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All Quiet On The Western Front?

All Quiet On The Western Front? by Ada Hasloecher{3:48 minutes to read}

The World War I masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque was not required reading when I was in high school. I was intrigued to tackle it recently as a result of a reference in another novel I recently finished. Oh my. I have not been able to shake its profound impact on me since reading it over a month ago.

I have heard and have personally uttered the expression “All quiet on the western front” my whole life and sort of understood in general what was meant by it. I’ll never say those words lightly again. There were so many things that jumped out at me in reading the book, and I realized that I had made assumptions, as we all do, about things we know nothing about until we are faced with its reality.

It called to mind how mindful we mediators are to try never to make assumptions and judgments, or jump to conclusions. But we human beings are judgment machines, and the awareness of that is important. In relating the book to my mediation practice, it made me more acutely sensitive to the fact that so often my couples are hiding behind a mask of desperation, fear and anxiety while trying to put on a “quiet front.”

For example, here are some of the things that occurred to me while reading this seminal book:

  1. It was written from the perspective of a young, German soldier. I should have known that by the name of the author, but it completely skipped my notice.
  2. It is probably THE most definitive anti-war book ever written, but I’m not sure that was necessarily the author’s intention. You come away feeling bereft for a young man whose life is inexorably changed forever. Even when he returns home on leave, nothing is as it was. And you know it never will be again.
  3. As the story unfolds, the simple, ordinariness of the way this young soldier is constantly coming to terms with the specter of death was mind-boggling and breathtaking. It was told without complaint or expectation. That alone was remarkable.

This story of a changed life brought to mind the bearing that many of my couples bring to the mediation table:

  1. Trying to “keep it together” for themselves; their children; their jobs.
  2. Struggling with the loss of life as they know it and attempting desperately to cling to a notion that “one day, someday” when all of “this” is behind them, and they can pick up somehow where they left off.
  3. Being changed by their experience, hopefully in a positive way, rather than a negative, bitter way.
  4. Waiting for the pain or the numbness to end, and life to begin again.

And life does begin again. Or maybe I should say that it never stopped, it just changed and is different now. And accepting that truth can be the difference between a life affirmed and a life denied.

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Ada L. Hasloecher

Divorce Mediator / Center Founder
Divorce & Family Mediation Center, LLC
Phone: 631-585-5210
eMail: Info@DFMCLI.com
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