Farewell to Berlin

I am leaving Berlin after over a decade.

It was a place where I arrived as a young, clueless intern who was torn, tempted, and at times overwhelmed by everything the city had to offer.

It’s where I started my professional adventure by getting to sleep on a stinky mattress in a tiny room in Kreuzberg, in marihuana-infused flat (courtesy of my flatmates), working 12-14 hours per day for 400 euro monthly.

It was a place where I had flatmates who were trainee doctors, opera singers & astrologists, aspiring rap-singer & stripper, local activist and fellow Polish immigrant who became a good friend.

It was here, where on one of the first parties I got to drink anise-based drinks from a bottle with a scorpion inside (and that’s one of the less weird things I tried).

It was here where I while being an intern, I stood up to a Managing Director, looked her in the eye, said “This was a bit disrespectful towards Polish and not cool”… and still managed to get promoted later.

It was here where I got to know the real deal behind startup safari, the hustle, the chaos, the politics.

It was a city, where I landed two dreams jobs ( beating 150 other candidates at one), got promoted three times, but also failed to succeed two times at other projects.

It was a city, where I co-founded a software agency, which almost had a shot.

It was here where I met my Wife.

It was here, where we first saw each other on Alexanderplatz.

It was here where I jumped off the roof of RadissonBlu Hotel, on a rope, with a rose and a ring in my hand to propose to Her.

It was here, where one joke of pastor would stumble, stutter, and eventually refuse to bless our relationship because of my Catholic faith.

It was here, where we met an amazing Priest, who himself had had Protestant & Catholic parents, and who would agree to take us for marriage preparation classes.

It was here, where we went for our engagement dinner in George Clooney’s favourite steakhouse and ate the best and most overpriced steak in my life.

It was here, where I got to directly participate in the most horrifying and yet most joyful moments in my life; the birth of our two sons.

It was here, where in one of the flats my neighbours would shout at me from a balcony each time I parked my car not exactly straight.

It was here, where in front of the same flat, a circus would set up and let the camels lose to eat grass in front of our terrace.

It was here where I bought didgeridoo for my musician bro who played it later on a Warsaw Autumn Music Festival.

It was here, where I saw UFO (for real!).

It was here, where I bought my first car and got it crashed.

It was here, where I drank gluhwein on Christmas market, smoked shisha in Arabic bar with my Muslim colleagues, drank Polish vodka with a good Friend at midnight at Brandenburger Gate.

I came to Berlin lonely, estranged, anxious. I was an intern, who had big dreams, who believed in myths, legends & fairy tales such as One Love that conquers all.

In the decade that came, that was all put to a hard test.

Berlin was my trial through fire.

I never ditched my beliefs and I remained out of place.

Thank God for that.

So Berlin is a city which I will remember well, yet which I am glad to leave behind.

Goodbye Berlin.

Been a hell of a ride.

I am off at the next stop.

True meaning of reality can be found in silence. Thoughts from my retreat in the forest.

There is that house on top of the hill in southern Poland. It towers above the village, yet it remains hidden in the embrace of the forest. The branches of nearby trees stretch above its roof, as if nature is crawling back in, to reclaim the land that once belonged to it.

Although this scenery seems like from a gothic story this house brings the emotions which I will always associate with peace, harmony and respite.
My family owns this place, it has become our holiday retreat, and for me personally; a sanctuary.

Each day, just at sun dawn I would run into the woods behind the house, climb up the hill, off the beaten path and sit on the grass.
I would close my eyes.
And breathe.

Photo from authors library

This is how I remind myself of what is real.
This is how I remind myself of those grim times when the urban life has entangled me and brought me down to the brink of depression. When I was burned out, when toxic work environment and “startup way of life” got me immersed in pointless masquerades.
I remember, those times well, when I got lost in the crowd of new humans, and almost lost view of the reality.

In this age of abundance of information the most scarce resource is the Truth

Quid est veritas?” – asks Pilate.
What is truth? he ponders, while the Truth stands right before him.
I can’t help but to think, that today it is the same for us.

What is truth? What is real?
As we delve deeper into the flashy distractions of modern “culture” and entertainment we lose the sense of what is real. Those things that make us human, that define human experience, that rawness of reality is something I have to rediscover deep in the woods.
Those precious moments can be seen and heard only in silence.

Chop wood, plant trees, cut grass, gather mushrooms, shoot a bow, take my kids for a hike through the woods, teach them to walk in silence and show them how to observe the wildlife. Drink some coffee with friends from the village; old-fashioned people who value work of their hands, who toil in the fields, who have not yet been immersed in the noise of the Metropolis.

I see the dichotomy, the growing rift between those people and the ones whom I met when living in Big Cities such as Berlin, Paris or Dubai. It is almost as if there are two species living in parallel worlds.

There is the homo sapiens, and there is this new human.
The first one is of the old world, the latter is of the Brave New World.
The new human is not taught to create but to consume.
The new human trades elusive goals of long term effort for pleasures of immediate gratification.

