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Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Remarkable Helen Keller (Weekend Blog Post)

(This blog post will remain here until Monday. For politics, please scroll down to the Open Thread just below)

Please take a few moments to watch Helen Keller With Famous People:

"Autumn" by Helen Keller:
Oh, what a glory doth the world put on
These peerless, perfect autumn days
There is a beautiful spirit of gladness everywhere.
The wooded waysides are luminous with brightly painted leaves;
The forest-trees with royal grace have donned
Their gorgeous autumn tapestries;
And even the rocks and fences are broidered
With ferns, sumachs and brilliantly tinted ivies.
But so exquisitely blended are the lights and shades
The golds, scarlets and purples, that no sense is wearied;
For God Himself ha painted the landscape.

The hillsides gleam with golden corn;
Apple and peach-trees bend beneath their burdens of golden fruit.
The golden-rods, too, are here, whole armies of them,
With waving plumes, resplendent with gold;
And about the wild grapes, purple and fair and full of sunshine,
The little birds southward going
Linger, like travelers at an Inn,
And sip the perfumed wine.
And far away the mountains against the blue sky stand
Calm and mysterious, like prophets of God,
Wrapped in purple mist.

But now a change o'er the bright and glorious sky has come
The threatening clouds stand still,
The silent skies are dark and solemn;
The mists of morning hide the golden face of day.
And a mysterious hand has stripped the trees;
And with rustle and whir the leaves descend,
And like little frightened birds
Lie trembling on the ground.
Bare and sad the forest-monarchs stand
Like kings of old, all their splendor swept away.

And down from his ice-bound realm in the North
Comes Winter, with snowy locks, and tear-drops frozen on his cheeks;
For he is the brother of Death, and acquainted with Sorrow.
Autumn sees him from afar,
And, as a child to her father runneth,
She to the protecting arms of kindly Winter fleeth;
And in his mantle of snow
Tenderly he folds her lovely form,
And on his breast she falls asleep
Ere yet the storm-winds have loosed their fury
Upon a white and silent world.

She sleeps unconscious of the sorrow that must be
And dreams perchance of sylvan music,
And the splendor that was, and will again be hers;
For Autumn dies not. 'Tis as the poet says:
"There is no Death. What seems so is transition."
All that is divine lives
In some nobler sphere, some fairer form.
Additional reading:

1.  Helen Keller's autobiography online (Scroll down and keep clicking "Next" to read this short work)

2.  About Helen Keller's autobiography

"Helen Keller" by Langston Hughes:
In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.
Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul's own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.
Some of Helen Keller's political views and political activism, rarely discussed today, were a different matter. For example:
"The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands—the ownership and control of their livelihoods—are set at naught, we can have neither men's rights nor women's rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease." — Helen Keller, 1911


  1. Cover your eyes and stop up your ears...imagine that FOREVER? I used to teach about Keller at Preschool and would have the children blindfolded and holding their hands over their ears ... or having them feel the face and hair of a classmate to see if they'd know who it was. It shocked them, and it still shocks me, that this woman could do SO MUCH in complete darkness.
    Langston Hughes, however, could not have put it better.

    I don't know what readings were given to her, or who talked to her about politics, etc., but I'm still grateful, myself, for that "small remnant" which continues to build what we need, buy luxurious products that they need, and employ so many.

    She was an amazing woman.....What's clear, now that I think of it, is that we don't get very many blind/mute people who became so well known, so prolific in their writings, etc. Astonishing.

    1. Z,
      Anne Sullivan's breakthrough with Helen Keller was a magnificent moment and led to change in people's perceptions about the disabled.

      The next breakthrough may well be with some of the non-verbal autistics. See this about Soma Mukhopadhyay's RPM.

      Also see this article.

      For the first time in my teaching career, I am working with a nonverbal autistic student who makes use of RPM. Astounding! Never mind what the research shows: I know what I'm seeing.

  2. The magnificent music makes a perfect underscoring for the series of extraordinary photographs. The presentation is so beautiful, so dignified, and utlimately so touching it brought tears to my eyes.

    I agree completely with Z's assessment of Langston Hughes' powerful, beautifully stated understanding of who and what Helen Keller really was.

    To me Helen's life and remarkable example give clear proof that the most important part of each of us is SPIRITUAL not material.

    I first learned that when I realized that Beethoven composed his very greatest music after he became stone deaf. If I may dare pickaback Langston Hughes' work:

    Discovered sounds
    More beautiful
    Than many ever hear.
    Within himself,
    Discovered loveliness,
    Through the soul's own mastery.
    And now the world receives
    From his music:
    The message of the strength
    Of inner power.

    We can see in Hellen Keller's face an outward sign of inner joy, an uncanny understanding she had of he significance of these distinguished people she encountered who, doubtless, were more than happy to make contact with her.

    The extraordinary dignity, eagerness, and openness life she displayed in her public appearances seems close to miraculous when you think about it.

    If we are to believe The Miracle Worker, which I saw when it first came out on Broadway –– and also a superb, but-now-virtually-forgotten TV adaptation with Teresa Wright as Annie Sullivan –– young Helen was little more than a wild animal –– a fiercely feral creature –– when she first encountered the incredible Miss Sullivan.

    It is good to be reminded -- OFTEN -- that we do no HAVE to accept the limitations adverse circumstances appear to thrust on us. "Where there's a will, there really IS a way" in most cases.

    1. FT,
      Annie Sullivan was so very determined because she knew firsthand what Helen would face if condemned to an institution. Annie Sullivan is my personal hero. If only all teachers were as dedicated as she!

      As for The Miracle Worker, it is accurate according to Helen Keller's The Story of My Life, a book which I've read several times.

  3. Incidentally, though I never realized I before, Helen Keller in middle and old age was he spit and image of my Great Aunt Lurline. They could have been twins -- certainly sisters.

    Aunt Lurline died twenty years ago just three weeks short of her one-hundredth birthday, She was an amazing character in her own rite, and weathered many a storm with notable courage and dignity. She worked through her 88h year, and only quit because her legs were beginning to give out when she climbed the stairs to the elevated train that took her from her apartment near Van Cortland Park in he Bronx to her job in midtown Manhattan. She told us it wouldn't be fair to her employers if they couldn't depend on her to get to work on icy winter days.

    So her resemblance to the illustrious Helen was more than skin deep.

  4. I didn't want to leave without saying that Helens poem is very beautiful -- another triumph of Soul over Body.

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  6. FT..Mr Z and I went to Beethoven's birth house in Bonn, Germany...he only lived there 2 years but they had some of his pianos there (yes, I don't care what the sign said, i just had to touch it lightly), and they had his hearing aids...BIG brass trumpet-types of instruments .... but the most touching thing was a letter he wrote to his brother asking him not to tell anybody but "I think I'm going deaf".
    Talk about moving...Mr. Z had tears in his eyes when he read the German to me. Very moving.


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