A greater sense of life: Helen Keller

by Thomas Forlano


(Denver, CO)

Several people come to mind when considering who has most impacted me from the Deaf community and history. Evelyn Glennie, for example, has contributed her rich understanding of sound and listening. And I cannot forget Marlee Matlin’s character showing what the ocean waves sound like in Children of a Lesser God, attesting to the idea that there is more to listening than hearing.

Helen Keller, however, has had the most influence on me. I first read Story of My Life in 2006. What strikes me from Keller’s narrative is her total engagement with the world- its natural beauty and its humanity. She reached a level of intimacy and knowledge about the world that not only reflected her undying passion for learning, but also her spiritual connection to life. In listening to her describe nature, for example, I hear her ability to “see” and “hear” so much more than the average person.

In a sense, Helen Keller was more “abled” than many other people of her time (and ours) due both to her tenacious intellectual effort and her deficits, which caused her to develop a highly acute sensitivity. I am not blind, nor deaf. I strive, however, to reach the quality of experience- so rich and engaged- that Helen Keller seems to have had.