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The World I Live In and Optimism: A Collection of Essays (Books on Literature & Drama)

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These poetic, inspiring essays offer insights into the world of a gifted woman who was deaf and blind. Helen Keller relates her impressions of life's beauty and promise, perceived through the sensations of touch, smell, and vibration, together with the workings of a powerful imagination. The World I Live In comprises fifteen essays and a poem, "A Chant of Darkness," all of These poetic, inspiring essays offer insights into the world of a gifted woman who was deaf and blind. Helen Keller relates her impressions of life's beauty and promise, perceived through the sensations of touch, smell, and vibration, together with the workings of a powerful imagination. The World I Live In comprises fifteen essays and a poem, "A Chant of Darkness," all of which originally appeared in The Century Magazine. These brief articles include "The Seeing Hand," "The Hands of Others," "The Power of Touch," "The Finer Vibrations," "Smell, the Fallen Angel" "Inward Visions," and other essays. "Optimism," written while Keller was a college student, offers eloquent observations on acquiring and maintaining a sense of happiness. These essays reflect the author's remarkable achievements, as expressed in her honorary degree from Harvard, the first ever granted to a woman: "From a still, dark world she has brought us light and sound; our lives are richer for her faith and her example."


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These poetic, inspiring essays offer insights into the world of a gifted woman who was deaf and blind. Helen Keller relates her impressions of life's beauty and promise, perceived through the sensations of touch, smell, and vibration, together with the workings of a powerful imagination. The World I Live In comprises fifteen essays and a poem, "A Chant of Darkness," all of These poetic, inspiring essays offer insights into the world of a gifted woman who was deaf and blind. Helen Keller relates her impressions of life's beauty and promise, perceived through the sensations of touch, smell, and vibration, together with the workings of a powerful imagination. The World I Live In comprises fifteen essays and a poem, "A Chant of Darkness," all of which originally appeared in The Century Magazine. These brief articles include "The Seeing Hand," "The Hands of Others," "The Power of Touch," "The Finer Vibrations," "Smell, the Fallen Angel" "Inward Visions," and other essays. "Optimism," written while Keller was a college student, offers eloquent observations on acquiring and maintaining a sense of happiness. These essays reflect the author's remarkable achievements, as expressed in her honorary degree from Harvard, the first ever granted to a woman: "From a still, dark world she has brought us light and sound; our lives are richer for her faith and her example."

30 review for The World I Live In and Optimism: A Collection of Essays (Books on Literature & Drama)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Borum

    "First they ask me to tell the life of the child who is mother to the woman. Then they make me my own daughter and ask for an account of grown-up sensations. Finally I am requested to write about my dreams, and thus I become an anachronical grandmother; for it is the special privilege of old age to relate dreams. ....until they give me opportunity to write about matters that are not-me, the world must go on uninstructed and unreformed, and I can only do my best with the one small subject upon whi "First they ask me to tell the life of the child who is mother to the woman. Then they make me my own daughter and ask for an account of grown-up sensations. Finally I am requested to write about my dreams, and thus I become an anachronical grandmother; for it is the special privilege of old age to relate dreams. ....until they give me opportunity to write about matters that are not-me, the world must go on uninstructed and unreformed, and I can only do my best with the one small subject upon which I am allowed to discourse." I was captured by this introduction and my desire to find out more about this remarkable woman after reading 'The Story of My Life'. I also needed a spark of optimism to get through another year that's already beginning to have quite a burdensome outlook in the offing. The first part of the book explores the world she lives in, namely the immediate sensations and the inner world of her thoughts and dreams. Her world may appear dark and silent to the limited 'scope' of our visible world, but in actuality it's full and vibrant of the other sensations we are apt to belittle and ignore. As Helen Keller imagines a world of rainbow and music, I try to imagine how her world feels like. Would it feel like how the bats can 'see' with their ultrasound waves? or how the ants can see the world with their pheromones? Even more fascinating is how she describes the dream world. I am so used to my visible world, that I 'see' my dreams in action. How would a dream without visual cues feel like? I can only imagine and it makes me realize that the blind and the deaf are not the only ones limited in their experiences. The waking dream essay was delightful and fantastic and reminded me of some of my own daydreams. The brief intermission of her poetry was a little too repetitive for my taste, but the essay on optimism was a much better. Although I cannot concur with some of her beliefs, I still admire how she denied evil or hardship as obstacles but rather the source and motivation for optimism and faith. "A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.” Regarding the practice of optimism, I couldn't agree more with the importance of education in cultivating tolerance, which is another word for faith in humanity of all forms. “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.” Although this essay is not as engaging as the story of her life as it lacks the narrative and tend to become somewhat repetitive, it still offers a glimpse into the inner depth of a completely different form of existence and maybe the true 'form' of beauty and virtue of our world that Plato tried to describe in his dialogues as the true 'light'. How often we see the world and fail to notice the real beauty of the world and refuse to believe the beauty inherent in mankind! "Verily, blessed are ye that have not seen, and yet have believed."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kaylin

