The Ghosts of Landowski

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261,000 men died or were wounded in the battle

My wife and I were meandering through the roads above Chateau-Thierry, France when we spied a sign indicating the way to “The Ghosts of Landowski.” We had no idea what that was but it sounded a bit spooky, so we decided to go see it.

We were celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary so we didn’t have to be anywhere special, except at the hotel in Compiègne later that evening. We followed the road signs until we came to a monument located on the Butte of Chalmont, the landscape stretching away through the wide fields of the Tardenois territory, maybe two hours northeast of Paris, near Soissons.

The Ghosts of Landowski was a World War I monument.

The giant soldiers depicted in the monument had a Tolkienesque feel as they searched the fields for their fallen comrades. Each of the seven stone soldiers erected near the top of the high hill was 26 feet tall.

French sculptor Paul Landowski (who also helped build the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janerio) had built them here to commemorate the Second Battle of the Marne. Germans, French, English, Americans and Italians carved each other up on these fields for three weeks in the summer of 1918.

Some 261,000 men died or were wounded in this battle in which the Allies repulsed a deadly German assault and turned it to their advantage. That’s about 12,500 men each day for the three weeks of bloodletting.

It was one of the decisive battles of the war. The statue is placed at the site of a battle that turned the tide in favor of the allies. Someone said that by his sculpture Landowski wanted to raise these dead soldiers from the trenches where he’d seen them lying.

Today’s Battle

Quick now. Can anyone tell me what they were fighting about? “Yes, Johnny. You had you hand up!” “Uh, well, hummm. I forget.”

You and most of the world, but whatever the reason, millions of young men—and women—never got to enjoy their life. Probably over 16 million people died in World War I. Sixteen million! Military cemeteries dot the fields in this part of the world giving a silent testimony to the horrors of this long ago war.

Funny thing. It’s easy to decry the vanity of war when the scale is millions of lives. Fact is, though, a miniature version of this war spirit can be seen in each human heart. The lady who can’t get along with her neighbor, or her husband. And her kids are just so ungrateful. And our pastor, “well, I tell you honey … blah, blah, blah …”

It’s shows up in the nastiness we feel about others who look different from us or come from somewhere else. C.S. Lewis talks about a high-ranking Nazi who liked to putter around in his flower beds.

He was also responsible for the death of thousands of Jews.

Lewis notes that we consider racism in a fellow who has no power as a small defect. But you take this same fellow with the little fault and put him in a powerful post, like our Nazi example, and you’ll get horrible results.

In our daily lives God has called us to live in peace with those around us as much as possible.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. (Romans 12: 17-19, NIV)

Peacemakers really are blessed. And God commands a blessing where his people dwell in unity. If we lose that unity, we lose his blessing.

How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore. (Ps. 133:1-3, NIV)

Are you at war with anyone today? If you want to get back to where God can bless you, as much as it depends on you, you need to try to change that situation to peace and even love.

That may mean humbling yourself and taking the first step. You may even get knocked down. I wonder though, if something like Landowski’s Ghosts don’t mark the death field of a lot of beautiful things, relationships that once were or could have been.

It’s better to be hurt trying, than to live with war in your heart.

Someone once asked Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, “Do you not remember the wrong that was done to you?” “No,” replied Clara. “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

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