"In himself man is essentially a beast, only he butters it over like a slice of bread with a little decorum."    All Quiet on the Western Front

In preparation for our upcoming school year focus of the 20th century, I find myself reading All Quiet on the Western Front.  This classic novel set during World War I portrays the emotional and physical chaos of life as a German soldier.  Obviously, 'all was not quiet' for the young boys whose lives were forever changed by war. 
"'The war has ruined us for everything.'  He is right.  We are not youth any longer.  We don't want to take the world by storm.  We are fleeing.  We fly from ourselves.  From our life.  We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.  The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts.  We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress.  We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war."   p. 81-82
Remarque's writing brings war and the ugliness of man to life.   My stomach was sick with this description...

"The thunder of the guns swells to a single heavy roar  and then breaks up again into separate explosions.  The dry bursts of the machine-guns rattle.  Above us the air teems with invisible swift movement, with howls, pipings, and hisses.  They are small shells; - and amongst them, booming through the night like an organ, go the great coalboxes and the heavies.  They have a hoarse, distant bellow ... and make their way high above the howl and whistle of the smaller shells.  It reminds me of flocks of wild geese when I hear them.  Last autumn the wild geese flew day after day across the path of the shells.

The searchlights begin to sweep the dark sky.  They slide along it like gigantic tapering rulers.  One of them pauses, and quivers a little.  Immediately a second is beside him, a black insect is caught between them and tries to escape - the airman.  He hesitates, is blinded and falls."   p. 57-58
Ironically, our country celebrates Memorial Day this weekend.   The irony of my reading this book at this time is not lost on me.   My grandparents lived through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.   One of my grandfathers fought in World War II and the other built aircraft machinery for North American Aviation and Vought Aircraft.   I am proud of both of them... the one who went and the one who stayed behind.    My father was later in the Army stationed in Heidelburg, Germany for post-war peace-keeping.   I'm proud of him, too.

Remembering.  And finding that my bags are a bit heavier today...  filled with memories that I didn't even know I knew, filled with sadness over man's condition, full of awareness of the darkness of our world and the sacrifice of so many.  Remembering.


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