Nurtured by fabricated food, educated by video entertainment, kept in darkness through constant exposure to blinding lights.
A new human thrives when facing a screen and navigates effortlessly through digital jungle yet remains helpless and lost when confronted with real life.
The new human is stripped of his identity, cut from his roots, detached from his legacy, even from biology.

The new human unlike the old one is not forged by constant values, but constantly morphs with ever changing trends and fashions.

The history of a new human is not written in stone, not even in paper but in wikipedia. The new human does not belong nor rely on a family, his sense of safety comes from an omnipresent embrace of the welfare state.

Family and marriage are redefined, blurred are the axioms, nothing is normal and everything is normal. You can’t observe reality for what it is, because you would become guilty of a mortal sin of being judgemental.
When everything is questioned, nothing is real.

But the Truth, has this one miraculous property that It always emerges, eventually.
And it leaves naked, those who try to suppress it.

All these thoughts ran through my mind as I was listening to the wind hustling through the tree branches, touching the moss, smelling the soil, cherishing the view of the bright blue sky above.
How foolish I was to ever lose sight of it?
I myself, came so dangerously close to becoming new human.
Thankfully, I was given that time of blessed silence so I could see what is real and what has a meaning.
I could step back and breathe again.

As C.S Lewis observed:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.


Note: Burning pages is my attempt to capture some elusive thoughts and observations before they turn to ash.  Call it a journal if you want. 

Flame in the Schell

Burning pages #1: Dreams of fire

Note: Burning pages is my attempt to capture some elusive thoughts and observations before they turn to ash.  Call it a journal if you want. 

It all started a long time ago, with a dream of flames.

I was going through a dungeon. As I was descending into the darkness, an eerie, unfamiliar feeling would get hold of me. 

I felt that I am surrounded.

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My assailants were not mere mortals.
These were dead corpses animated by some nefarious spirits, pacing slowly towards me, ramping up their noose around me.  I couldn’t see them but I KNEW, they were there,  getting closer. This was that extrasensory knowledge that is given in some dreams. The noose was getting tighter, and so got the grip of horror.

The demons were coming and I had nowhere to run. 

Then I heard that omnipresent voice. It was powerful, terrifying and it came from WITHIN. It brought the words, which would resonate through me:

“Go for forth and set the world on fire.”

And the flames would burst all around. And I felt…  free.
When I woke up, I was revigorated, fresh. As if something new has started.
I thought I am about to change the world. Start each day by sunset, and become the super-version of myself. 

Almost a decade passed since I had that dream. 

I tried my best in all those years, but for what I know I can’t even change my 2-year-old son to make him stop picking his nose and eating its content (hope you had your breakfast by now, Dear Reader). 

The intricacies of “changing the world” stuff  (however one understands it) became even clearer to me, how gruesome that task is. Not to mention the getting up at sunset part…

It took a freaking pandemic to get me going, again. Things had to hit the fan really hard, so I could realize I that I can’t stay still anymore. That I am not immoral.

That clock is ticking.  It shows 5.30 now and it is time to rekindle the flame.

So here I am setting a fireplace in this remote corner of the worldwide web. 

Scribbling words, which will hopefully illuminate that rusty basement I got sucked myself into through the daily duties.  

Words are carriers of creation, words are carriers of destruction. Just like fire.
Scientists say that all the objects in the universe are contantly resonating collections of atoms, shaped by frequencies. The universe is an echo, one might say, of One Voice. 

It was also words that brought doom upon our miserable species. One bite will not kill you, we were told. Yet it did.

What stories will I bring to you?  

Food for thought, I hope, or rather, fuel for your Inner Fire. 

It will be tales of how I strive to keep the flame in my mortal shell, alive and burning. How I stride through this Brave New World trying not to lose that spark.
That is a great task at hand, cause, I am surrounded.
We are surrounded. Like in that dream of the dungeon. 

We are continuously entertained, dumbfounded, blindfolded, cheered to compliance. We are to remain meek and short-sighted. Muzzled and wearied, we are not to stick our noses from the basement of our overwhelming daily duties. 

The news, technology, and entertainment creators are there forming their cordon around us. The puppet masters, the demiurges of modern society, are always there, ready to serve us, with their viciously concealed dopamine triggers. 

They are armed with mass-media guns, firing sugar-coated brain bullets, that aim for our minds and our very souls. 

We are living in times, wherein the abundance of information the most scarce resource is the Truth. So we need fire in our spirits, in our hearts, in our minds to stay vigilant.

In these crazy times, we need a Flaming Torch, in our search for the Truth. We need that fire not just to push away the darkness, but to burn through the veil that has been cast on our eyes.

We need the flame to scorch those glazing neons that are set on our path.

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Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

So I invite you to read and join me on that journey.  

Keep an open and inquisitive mind. Tread carefully. Question everything. Do not settle on mediocrity, do not hide in the comfort of ignorance. Do not accept blatant stories , nor petty lies but dig deep for the Truth.

And when you finally grasp it, know, that you might get burned. Be ready for it.
So in the end, your Inner Flame will become radiant and strong. Like a beacon of Light.

Go forth, my Friend, and set the world on fire.

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RadSchell