She was blind but she saw her dreams become reality. She was deaf but she heard the impossible say, I’m possible? She discovered thoughts that overpowered her obstacles. She proved that no earthly curse is superior to love and most importantly, she realized that every moment is a milestone if we only remember to ask ‘what did I learn? That’s her story!
To a first-time reader it is fascinating beyond measure that once upon a time there existed a fairy without eyes and ears, who not only did magically spell ‘foraminifera’ and pronounce ‘antediluvian’ fluently but also did her words conjure your mind into seeing a tiny movie of ‘a tiny mollusk building a lustrous coil for his dwelling place’ and ‘a little polyps building beautiful coral isles of Pacific.’ Her name is Hellen Keler and she exactly taught us how to see and hear Niagara Falls the way we see and hear the word ‘religion’.
Ms. Sullivan was Hellen Keller’s home tutor, mentor and as she calls, a ‘turning point’. After Ms. Sullivan’s entre, the reader literally watches a blind and deaf little girl growing up into a self-actualized woman of unerasable footprints whose identity is not limited to her physical attributes. Ms. Sullivan made Hellen still in her toddler years, understand that she is born different and whose experiences with life in many ways are going to be far from ordinary. It in these episodes of interaction between a special student and an unusual teacher, one can anticipate to grasp many epiphanies about real purpose of learning and education.
For instance, we realize that understanding concepts is not about cramming loads of definitions a night before an exam, but a playful activity of carrying new ideas into our system by the royal roads of feeling and imagination. In an educational environment we are not winning or losing, but simply learning new lessons in new experiences. This completely overturns the way we perceive education. Real education therefore is a wholesome process not biased to any one ability, skill or discipline because everyone’s pathway is dissimilar or unique. One also realizes that learning is not related to preparing for a ‘stable job, with stable income’ but about discovering your uniqueness and creating a legacy, an everlasting contribution.
We have been so hardwired to think of “learning process” as one of stress, suffering and pain in our conventional education system. Those who take on more pains excel in life while those who ‘have fun’ are dull that’s what many of us have heard our teachers speak. But as Helen had lived, fun and learning is a whole not a binary. On the contrary, anger, anxiety and stress are only indicators that our mind is idle or ‘not learning’. Realization of our fullest potential is on the other end of the self-criticism. We therefore need to get activated in a process. In the words of Jeff Bezos, “if you address the problem and set yourself in action, you will not feel stress.”
Learning is like watering a plant - do it daily, consistently, if possible, on a fixed time and reap the fruits. Simple. Process is not a ghostly exhaustion but only a set of learning experiences you live until you achieve your final goal. Do the process without thinking anything i.e., by commanding complete silence of your mind or ego. In the words of Nike, “just do it”. Our skills, senses and sensibilities are to us what wings are to a flying bird and colors to a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly. But the only way to fully activate your senses is curiosity – the ah-ha moment when instant and pleasantly ignorable activity of a tadpole falling off a bowl described with detail, wisdom and philosophy.
Her vivid descriptions are determined to infuse the reader’s consciousness with the act of feeling life in elevated intensity. Helen was clearly fascinated by day-to-day wonders a layman casually forgets be it conversations with family or walking in the wilderness of Southern villages. Her story is not of sympathy but that of knowledge which inspires us to take our intuition and imagination seriously while realizing that the way we perceive a seemingly unchangeable situation, event or circumstance, ultimately changes our life.