It's easy to get caught up in the petty stuff when you're lacking context.
Spend an afternoon in one of Austria's largest concentration camps and you get perspective, fast. The bump on your nose that looks huge in pictures, that person who didn't text you back, the class you're stessing about - it's all small in comparison. And you know what they say about the small stuff...don't sweat it.
The day at Mauthausen was surreal. Even the weather was gloomy - overcast and frigid. It is located on top of a steep hill, built from granite that the prisoners quarried and carried up this giant "stairway of death."
Walking through the camp buildings, now preserved as a museum, gave me such mixed feelings. Looking at the horrible photos, hearing the intense stories. Over one-hundred thousand people died in the various places that I was standing. I felt a great deal of inner silence, overwhelmed by my inability to comprehend how all of this was possible.
It was important for me to go there, to see that. It's a part of history, and it really puts things into perspective for me. There I was, in my jeans and jacket, looking forward to the warmth of the bus, of my bed. It's insane how people lasted 2, 3, 4 winters there with such minimal food and clothing. So astonishing to me, the evil that humans are capable of. Even more astonishing, is the human will to stay alive.
After the camp, we visited a nearby monastery - St. Florian. It was founded in the middle ages and is a beautiful property. The inside of the church had magnificent paintings (like most churches here) and a beautiful gold and white organ. Anton Bruckner spent most of his life here as an organist and is now buried beneath the organ today.
I think this quote from Henry Grunwald, on the last page of his book One Man's America sums up my thoughts best.
"Maybe America has nothing like St. Florian, but surely - and blessedly - it had nothing like Mauthausen either."