Rude Awakenings

Helen Keller


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The example of the newly blinded man is so concrete, I wish I could use it as a type for all life-training. When he first loses his sight he thinks there is nothing left for him but heartache and despair. He feels shut out from all that is human. Life to him is like the ashes on a cold hearth. The fire of ambition is quenched. The light of hope is gone out. The objects in which he once took delight seem to thrust out sharp objects at him as he gropes his way about. [...] Then comes some wise teacher and friend and assures him that he can work with his hands and to a considerable degree train his hearing to take the place of sight. Often the stricken man does not believe it, and in his despair interprets it as mockery. Like a drowning person he strikes blindly at anyone who tries to save him. Nevertheless the sufferer must be urged onward in spite of himself, and when he once realizes that he can put himself in connection with the world, [...] a being he did not dream of before unfolds itself within him. If he is wise, he discovers at last that happiness has very little to do with outward circumstances, and he treads his dark way with a firmer will than he ever felt in the light.

Likewise those who have been mentally blinded "in the gradual furnace of the world" can, and must, be pressed to look for new capabilities within themselves and work out new ways to happiness. They may even resent faith that expects nobler things from them [...] How little we know ourselves! We need limitations and temptations to open our inner selves, dispel our ignorance, tear off disguises, throw down old idols, and destroy false standards. Only by such rude awakenings can we be led to dwell in a place where we are less cramped, less hindered by the ever-insistent External. Only then do we discover a new capacity and appreciation of goodness and beauty and truth.

-- Helen Keller

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5 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 13, 2007 Fedor wrote:
    In attempt to relay my reflection as concise as possible, I’ll try to present it in a Riddle form:
    --In order to be awakening one has to be asleep.
    --In order to fall asleep the one had to be awake to begin with.
    --The one who is asleep cannot make any choices, doesn’t act but reacts on external circumstances by sickness, pain, anger and war…..
    --Only the awaken one is in a position to choose and act deliberately!
    Now, comes a nontrivial part (the riddle):
    Why the awaken one did chose to fall a sleep in the first place?

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    On Sep 11, 2007 Janani wrote:
    I recall the poem,
    "Don't Quit". Reading this poem over and over and believing it helped me stay focussed. To stand up straight and walk with head-held-high, no matter what the circumstances are, requires courage and patience. Am not sure, put together they give- poise??

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    On Sep 11, 2007 Risa wrote:
    "...those who have been mentally blinded... can, and must, be pressed to look for new capabilities within themselves and work out new ways to happiness..."
    This so speaks to where I find myself today, on the brink of major changes, feeling as though I won't find my way - what an apt and inspirational writing... a strong and vital remembrance of our inner strength, our determination, our need for contact and context and connection and direction – and our ability to care for ourselves enough, to trust ourselves, to move through the darkness and find the way... thank you for posting this!

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    On Sep 10, 2007 kailash wrote:

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    On Sep 10, 2007 Pavi wrote:
    Dark night of the soul illumined by a solitary brightness of moon -- the strikingly quiet drama of spirit shining over circumstance. I like how the photograph mirrors this thought.

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