Cover of The Miracle Worker
HELEN KELLER WROTE that “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the horizon of the spirit”
How does one define a pessimist? Well: the Oxford English Dictionary says that pessimism is a lack of hope or confidence in the future; and that, philosophically, it’s a belief that this world is as bad as it could be or that evil will ultimately prevail over good.
Born in Alabama on the 27th June 1880, Helen Keller didn’t build her life around pessimism. And she could have done, very easily indeed. Perhaps you’ve seen the extraordinary film The Miracle Worker – the inspiring story of a battle to overcome impossible obstacles and the struggle to communicate. As a young girl, Helen Keller contracted scarlet fever which left her blind, mute, and deaf.
Sealed off from the world, Helen could not communicate with others, nor others with her. Often desperate, Helen flew into uncontrollable rages that terrified her family. Until the gifted and patient teacher Annie Sullivan arrived in her world in March 1887. Annie believed in human ability to achieve very great things and with love and patience she helped the little girl understand the world from which she was isolated. Annie Sullivan began immediately to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with d-o-l-l for the doll that she had brought the little lass as a present.
This led to Helen’s eureka moment in April that same year, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; Annie was soon to become well nigh worn out as Helen demanded the names of all the other familiar objects in her world; freed from her internal prison forever Helen went on to become a world-famous speaker and author.
“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars”, she wrote.
“Consider the birds of the air,” said Jesus of Nazareth, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6.26
You know: I’m going to make a real effort to sail to uncharted lands this week. Teachers like Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller and Jesus of Nazareth help me throw pessimism out the window. Reach for the stars. And maybe one day you’ll let me know how you got on.
PURE FM 107.8 – Thought for the Day