Sentimental Schnitzel

15 Jun

Sometimes I feel like I am an “old soul.” Perhaps everyone has felt like that from time to time, especially those too self-aware for their own good. I long for more simple days. As many people do,  I wonder what it would be like to live in the world without technology.

Recently I went to this great German cafe with some friends. It was located behind a giant Half-Price book, a small yet famous bakery that only serves dinner on weekends. We walked in and it was like we had been transported out of Texas. (Sigh. Relief.)  A man in a lederhosen played German folk songs on his accordion. The cafe was full, people stuffed in every small corner, raising tall glasses of golden foaming beer and biting into their schnitzel.

We were some of the only people under sixty. As we devoured veal sausages and potato pancakes, We got a kick out of watching the wrinkled men tell each other tales, voices loud and authoritative, full of energy and humor. That place defined camaraderie. I looked around the room and imagined the stories that must rest inside each person, in the sparkle in their eyes when a special song played.

I thought about growing old, how I hoped I had a special place with people to raise our glasses and sing, how I hoped to hang onto life’s goodness and let the bad fade into the background.  It struck me, I sort of wanted to be them.

I used to be afraid of growing old, I didn’t want to lose the energy and excitement of youth, I didn’t want to be ugly, I didn’t want to die.  Why then did I find myself in that German cafe, nearly envying these grandparents who were reaching the end of the finish line?

Maybe I believe they have life figured out already. They’ve learned the lessons I still have to go through over and over again. They have gone through war, through loss, through instability and they are still standing. They have stood the tests of time.

Maybe because I know inherently some things only better with time, like wine, there is nothing you can do speed up the process. Healing from heartache. Relationships, that span years that are marked with sorrow and joy, holding on and letting go, gain and loss. You cannot manufacture these things instantly. The problem is, we always try.

Our society is marked with the idea of “Quick, cheap, and easy.” We don’t want the effort it takes to be in it for the long haul. My fear is this mentality is literally addicting, and nothing is ever enough.

Take information.  It used to be a process to know something. You had to get up off your couch and open up an actual book, dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus, or atlas.  You had to “phone a friend,” ask your grandma, ask an expert, ask someone who knew more then you did. It was a physical exchange, often a relational one. Now, it is impersonal and it is instant.

Don’t get me wrong. I love google. I love instant information as much as anyone. I want to know who that actor is in that movie I am watching NOW so instead of waiting for the credits in the end, I pull out my Iphone and use the IMDB app. Ta da! Magic.

This is why I am hypocrite. I have become a slave to the system but I long to be free from it. Sometimes I miss when phones were used to call people, when you had to read maps, when there was excitement in mystery in the not knowing. When you actually had to wait for things. Now I sound old.

Invention used to be about survival, but we have evolved beyond that. Now invention is about making our lives as comfortable and convenient as possible. It’s those C words that will slowly suffocate us.

Maybe our entire issue as a culture is summed up in our belief that comfort and convenience equals quality of life.

Maybe we are like spoiled brats because information is handed to us on a platter. We don’t have to work for anything anymore. Why the appeal with all things hipster, the obsession with “vintage”? We are slaves to instant gratification, but I don’t think we are willing to do what it takes to get free. That’s why we long for “the good old days” but probably wouldn’t have the life drive to do half the things our grandparents did. We are so soft.’

The reality is, I am always going to be miserable if I believe the level of my comfort and convenience is equal to the quality of life.

I am never going to have the satisfaction of sitting back and seeing something created after years of hard work.
I will never learn from my mistakes because I will be afraid or too lazy to make any.
I am never going to see the beauty on the other side of pain.
I will not be changed by the enduing fact that “love is patient.”

I am not suggesting an abandonment of technology. I use it every day, and I can see the benefit of it, but at the same time, I don’t want to forget how to read a book or walk in the woods or cook a meal from scratch. I need those things. I need to teach my children and grandchildren what it means to find satisfaction in a tough job done well and carefully. I don’t want to wish my life away with impatience.

And so, may we, as Sara Groves writes, “Find out the beauty of seeing things through.”
May we find freedom from the idea that everything needs to be quick, cheap and easy. May we run from that thinking as far and as fast as we can.

So in fifty years we may raise our glasses of beer to a life full of deep relationships, risk, adventure, creative endeavors, hard work,  and a lot of grace to keep us moving to the very end.

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4 Responses to “Sentimental Schnitzel”

  1. Mica June 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    You know how to read a map?? Just kidding. 🙂

    Great points, when things are easy and instant, we lose that feeling of accomplishment and the lessons that we learn on the journey.

    • brooke June 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

      Nope! Can’t really read a map either. 😉

  2. Kim Fusch June 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Nice piece Brooke! We all need to build time to disconnect from the barrage of technology and pace of modern life. By the way, another definition of barrage is “an artificial obstruction in a river designed to divert it’s flow.” Perhaps this is what you are feeling to some degree, too. All that stuff gets in the way of the natural flow of our soul, our life.
    My tendency was to go camping in wilderness areas or National Forests with not a soul around but mine. Just nature hikes and gazing into the campfire at night. It made me feel connected to all of my human ancestors since we first discovered fire. So real. So grounding. Not always peaceful but always cleansing and rejuvenating. I realize it is still a luxury to experience the world around us without too much hardship. I am thankful to be in that reality.
    The long haul, as you put it, is greatly enhanced by having created wonderful memories if you live your dreams as well as you can. You have and are doing this already. You already have a lot of living under your belt. That will be a comfort to you however your life turns out.
    Prosit! (German for Cheers!)

    • brooke June 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      barrage…. good word, perfect for this. 🙂 I need to get back in nature… This city livin is clogging up the pores in my soul!!!
      Going to NH soon, that will be lovely. Thanks for the encouragement as always, love you!

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