Today is the 47th anniversary of the death of Helen Keller. As some of you know that as a child, I met Miss Keller. One day in our school in NYC, P.S. 6, our teacher informed us that we were going to meet Helen Keller, the great woman who had become deaf, blind, and mute before the age of two. In preparation for meeting Miss Keller, Miss O'Reilly read to us the powerful passage from Helen Keller's autobiography that tells of how until she was six years old, Helen had no concepts whatsoever. There was little that could break through the imprisoned flesh to the potential mind within. Her teacher Annie Sullivan tried in vain to help her understand words through hand tappings. Finally, in desperation, Annie pulled Helen out to the ivy- covered pumphouse and held her hand under the water while she tapped out repeatedly into the other hand W-A-T-E-R, W-A-T-E-R, W-A-T-E-R. Helen writes that her whole body became still. Suddenly she understood what Annie was communicating to her. That word water broke into her sealed mind like the sun into a frozen winter world. It was her mental awakening, and she learned the names for thirty things by the end of that day. Before that supreme event there had been little in her life but body functions and rage. Helen Keller, of course had gone on to become the great educator, champion of the disabled and disadvantaged, and friend and inspiration to so many people the world over. After this preparation, Miss O'Reilly took us to the Cosmopolitan Club in the east 60's where Miss Keller would be meeting us. Miss Keller was led out by her associate and companion, Polly Thompson. She was in her late sixties at the time, a large handsome women, quite tall, I remember, and utterly radiant. Her eyes saw nothing and yet were seeing everything. Her smile was a beneficence welcoming the world. I had never seen anybody so full of presence and joy in my life, even though I had been exposed throughout childhood to professional comedians who were always laughing. Helen Keller's joy was of another order entirely. When she began to speak, I heard the voice of a prophet, a pythoness, whose strange inflections and pronunciations were those of someone who had never heard speech. After she had finished, I was so deeply moved that I knew I had to speak to her. Mind you, I didn't know what I wanted to say, but I knew I had to speak to her nonetheless. When Miss Thompson asked if anyone had a question, my classmates squirmed and looked sheepishly at each other. But I found myself raising my hand and going up to her. Miss Keller placed her entire hand on my face in order to read my question. Her fingers read my expression, while the center of her palm read my lips. Still I did not know what I was going to ask. Her hand did not move from my face. Finally I blurted out what was in my heart, "Why are you so happy?" She laughed and laughed, laughter rising from another dimension of sound--the laughter of a sequoia or of a whale. "My child," she said, her voice wandering between octaves. "It is because I live my life each day as if it were my last. And life in all its moments is so full of glory." As her hand lingered on my face for a moment, I felt as if I were lifted into her radiance and that some kind of charge passed between us. When, years later, I lay on my back looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I understood the nature of that charge. For there on the ceiling was the famous painting by Michaelangelo of God reaching out his hand to touch the outstretched hand of Adam. In my case it had been the touch of the blind goddess to the little Eve.
Hello Friends, I came back this morning from the Cayman Islands where I had stem cell treatment of my knees. (I have a long history of knee injuries, beginning when I was a serious fencer in my youth, proceeding to when I trained in Java in penchak silat, the Indonesian martial art and beganat age 37 in the class for five year olds, attempting to do what they could do-leaping high from a crouching position--on crutches for several months after that, and then a year and a half ago falling down a lava crater in the Galapgos. Really bad knees came from all this and rather than undergo radical surgery, I went to Regenexx, the clinic in Colorado that has done so much pioneering work in stem cell regeneration. The actual work has to be done out of the States and after having in December a good deal of blood and bone marrow taken, the science of it got going and in the two months since I returned there, some 50 million stem cells were born, and this past 12 days were injected into my knees to start regenerating damaged tissue. It will take 3 to 6 months for me to really enjoy the newly healed knees but I am hopeful! Love, Jean
Bumper Sticker: I'm just one epiphany short of a paradigm shift.
Dear Friends, I am inspired by the Spiritually Literate New Year’s Resolutions by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat 1. I will live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future. 2. I will cultivate the art of making connections. I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet. 3. I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life. I will spell out my days with a grammar of gratitude. 4. I will practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the “other” is shunned. I will welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness. 5. I will seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world. 6. I will add to the planet’s fund of good will by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy. 7. I will cultivate the skill of deep listening. I will remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside me. 8. I will practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world. 9. I will give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from my imperfections. I will listen to what my shadow side has to say to me. 10. I will be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.