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Helplessness Blues:
A story for the new year

Cosimo Spangler writes about a man who feels trapped inside the „helplessness blues“, but finding beauty in his world helps him escape it.
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by Cosimo Spangler

I’m a simple man. I always have been. My life is not one for future history books, nor will it be sung about in the future, but I have always felt content with it. Minimizing my complications in life and staying on a straight path had kept me satisfied for all of my days. But lately the urge to stray from that path had started to grow. All the working, church-going and debt-paying had started to make a lot less sense to me, whereas the idea of falling out of line had grew more and more attractive. It almost felt like the memory of a better life, one that had faded ages ago, was starting to come back to me day by day, slowly creeping into my mind and kindling the question that I was so intensely burning to know the answer of. What do I really yearn for?

So, fuelled by my desire to learn and hoping to one day understand, I began paying more attention to myself and everything around me. It seemed to be happening naturally, but whatever it was, increased reflection, more open-mindedness or a general change of perspective, it allowed me to search, to discover. So I found meaning. And I started to acknowledge. There were pieces of beauty to be found in everything. There were bits of love in every interaction, and a glimmer of god, or the heavens, or whatever you’d like to call it, in the moments that before seemed wasteful and irrelevant to me. It all happened very slowly at first, but no matter how long the new discoveries took me, I felt so certain that I was, for the first time in my life, on the right path.


A change of perspective

As my days slowly stopped resembling those grey, foggy winter mornings and started shining in the vibrant palettes of flower fields in spring, clouded skies in summer, or bright mountains of leaves in fall, the world kept giving me things to gaze at in wonder. It seemed to open itself up to me, just as I tried to open myself up to it.

I found more joy in almost everything I did from day to day, but also began to appreciate the tedious parts of life which I had dreaded before, in a different way. I had laid bedridden in a hospital for a couple of days some time ago, and now I looked back at it to see the upsides it had brought me, without neglecting any of the downsides. The constellation of everything around me just slowly began making more and more sense, and a whole picture of life started to form for me, one that regarded both ups and downs.


Absence of empathy

Of course this hasn’t always been especially easy. Realizing how little of the world and life itself you actually know is deafening and suffocating at first, and not every discovery I made was a particularly pleasant one: I’ve seen religion being abused for the sake of money, beauty being measured without regard for the humanity behind it and love being exploited just to cause hurt. The glaring sparks of life, that my eyes had adjusted to see everywhere now, never only burned in those bright colours that excite us. At times it felt as though the faith I had so thoroughly acquired began to crumble into pieces right before my eyes. I often found myself overwhelmed by the frequent absence of empathy that I was able to find in the world around me; but it hurt more to still find just that absence inside of myself.


Making amends

The most challenging discovery I have made has been the realization that in order to continue my search for purpose I would have to make amends with myself. As I tried to find reason in those trivial things, it dawned upon me that the indifferent attitude toward almost everything I had before wasn’t sufficient anymore. To learn meant to work hard, and to take meant to give something back. I had to adapt to the world around me, with all of the rushes and fears it would subject me to. I realized that experiencing the true nature of life meant really participating in it. And after finally taking this step, emotions like pain, worry and sorrow, that I had avoided so willingly before, started to find their place inside me right beside all the wonderful new emotions I was so grateful for.

So yes, it hasn’t been an easy journey so far. But it would be an understatement to say that this very journey is essential to rediscover one’s own humanity. I’ve been able to pull through, and no matter the hardships, now that the memory I had forgotten for so long had finally returned, I would give anything to not go back to drowning in my own apathy in this world so full of wonder again. This helplessness blues that I’ve been singing for most of my life has finally come to an end, and I do not intend to ever hear it again, as long as I can thrive for purpose.


Striving for purpose

I still don’t know what exactly it is that I’m looking for, or if that can even be found in the short span of my own life. But honestly? That doesn’t matter. It’s the search that keeps me going, for as long as I have that special something locked keenly in my eyes, I can continue to find beauty in the oddest of places, adding piece after piece to the puzzle of my existence. Is that not what it really means to be human? What we mean when we talk about the “essence of humanity”?

Cosimo (19), Student B. A. Anglistik

We are forever cursed to strive for purpose, but discovering that beauty had always existed all around me showed me that this curse is our biggest blessing. The search for reason that each of us has to embark on at some point in our lives is what makes us ourselves; but at the same time it’s the one thing that makes us most alike to another. I have finally come to terms with that, and for once I am enjoying the time I can spend on this ride.


Cosimo writes on his Instagram account about everything that fascinates and inspires him:


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