“Security is mostly a superstition,” teaches that wonderful being Helen Keller. “It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. “
At certain moments the veil lifts, and we see that the secure future we have planned for ourselves is an illusion. Even a smooth journey includes an occasional jarring pothole or a traffic tickets for an expired inspection sticker or some small irritation that reminds us of the wild and unpredictable nature of reality. My own brief medical trial—my own knowing of the wisdom of insecurity–is on the way to being resolved. It turns out that my hoarseness is probably a version of “acid reflux.” But I still feel touched by the experience. Kinds of knowing—about insecurity, about faith, about the qualities that help the heart stay open in times of darkness—are not intellectual but practical, essential.
I realize (again) that there are ideas that are ideas that come down to us like guide ropes. And that a mundane skill like reading does not have to be a means of escaping reality, but a way of opening a door, seeking a larger life. The weather is gorgeous as I write this. The sun is shining on me as I sit here having a heightened awareness of what a blessing it is to be in good health (pretty good health). But it dawns on me that seemingly ordinary things can also be extraordinary. If we wish to be good, if we wish to take part in the biggest possible life, well there is all this help waiting. And not just books….but I’ll stop because I might be sounding a little like I’ve just woken up from a coma or a Scrooge-like nightmare, seeing my death. But do you know what I mean? We’re blessed.
Here is Helen Keller on this miracle (from The Story of My Life):
“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. “