Painful Paradox

August 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Serendipity in the most bizarre form

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I apologize for the late realization that if I left this experience out I would not do my trip to Austria any amount of justice. This is because although I cherish all the lessons about life I attained, I would have left out the crucial part where along my stumbling in a foreign country I collided with the reason I believe God had brought me to Austria in the first place.

By no means was Austria my first choice of a place to Study Abroad. First off, Europe would never have been a choice place for me to Study Abroad because I perceive Europe as a place that’s probably under so much tourist scrutiny that the people are constantly performing for an audience. Either way I was naïve, and God was faithful to me. I was drawn to Austria later because of the course description and after meeting my professor I was sold. Professor Hoelscher is easily the most charismatic man I have ever met in my life and after one encounter I knew that this class was something he had fully invested his heart in. That was a small tangent, but my point in bringing that up was that God had other plans for me. And when I arrived at Mauthausen I knew why there were certain things that I would have to physically experience to gain an understanding that couldn’t be served to me on a platter. I had to feel it.

“Mauthausen was the main concentration camp of Austria, you weren’t likely to survive due to the work you were required to do in the quarry. Economic extermination”

It was the most painful paradox I have ever experienced because it was the most beautiful drive to an exquisite countryside filled to the brim with horrifying memories. There were so many emotions intertwined with this space that people would either start tearing up because they were overwhelmed by them or that the stench of death seemed to still blanket the camp. The beauty had just become uncomfortable.

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Mauthausen was known for its Death Steps, 186 steps from the bottom of the quarry to the top. I walked these steps down into the quarry and could not help thinking about how these peoples’ shoes are ones I could never fill, conditions would never even be close to the torture, the malnutrition, or the exhaustion. And even so, it was still difficult physically today if not already so much emotionally.

“Such a sight makes such a demand on my nerves that in the long run I cannot bear this. I request that it be arranged that such inhuman deeds be discontinued, or else be done where one does not see it”

This quote changed my existence and my heart because I really questioned if there was a shred of humanity left in the world. Reading it initially I was disgusted naturally. How can one even bring themselves to even suggest that these deeds be done somewhere else so they can sleep better at night? But if we apply that to the extravagant bubble most of us occupy today, how many of us are guilty of that same logic? Injustice is prevalent all around the world and as long as it isn’t at our front door, it’s in the back of our mind. God is gracious to us and we are selfish with His love. I am blessed by fortunate circumstance and then the unfairness of this fact broke my heart. I can’t stomach the suffering of people like this. My consistent trials and tribulations on the road to be a doctor had a purpose if I could stop focusing on myself for a few minutes. And that was exactly what I needed to see. If I am not always passionate about medicine, I am passionate about people. It wasn’t about the “what” for me, it was about the “why”.

I remember journaling about the two lasting thoughts I had after this experience: Will we ever learn? Will history repeat itself? They are questions I struggle with grasping because maybe they are questions I truly don’t know the answer to. I find no comfort in the fact that someone must have thought these questions before as well. I mean, that’s why there is a memorial for Mauthausen in the first place right?

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
– John 21:17
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