Transcript: Helen Keller – Optimism

Optimism,
An Essay, By Helen Keller
For the weekly #authorstory feature at Blogger's World, 10th February 2016, I
gave an impromptu reading selected paragraphs from Helen Keller's essay,
'Optimism', published in 1903.
This is a transcript of the reading of this selection, as an abridged or condensed
arrangement, maintaining the integrity of each selected paragraph with no omissionof lines, words or phrases within each paragraph.
I made the audio recording to offer a taster or 'snapshot' of the full poem, which
is quite long for people with short attention spans.
I also made this recording to perhaps assist accessibility in this one very small way for visually or cognitively impaired readers.
The transcript is provided for learners, for reading along with the audio file andhearing impaired people, who may be unable to access the spoken version in the
audio file.
There were a small few stumbles or stutters in my audio recording that have not
been transcribed.
My introductory and closing remarks for the reading also have not been included inthis transcript, as there is similar written already on the blog post containing
the audio file of my reading of this work:
https://blogging101alumni.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/authors-who-made-history-helen-keller/
This document and the content at that post are copyright for personal and
                             education use only (2016)
N.B: free online sources for the full text of this document are listed at the end of the transcripted selection.

‘Optimism’, (published 1910) by Helen Keller (1880-1968), selected paragraphs

Part i Optimism Within

PARA 1

Could we choose our environment, and were desire in human undertakings synonymous with endowment, all men would, I suppose, be optimists. Certainly most of us regard happiness as the proper end of all earthly enterprise. The will to be happy animates alike the philosopher, the prince and the chimney-sweep. No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.

PARA 2

It is curious to observe what different ideals of happiness people cherish, and in what singular places they look for this well-spring of their life. Many look for it in the hoarding of riches, some in the pride of power, and others in the achievements of art and literature; a few seek it in the exploration of their own minds, or in the search for knowledge.

PARA 26

I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all. I used to think I should be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless. The gladdest laborer in the vineyard may be a cripple. Even should the others outstrip him, yet the vineyard ripens in the sun each year, and the full clusters weigh into his hand. Darwin could work only half an hour at a time; yet in many diligent half-hours he laid anew the foundations of philosophy. I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfil the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot. Green, the historian,[1] tells us that the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker; and that thought alone suffices to guide me in this dark world and wide. I love the good that others do; for their activity is an assurance that whether I can help or not, the true and the good will stand sure.

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Part ii Optimism Without

PARA 3

Optimism, then, is a fact within my own heart. But as I look out upon life, my heart meets no contradiction. The outward world justifies my inward universe of good. All through the years I have spent in college, my reading has been a continuous discovery of good. In literature, philosophy, religion and history I find the mighty witnesses to my faith.

PARA 4

Philosophy is the history of a deaf-blind person writ large. From the talks of Socrates up through Plato, Berkeley and Kant, philosophy records the efforts of human intelligence to be free of the clogging material world and fly forth into a universe of pure idea. A deaf-blind person ought to find special meaning in Plato’s Ideal World. These things which you see and hear and touch are not the reality of realities, but imperfect manifestations of the Idea, the Principle, the Spiritual; the Idea is the truth, the rest is delusion.

PARA 26

Who can doubt the vastness of the achievements of education when one considers how different the condition of the blind and the deaf is from what it was a century ago? They were then objects of superstitious pity, and shared the lowest beggar’s lot. Everybody looked upon their case as hopeless, and this view plunged them deeper in despair. The blind themselves laughed in the face of Haüy when he offered to teach them to read. How pitiable is the cramped sense of imprisonment in circumstances which teaches men to expect no good and to treat any attempt to relieve them as the vagary of a disordered mind! But now, behold the transformation; see how institutions and industrial establishments for the blind have sprung up as if by magic; see how many of the deaf have learned not only to read and write, but to speak; and remember that the faith and patience of Dr. Howe have borne fruit in the efforts that are being made everywhere to educate the deaf-blind and equip them for the struggle. Do you wonder that I am full of hope and lifted up?

PARA 27

The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage,—the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think. No loss by flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.

Part iii The Practice of Optimism

PARA 2

Let pessimism once take hold of the mind, and life is all topsy-turvy, all vanity and vexation of spirit. There is no cure for individual or social disorder, except in forgetfulness and annihilation. “Let us eat, drink and be merry,” says the pessimist, “for to-morrow we die.” If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart in awful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and to others to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation.

PARA 3

Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges? The optimist cannot fall back, cannot falter; for he knows his neighbor will be hindered by his failure to keep in line. He will therefore hold his place fearlessly and remember the duty of silence. Sufficient unto each heart is its own sorrow. He will take the iron claws of circumstance in his hand and use them as tools to break away the obstacles that block his path. He will work as if upon him alone depended the establishment of heaven on earth.

PARA 18

Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges? The optimist cannot fall back, cannot falter; for he knows his neighbor will be hindered by his failure to keep in line. He will therefore hold his place fearlessly and remember the duty of silence. Sufficient unto each heart is its own sorrow. He will take the iron claws of circumstance in his hand and use them as tools to break away the obstacles that block his path. He will work as if upon him alone depended the establishment of heaven on earth.

PARA 24

As I stand in the sunshine of a sincere and earnest optimism, my imagination “paints yet more glorious triumphs on the cloud-curtain of the future.” Out of the fierce struggle and turmoil of contending systems and powers I see a brighter spiritual era slowly emerge—an era in which there shall be no England, no France, no Germany, no America, no this people or that, but one family, the human race; one law, peace; one need, harmony; one means, labor; one taskmaster, God.

PARA 25

If I should try to say anew the creed of the optimist, I should say something like this: “I believe in God, I believe in man, I believe in the power of the spirit. I believe it is a sacred duty to encourage ourselves and others; to hold the tongue from any unhappy word against God’s world, because no man has any right to complain of a universe which God made good, and which thousands of men have striven to keep good. I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers.” These are the articles of my faith, and there is yet another on which all depends—to bear this faith above every tempest which overfloods it, and to make it a principle in disaster and through affliction. Optimism is the harmony between man’s spirit and the spirit of God pronouncing His works good.
The End

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This transcript is of the audio file, my reading excerpts, as a kind of abridged ‘taster’, for shorter attention spans, including mine. It is possible that even one visually impaired person might enjoy listening to a human voice rather than a software generated automatic voice.

The full text can be read or downloaded at the Gutenberg project (- where it can even be downloaded as a free Kindle file, or other sorts of text file options- the full document is in the public domain but please read the terms contained in the Gutenberg document for full detail of how these files may be used);

Full text online  at AFB (American Foundation for the Blind).

Also a Digitised book as PDF file (of actual book pages)

Other resource links and further reading are provided on my post at Blogger’s World.