©2011, Mirror Image Presentations
I finished reading Helen Keller’s (second) autobiography entitled Midstream. This is an account of her time between graduating from Radcliff at midlife. She writes with a power that I would not have imagined had I not read it myself. The following is from the second to last chapter, Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night. I thought it was beautiful. This, she writes in 1929. As she says, “the human race does not take to new ways of living readily.”
. . .
All over America I have been appalled by the number of young children who spend the greater part of the day in stuffy, overcrowded rooms, looked after by old people or by children only a little older than themselves, while their parents work in factories or in other people’s houses. This seems to me the most deplorable tragedy of our modern life. A nation’s first and last responsibility is the welfare of its children. No nation can live if its children must struggle not to die; no nation can decay if its children are healthy and happy. These children who have neither health nor happiness, who were born into ill-smelling, sunless tenements, whose hunger drove them early to the sweat-shops and mills and mines — these children , who in body and soul have become dwarfed and misshapen, are not fit citizens for a republic. They are at once a danger and a reproach.
Anyone who advocates the limitation of families to a number which their parents can care for in health and decency is frowned upon as a law breaker. It is not illegal to bring defective children into the world to grow up in soul-destroying poverty; but it is criminal for a physician to tell a mother how to protect herself and her family by birth control. It is a strange, illogical order that makes it a crime to teach the prevention of conception and yet fails to provide decent living conditions for the swarms of babies that come tumbling into the world.
. . .
Oh, America beloved of my heart! I love my country. To say that is like saying I love my family. But my love for America is not blind. Perhaps I am more conscious of her faults because I love her so deeply. Nor am I blind to my own faults. It is easy to see that there is little virtue in the old formulas, and that new ones must be found, but even after one has decided this, it is not easy to hold a steady course in a changing world. The human race does not take to new ways of living readily, but I do not feel discouraged.
Personally, I am impeded by physical difficulties which generate forces powerful enough to carry me over the barriers. This is true of the world’s problems, too. It is for us to work with all our might to unite the spiritual power of good against the material power of evil. It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel towards the distant goal.
It is not possible for civilization to flow backwards while there is youth in the world. Youth may be headstrong, but it will advance its allotted length. Through the ages in the battle with the powers of evil — with poverty, misery, ignorance, war, ugliness and slavery, youth has steadily gained on the enemy. That is why I never turn away from the new generation impatiently because of it’s knowingness. Through it alone shall salvation come.
I believe that life is given to us that we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower — the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence. I believe that only in broken dreams has the sun of Truth yet shone upon men. I believe that love will finally establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and that the Cornerstone of this Kingdom will be Liberty, truth, Brotherhood and Service.
I believe that no good shall be lost, and that all that man has willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist forever. I believe in the immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings. I believe that the state we enter after death is wrought of our own motives, thought and deeds. I believe that in the life to come I shall have the senses I have not had here, and that my home will be beautiful with color, music, and speech of flowers and faces I love.
I believe that we can live on this earth according to the teachings of Jesus, and that the greatest happiness will come to the world when man obeys His commandment, “Love ye one another.” I believe that every question between man and man is a religious question, and that every social wrong is a moral wrong. I believe that the welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.
Without this faith there would be little meaning in my life. I should be “a mere pillar of darkness in the dark.” Observers in the full enjoyment of their bodily senses pity me, but it is because they do not see the golden chamber in my life where I dwell delighted; for, dark as my path may seem to them, I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual strong searchlight, illumines the way, and although sinister thoughts lurk in the shadow, I walk unafraid towards the enchanted wood where the foliage is always green, where joy abides, where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the presence of the Lord.
And this she wrote in 1929! Have we learned anything?