    Very, very moving. Wasn't expecting this to be so beautiful. Very, very moving. Wasn't expecting this to be so beautiful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marsha Reynolds

    Fascinating view into the mind and heart of a sensitive person. Many passages are quotable. Helen Keller's accomplishments are admirable, especially considering the obstacles she overcame. Of course, one must always mention Annie Sullivan in this regard. Fascinating view into the mind and heart of a sensitive person. Many passages are quotable. Helen Keller's accomplishments are admirable, especially considering the obstacles she overcame. Of course, one must always mention Annie Sullivan in this regard.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Beautifully written and perceptive.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Henrik Haapala

    ”I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, “Hurrah, we’re alright! This is the greatest nation on earth”, when there are grievances that call loudly for redress. This is false optimism. Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house built on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.” p.89 “I am never discouraged by absence of good. I never ”I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, “Hurrah, we’re alright! This is the greatest nation on earth”, when there are grievances that call loudly for redress. This is false optimism. Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house built on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.” p.89 “I am never discouraged by absence of good. I never can be argued into hopelessness. Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.” p.89

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carol Albert

    I picked up this book of essays by Helen Keller to see if I could get a glimpse into her thinking. Many of the essays were hard to read because they are so abstract, and I suppose that is a glimpse. She does go to pains in her writing to try to explain how she perceives the world in a different, but not in a lesser, way. She tries to explain how "seeing" is not just an experience that relies on the eyes. She sees through the vibrations she feels around her, for instance. There is an essay titled I picked up this book of essays by Helen Keller to see if I could get a glimpse into her thinking. Many of the essays were hard to read because they are so abstract, and I suppose that is a glimpse. She does go to pains in her writing to try to explain how she perceives the world in a different, but not in a lesser, way. She tries to explain how "seeing" is not just an experience that relies on the eyes. She sees through the vibrations she feels around her, for instance. There is an essay titled, "A Waking Dream," which is whimsical and was fun to read. It has a tone like the movie "Fantasia," or the story, "Alice in Wonderland." I loved reading it and have decided to hang on to this volume so I can re-read it occasionally. There is a poem called, "A Chant of Darkness." Keller was obviously a well-read person herself, often quoting other great works of literature. In one of her essays on optimism, she says of Tolstoi and other Europeans, "...[they] still have much to learn about this great, free country of ours before they understand the unique civic struggle which America is undergoing. She is confronted with the mighty task of assimilating all the foreigners that are drawn together from every country, and welding them into one people with one national spirit. We have the right to demand the forebearance of critics until the United States has demonstrated whether she can make one people out of all the nations of the earth." Doesn't this apply to and challenge us currently as much as it did in Helen Keller's day? It shows that things haven't changed so much; that the issues we think are so critical today, have actually been around for over a century.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Fravel

    The World I Live in and Optimism: A Collection of Essays displays the phenomenal essays written by Helen Keller herself and dives into what life is like for a deaf and blind person. We are shown how in tune she was able to be with her other senses such as smell, touch and taste and the use of them in her daily life. Anne Sullivan played a large role in Helen’s life by teaching her an abundance of things. During a lesson she was able to spell the word water on Helen’s hand and then ran it under w The World I Live in and Optimism: A Collection of Essays displays the phenomenal essays written by Helen Keller herself and dives into what life is like for a deaf and blind person. We are shown how in tune she was able to be with her other senses such as smell, touch and taste and the use of them in her daily life. Anne Sullivan played a large role in Helen’s life by teaching her an abundance of things. During a lesson she was able to spell the word water on Helen’s hand and then ran it under water, there she was able to associate words to objects. Eventually she was able to use several forms of communication, examples being, finger spelling, writing, and braille. She was able to learn how to talk by placing a hand on a person’s face. She would place the thumb on the person’s larynx for vibrations, her index on the lips, and the rest on the face. Being able to stay optimistic during her life is extremely inspiring to everyone and especially those with visual and hearing impairments.

