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Category Archives: Quotes

Celebrating Anne Sullivan

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Anne Sullivan & Helen KellerWhile many people know the name of Helen Keller, fewer are likely to be as familiar with the name of Anne Sullivan; she was the teacher, and lifelong companion of her famous student, and for 49 years she stayed by Helen’s side.  Born in 1866 to Irish immigrants, Anne went blind as a child after suffering from untreated trachoma.  She attended the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston; after a surgery her vision was partially restored, but she remained visually impaired.  She met Helen Keller, 14 years her junior, when she was recommended as teacher to the young girl in Tuscumbia, Alabama.  Because Helen had been left blind and deaf from a disease when a toddler, she had been trapped in her silent darkness until Anne taught her to break free.

The  first major breakthrough came when Anne was able to teach Helen the association between the sign word for “water”, made on one of Helen’s hands, while running water over her other hand.  When she realized the connection, and that every object had a unique sign, Helen became an avid student, hungry for the signs that would at last help her communicate to the outside world.

Through Anne’s help, Helen went on to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, became a world famous writer and advocate for women’s suffrage, labour and disability rights.  The two women travelled to over forty countries as spokeswomen for the rights of the disabled.  Helen once said, “Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.”  In this sense, Anne Sullivan is an unsung heroine who rescued Keller from the dark silence, and gave us a legacy of astounding courage, optimism and spirit through the writings of Helen Keller.

Here are ten more of my favourite quotes by Helen Keller:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”

“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.”

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On Society vs. the Mind

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Albert  Einstein

 

Famous Misquote

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Sometimes famous last words occur long before the individual dies; what I mean by that is that a pivotal statement is made, and thereafter (whether immediately, or down through history ever after) the person ends up eating their hat.  Here’s an example:

Charles H. Duell, director of the US patent office 1899, is thought to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.

But we should never judge a book by its cover; because he never said this!  What he actually said was, “In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” ( The Friend, Volume 76, 1902)  Quite a different matter.

It was in fact an earlier Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth that may have been responsible for the sentiment: In a report to the 1843 congress, Ellsworth states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.“*

Oddly, you will find the misquote in published books and all over the web; let that be a reminder to us to do a bit of investigation of our own.  Don’t even trust news sources, as they are known to hype up, propagandize, invent, or at the very least embellish events.  And just because it’s in print doesn’t mean you can fully trust its reliability or accuracy.

Abraham-Lincoln-Internet-Quote.png*Source:  Wikipedia (Take even that source with a pinch of salt!)

Famous Last Words: Oscar Wilde

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Sometimes, despite all the best intentions, real life takes over.  I’ve not posted in the past fortnight because it did just that!  But I’m mindful that, no matter what life throws my way, every moment is an opportunity.  Even the last moment of one’s life is an opportunity, as witnessed by famous last words:

Oscar Wilde

“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”

Oscar Wilde

The Ugliest Runner

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Eric LiddellEric Liddell is known today largely because of the film, “Chariots of Fire”, in which he is portrayed.  He was known as a man of conviction and faith, but was also ridiculed for his ugly, ungainly running style, mouth open, head thrown back and arms flailing.  In 1932, the journalist W.W. Marsh remembered Liddell “running with that extraordinary gait of his, like a stricken stag”.  But as Harold Abrahams, Olympic 1924 winner of the gold medal in the 100m race (the one which Liddell famously refused to compete in because its final would be on a Sunday), surmised, “People may shout their heads off about his appalling style. Well, let them. He gets there.”

Born in January 1902 to Scottish missionaries in Tientsin, northern China, Liddell was educated in China, and later in a boarding school for missionary children near London.  When his family returned to the UK on furlough from China, he would live with them (mainly) in Edinburgh.  Athletics were merely a way to fill free time for Liddell, whose goal was to return to China as a missionary, following in his parents’ footsteps; his most famous quote sums it up:  “I believe that God made me for a purpose; but he also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

We know him as a runner, but in fact his entire career in running was  only from 1921 to 1925:  His first meet was for the Edinburgh Athletics Club in 1921; within 2 years he was running races beyond the Scottish borders and became known as “The Flying Scotsman” (named after the eponymous train famous for its record-breaking speed).  Within those four years he also completed a degree in science (he later taught science at the Anglo-Christian College in Tientsin), became a renowned preacher, and won seven caps for Scotland in Rugby.  While his Olympic fame would seem to be the crowning achievement of his life, he still considered sport a hobby, and even ran in a few meets while living in China; but his true goal was not the “cinder track” but the mission fields of China to which he returned a year after the Olympics were history.

Eric Liddell, The Flying ScotsmanFrom 1925 to 1943, Liddell served as a missionary in China.  In 1941, he sent his pregnant wife and their two daughters to the safety of her parents’ home in Canada, while he went to serve the poor at a rural mission station in Xiaozhang, where he relieved his brother Rob, who left to recover from illness.  Though he had been planning to follow his wife within a few months, as the Japanese made inroads into China Liddell had to relocate to Tianjin, from which he was interred in 1943 in the Japanese internment camp (Weihsien) along with members of the China Inland Mission and children of missionaries.  He never saw his family again, and never met his third daughter, Maureen, who was born in Canada.

Even in such dire circumstances, when the POWs began forming cliques to protect and provide for themselves, Liddell was known as a selfless Christian who gave his whole heart to doing what he could for those around him:  He organized games, Bible studies, taught science to the children (who referred to him as Uncle Eric), and shamed the richer inmates into sharing the foods they smuggled into the camp.  Langdon Gilkey, who also survived the camp and became a prominent theologian in America, said of Liddell: “Often in an evening I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of these penned-up youths. He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.” ( “50 stunning Olympic moments: No8 Eric Liddell’s 400 metres win, 1924”. The Guardian)

David Mitchell, a child-inmate in the camp with Liddell who went on to become the Director for Canada of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, said this of Liddell:  “Eric stood out among the 1800 people packed into our camp, which measured only 150 by 200 yards. He was in charge of the building where we younger children, who had already been away from our parents for four years because of the war, lived with our teachers. He lived in the very crowded men’s dormitory near us (each man had a space of only three by six feet) and supervised our daily rollcall when the guards came to count us. One day a week ‘Uncle Eric’ would look after us, giving our teachers (all missionaries of the China Inland Mission and all women) a break. His gentle face and warm smile, even as he taught us games with the limited equipment available, showed us how much he loved children and how much he missed his own.”  (Eric Liddell, “The Disciplines of the Christian Life“)

Little did Eric know that his death would come only months before the liberation of the camp and the end of World War 2:  Suffering from an undetected brain tumour, the malnutrition and fatigue of prison life took its toll, and Eric passed away suddenly on 21 February 1945.  He was buried in the garden behind the Japanese officers’ quarters, his grave marked by a simple wooden cross.  His last words were reported by a fellow missionary to be, “It’s complete surrender”, referring to how he had given his life to God.

His grave and his writings were in danger of being forgotten; a few men dedicated years of their lives to finding both, and have restored his memory to us.  His only book, “The Disciplines of the Christian Life“, is now available in paperback and Kindle formats, allowing his powerful voice to speak down through history to us today.

Famous Last Words: Major General John Sedgwick

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Killed in the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania by a sharpshooter, his ironic last words were:

“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—.”

General John Sedgwick. Source: Wikipedia

Major General John Sedgwick. Source: Wikipedia

On the Tracks of History

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“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

traintracks

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