Jun

24

Helen Keller (June 27, 1880—June 1, 1968) embodies the human spirit at its highest, most remarkable tenacity. Imprisoned in inward isolation after an illness left her both deaf and blind when she was only nineteen months old, Keller learned to communicate with the loving help of her teacher, the “miracle worker” Anne Sullivan. But much of the miracle came from within Keller herself — that burning inner fire of longing to step into the light of the world, fueled by her unrelenting, legendary optimism.

The first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, Keller went on to become an acclaimed author, world-renowned speaker, and tireless campaigner for a wealth of social causes — from women’s suffrage to labor rights to pacifism to education — as well as being an early proponent of birth control and women’s reproductive rights.

Her mind’s eye always open to the beauty life readily offers to those willing to look, Keller had a special way of reminding us of the joyful in the mundane, of the small daily miracles we so often take for granted — like, for instance, visiting Martha Graham’s studio at the age of 72 to experience dance for the first time and exclaiming:

Oh, how wonderful! How like thought! How like the mind it is!

But perhaps most emblematic of Keller’s spirit is her timeless 1903 essay on optimism as a philosophy of life, in which she articulates the heart of her convictions:

Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.

[…]

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.

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