  8. 4 out of 5

    András Bognár

    Helen Keller is the person that comes to my mind when I think of Inspiration. Truly a person who overcame possibly the greatest obstacle one can face in life: uncertainty. Her perspective on the journey of a blind-deaf person connecting with the world around is something that we can all learn a lot about. While most of these collections focus on the specific roles and importance of the five senses, at the same time they also teach you about opening a new outlook on life by connecting to others w Helen Keller is the person that comes to my mind when I think of Inspiration. Truly a person who overcame possibly the greatest obstacle one can face in life: uncertainty. Her perspective on the journey of a blind-deaf person connecting with the world around is something that we can all learn a lot about. While most of these collections focus on the specific roles and importance of the five senses, at the same time they also teach you about opening a new outlook on life by connecting to others which is the most universal way a person can grow and reach their goals, however, impossible they may seem.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Corley

    “Be an optimist, not a pessimist.”; I’ve heard this so many times throughout my life. usually it’s tossed by another when you are facing an obstacle or just failed one. I often thought that optimism and hope were basically the same; they are not. “Hope we wait on; optimism lives inside all of us.” Optimism is a tool available to us, 24/7. It’s the fuel that never runs dry and propels us forward through the difficult times. Helen Keller wrote a short essay on “Optimism”. Learn from her how to use “Be an optimist, not a pessimist.”; I’ve heard this so many times throughout my life. usually it’s tossed by another when you are facing an obstacle or just failed one. I often thought that optimism and hope were basically the same; they are not. “Hope we wait on; optimism lives inside all of us.” Optimism is a tool available to us, 24/7. It’s the fuel that never runs dry and propels us forward through the difficult times. Helen Keller wrote a short essay on “Optimism”. Learn from her how to use this valuable resource that we all have.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Emma Bradford

    Quite hard to read as written a while ago. A few religious references - overall loved what she was saying RE seeing the world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Dembeck

    A short but refreshing work. I was captured by the description of her senses observing the world. Those of touch, smell and taste. A good read to remind us of how very blessed we are.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    The World I Live In and Optimism: A Collection of Essays offers fantastic insights and perceptions of the world from the mind of Hellen Keller. Her optimism of her condition and the world around her are inspirational and should be read by everyone. The strongest essays, I believe, are the collection of essays at the end of the book in which she describes optimism. Readers of philosophy will find this small book a powerful complement to other philosophical works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rosa Frei

    This wonderful book shines a light into the 'dark' world of Helen Keller. Blind and deaf since the age of two, Helen Keller is one of the most fascinating women of the last century. In this book she describes her increased ability and sensitivity of her remaining senses, that is touch, smell and taste, and how they helped her to define a world, maybe more vivid and alive, then the world of many of us people, that can see and hear. Helen Keller: "The poets have taught us how full of wonders is th This wonderful book shines a light into the 'dark' world of Helen Keller. Blind and deaf since the age of two, Helen Keller is one of the most fascinating women of the last century. In this book she describes her increased ability and sensitivity of her remaining senses, that is touch, smell and taste, and how they helped her to define a world, maybe more vivid and alive, then the world of many of us people, that can see and hear. Helen Keller: "The poets have taught us how full of wonders is the night; and the night of blindness has its wonders, too. The only lightless dark is the night of ignorance and insensibility. We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond our senses." In the second part of the book she discusses the need for optimism in the world. Keller: "I proclaim the world good, and facts range themselves to prove my proclamation overwhelmingly true." "Optimism is the harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of God pronouncing His works good."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melody Graham

    I liked the ideas she was writing about but her writing itself it not keep my interest well. This is a very short book and seems like it would be an easy read but I kept putting it down in favor of reading more interesting book. I wish I liked it better, but it was a bit dry for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vilis

    "The World I Live In" ir fantastiski uzrakstītas biogrāfiskas esejas par aklās un kurlās Helēnas Kelleres pasauli. "Optimism" viņa rakstīja studiju gados... lai gan valodu viņa pārvaldīja lieliski jau tad, visai esejai cauri vijas teicamnieces tonis. "The World I Live In" ir fantastiski uzrakstītas biogrāfiskas esejas par aklās un kurlās Helēnas Kelleres pasauli. "Optimism" viņa rakstīja studiju gados... lai gan valodu viņa pārvaldīja lieliski jau tad, visai esejai cauri vijas teicamnieces tonis.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bruna Pura

    WHAT AN AMMAZING WOMEN

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris Nagel

    The butler did it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

    http://readherlikeanopenbook.wordpres... http://readherlikeanopenbook.wordpres...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mate

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alexia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie Malsch

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anusha

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Griffioen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jos Huerta

  27. 4 out of 5

    Neng Risma

  28. 5 out of 5

    Saan Saelee

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hootman-Ng

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter Banachowski

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