Friday, November 6, 2009

The Story of My Life, Helen Keller

4.5 stars
Here is an inspiring read (the book includes her teacher's account as well as letters, journals, and supplemental essays - I only read the first 117 pages which is Helen's autobiography). Keller, who was both deaf and blind, writes the story of her life with incredible detail. It is as much a story about her as it is about her teacher Anne Sullivan - in a very real way this is a story of two geniuses.

Along with science, math, and English Literature, Helen also studied Greek, Latin, German, French, and could read Braille! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"While my days at Radcliffe [College] were still in the future, they were encircled with a halo of romance, which they have lost; but in the transition from romantic to actual I have learned many things I should never have known had I not tried the experiment. One of them is the precious science of patience, which teaches us that we should take our education as we would take a walk in the country, leisurely, our minds hospitably open to impressions of every sort. Such knowledge floods the soul unseen with a soundless tidal wave of deepening thought. "Knowledge is power." Rather, knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge--broad, deep knowledge--is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man's progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life." (pg 87)

"Is it not true, then, that my life with all its limitations touches at many points the life of the World Beautiful? Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music, and sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is still undisciplined and passionate; but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness." (pg 108-109)

"Thus it is that my friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation." (pg 117)

click here for Helen's famous "water" account
and here for another word on the role of limitations

There was also a fantastic 90 minute movie done on this classic by Disney entitled The Miracle Worker which I highly recommend.

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