Until Helen Keller was six, she was locked in a frightening world. Blind and deaf after a serious illness she had no way to understand the world. Until one day,
Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! …I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house each object which I touched seemed to quiver with life.(1)
Once Helen grasped her first concept everything changed for her. From then on, even though she couldn’t see or hear she could ‘picture’ reality by using concepts – like internal maps – to guide her.
Helen moved from understanding material concepts like water, table, mother etc to understanding more abstract concepts – like thinking and love. Helen Keller went on to become the first deaf-blind person in the US to obtain a Batchelor of Arts degree. She lived a long and successful life which included campaigning for peace and female suffrage as well as helping others with disabilities.
Taking time to look at the world and reflect on things we see and experience is a valuable and rewarding process. This process engages us consciously and can help enhance our understanding of living in every way.
(1) Helen Keller,The Story of My Life, Cosimo Inc, 2010, p.11
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