the Dalai Lama and Martha Nussbaum, compassion is one of the most important elements in our world today.  Even though both their ideas support the idea of compassion, their views are somewhat different. 

            Martha Nussbaum believes that literature builds up our feelings of compassion.  Her views on literature have a very powerful effect on the world.  Literature and the arts give us an idea of many different events that could actually happen in real life.  These works also give us a direct view of the way that we are treated and judged.  Literature gives us a sense of wonder.  It teaches us to look deeply into a person and find the similarities between ourselves and that person.  Nussbaum describes looking deeply, and feeling for a person or character as our “sympathetic imagination” (Nussbaum 417).  A good example of a literary work that triggers our “sympathetic imagination” is Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.  The novel focuses on discrimination against African Americans.  Atticus Finch, the single father of two children, is a very strong and moral character.  He is also a lawyer defending a black man in a very difficult court case.  The black man was falsely accused of a crime against a white woman and eventually found guilty.  No matter how much evidence supported the fact that the man wasn’t guilty, the jury let prejudice have the best of them.  This story triggers our “sympathetic imagination” by looking at how the situation in the story compares to real life events.  The story also gives us a sense of anger toward the unjust jury and certain members of our society today.  This is only one example of the way a work of literature can shape our imagination.  Using our “sympathetic imagination” means looking through people and seeing how circumstances shape everyone’s lives (Nussbaum 419).  It teaches us to look past the circumstances and see that the person has hopes, dreams, ideas, and morals just like everyone else.  Many of us just look at the fact that “others” may hope for or dream about something differently than we do.  Sometimes, these ideas trigger what the Dalai Lama refers to as “self interest” (Dalai Lama 2).  In “The Human Approach To World Peace,” the Dalai Lama suggests the “training of the mind to endure suffering and attain a lasting state of happiness” (Dalai Lama 2).  This statement corresponds with Nussbaum’s ideas of training the mind through literature.  The Dalai Lama tries to explain the fact that all human beings want happiness, not suffering.  He also explains that we sometimes try to fulfill our happiness or “self interest” by selfishly using others (Dalai Lama 2).  It is true that using other people can fulfill our happiness for the time being, but will not help to achieve true happiness in the long run (Dalai Lama 2).  An example of this would be poking fun at a less fortunate person in order to improve one’s reputation.  In the long run, this only leaves us with a feeling of guilt when we have looked past that person’s misfortune and found how alike we are.  We would also feel a sense of regret from not getting to know, and learning from that person.        

            Both the writings of Nussbaum and the Dalai Lama reflect the moral values of compassion.  Compassion is looking at someone who is suffering and less fortunate, comparing ourselves to them, and then realizing what it’s like to be in that person’s place.  Compassion helps us to realize how alike we really are, giving us sympathetic feelings towards others.  The Dalai Lama writes that without compassion “we can inflict suffering upon fellow humans and other human beings” (Dalai Lama 2).  This idea supports the fact that we are fighting wars and still trying to reach peace in this world.  Therefore, the Dalai Lama states that “Compassion is the pillar of world peace” (Dalai Lama 2).  

            One day, while taking a walk, take a look at the trees and think of the value that they have for all living things.  They provide shelter, food, oxygen, and other needs to the many species on this planet.  If our society keeps working the way it is now, we will never be able to look deeply into things and realize our “humanitarian values.”  According to the Dalai Lama, our society today is focused on “material comfort” more so than “humanitarian values.”  As a matter of fact, our society barely focuses on “humanitarian values” at all.  For instance, technology is moving at such a fast rate that pretty soon we could have computers that give us all the answers to math problems, history questions, and many other things.  We would no longer be able to exercise our minds and reason which would make the human race very weak.  We are also using things as simple as trees for “material comfort.”  Has the thought ever crossed anyone’s mind that with all the deforestation, we are not learning to live rationally?  At this rate, polluted air and other dangers will increase and so will the loss of shelter to many species who can become extinct (Dalai Lama 3).  The future outcomes of these problems are very frightening. 

            Martha Nussbaum also wrote about empathizing with others to bring about compassion.  The idea of empathizing supports the Dalai Lama’s idea of “humanitarian values.”  Without empathy and compassion, we will never notice or feel strongly about our “humanitarian values.”  When we look at someone who is suffering and put ourselves in their place, we do not think of “material comfort.”  In a situation of fear and guilt we tend to focus on our “humanitarian values.”  Did you ever notice that when people are near death, they usually take a walk and take in everything that they can?  They look at the world in an un-materialistic way, and feel guilt for the many times they turned to “material comfort.” 

            It is a necessity that each individual look past their own “self interest” and into the “self interest” of others.  We must do this to establish “universal responsibility.”  It is extremely unwise to only think about one’s own happiness.  Without empathy, we will not be able to reach “mutual interest.”  I have noticed that when a person makes another happy, simply by understanding their needs, the happiness is not temporary.  Unlike selfish “self interest,”  “mutual interest” will create a lifetime of happiness. 

            Living in the center of a war may bring about fear, but it also brings about compassion and “mutual interest.”  Many of us are oblivious to the fact that a war can really break out here in the United States.  In some parts of the world, many people are living in the center of a war.  The compassion brought about by people when they are frightened is a sense of compassion that we should feel each day of our lives.  We should not have to go through a war to reach a sense of compassion.  This is why literature helps us to exercise our minds and learn about the types of events that can bring about compassion.  Without literature and different ways that the arts are expressed, we will never be able to reason and empathize.  Compassion will also never be brought about without focusing on our “humanitarian values” and “mutual interest.”  Even though they express different views of bringing about compassion, the outcome of both Martha Nussbaum and the Dalai Lama’s ideas are the same.  Once again, in the words of the Dalai Lama, “Compassion is the pillar of world peace” (Dalai Lama 2).