Clarity

The Pentecost is a celebration of clarity and understanding. It also comes with a mission to share the good you came to understand.

In Auschwitz, victims were sometimes locked in coffin-sized cells, where they could not sit or lie down. In my late teens, I was shown these cells – beside all the rest of the horrors – when we visited Cracow and its region with a school group.

(Close relatives of mine weren’t taken to Auschwitz. They were conscripted into forced labor, or ‘labor service’ as Hungarian authorities called them. Some returned and survived the war; some were taken to other death camps; others, like my paternal grandfather, disappeared years before the Nazis could transport Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.)

I had nightmares of these cells for weeks afterwards. In the nightmares, I was locked in one of these cells. I knew – I felt – there were thousands of others locked in similar cells (in reality, Auschwitz didn’t have so many). We were never let out: finally, we died and only our skeletons remained. The cells were so tight that even our bones could not fall to the ground. They were making a cracking noise as they desperately sought to rest. Eventually, I understood I saw evil – the great, metaphysical one that could be written with a capital E – in Auschwitz and in the dreams. I couldn’t point at any of the crooked men who did all that – I felt it was something bigger than them. Something that wanted to destroy all life.

I was always inclined to enjoy life thoroughly. I knew life existed, and I knew life was good. If evil existed, and it was so overwhelming, the good that brought life to existence must have been unfathomably bigger. And I knew life was worth fighting for. And I wanted the source of life to be a person that I can talk to. After I came to this thought, the nightmares gradually stopped.

Many more years passed before I actually started talking to God. It seems a bit weird and somewhat cruel that God would choose to call to me by showing me unspeakable evil. But that was my moment of clarity. No-one else will have to walk down that road again. Probably no-one else will be able to: they will have different trials and tribulations. I cannot know how this post will inspire you: I’m not entitled to. All I had to do was tell my story – and leave the rest to God and you.

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