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The Art of Living! by Helen Keller

There are very few people who leave a strong mark on the reader. Helen Keller was one of such people to inspire me!

Helen Keller was an American writer who was the first blind-deaf person to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. She was role model for the people. Especially for the handicapped people. She wrote a biography entitled “The Story of My Life." I had read an essay of hers during my education career with a title “Three Days to see." It proved to be the best read for me. One of the most inspirational pieces of Literature I had ever read. “Three Days to see” was first published in 1933.

What Message Does Helen's Essay Convey?

“Three Days to See” has a touching message for readers. The essay explains how much of a blessing it is to be one of the "seers." We always take our senses for granted. How many of us have ever considered our physical senses as blessings?" We are so involved in living a materialistic life that we forget to be grateful for being alive.

What is "living" in the true sense of words?

We consider ourselves "alive" by measuring the breaths or living through years. I would like to elaborate the real Art of Living through Helen Keller’s eyes. She drags the reader’s attention toward the use of his five senes perfectly! Helen being blind promotes the power of the sight as a blessing. For her, those blessed with this seeing ability are the living souls.

Why I like Helen's Essay?

Helen Keller's "Three Days to See" is a literary masterpiece. I am so touched by her depiction of the images and life. It never seems to me as if she is really a blind person. The way she has written this article it looks like a poetic work to me. She has been so compelling and convincing throughout the essay. I feel spell bounded in her poetic depiction of the idea of seeing. This is one of those literary works which boost the reader’s faith in the blessing of "Five Senses." Here in the article, I would like to highlight Helen’s message of positivity. It inspires us to look around and live by utilizing our senses to the best of our abilities in the true sense of words. To appreciate the nature and the surrounding. To be grateful for this blessing of being the "seers" in life. As W. H Davies said:

"What life is this,

If full of care.

We have no time,

To stand and stare!"

How is the title “Three Days to See” significant?

Helen Keller uses the title as a wish to have three days ability of sight in her life. She wants to enjoy the blessing of seeing around and spend her time in Nature. She divides the essay into four parts.

Life is a blessing!

In the first part, she explains the blessing of having a life and being alive. As she says:

“Sometimes I have thought it would be an excellent rule to live each day as if we should die tomorrow. Such an attitude would emphasize sharply the values of life.”

These lines are powerful to make us all realize the idea of life and how to live it. She calls the people "Living Dead" if they are living with the motto of "eat, drink and be merry." According to Helen life must be lived as if it is going to end tomorrow. Only then we are going to live it without the fear of "impending death." I find this opening captivating. She declares us that we take the life for granted. We do believe in death but not on the day of death. It is a fact that we do not realize the significance of something until it’s lost from us. She suggests the reader, to experience the blindness for a few days. To realize the blessing of sight. She narrates her friend’s casualness over observing nature seems heart-rending spectacle. She writes how she wishes to see all those objects of the nature around her that she can only touch but cannot see.

"I, who cannot see but find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower. Something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me. To me, the pageant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama. The action of which streams through my fingertips."

This breaks my heart to know how blessed we all are but never realize it. How often we always complain of losing so many things in life. And never appreciating what we are having.

How Helen plans to use her sight!

In the second part of her essay, she reveals her wish to have the sight for the three days. She tells the reader how she is going to enjoy her days of sight. Her days will be too busy according to her, once she has the power of sight. On the day one, she would like to see her teacher "Mrs. Ann Sullivan Macy." She had been her role model and a mentor. So it is a rightful wish of Helen to see her teacher first, after being blessed with the eyes. She wishes to know the reason that made her steadfast in training Helen during her illness.

She further declares her first day of the sight to spend at home. She would look at the simple objects of the house. The books, the colors, the rug and the pictures in her home would be her things of observation. This part gives me goosebumps because it never occurred to me, to see such trifle things at my home throughout my life.

“In the afternoon of that first seeing day, I should take a long walk in the woods and intoxicate my eyes on the beauties of the world of Nature.”

Helen's plan for the second day of sight-seeing!

This part further elaborates the wistful thinking of Helen. What she wishes to do on her second day of sight-seeing? She plans to look into the sunrise. How the day transforms and progresses into the division of morning, noon and night. She wishes to experience the time traveling into the past and the future. The process of man and animal evolution excite her interest in the theory of evolution. During this time travelling, she wishes to stop by the museum and the theater to intoxicate her mind with the history of man’s achievements.

Reliving the Cinderella's story!

This part she devotes to explore New York and the daily business of the civilization. How do they spend their day at work? How does the Metropolitan life occur? She wishes to climb to the "Empire State Towers" of New York. Walk through the park and the streets to see the day-to-day life of the humans. She confesses that at the end of the third day she would have still many places left to see. Her last spot to spend the evening would be the theater. Watch some funny movie to cherish for the rest of her life. Her description of the ending of the third day reminds me of the Cinderella’s story. When the midnight approached. She had to run for her carriage: Helen reveals like Cinderella in these lines:

“My third day of sight is drawing to an end. At midnight my temporary respite from blindness would cease, and permanent night would close in on me again.”

Urging the reader to utilize the "Five Senses"

These last few lines from her essay make me cry at the end. I do realize how blissful we are to have the power of sight and the life to cherish each moment of it. Helen’s three days of sight is the insight for us "the seers" to use this blessing. This essay urges the reader to enjoy the life and the simple pleasures of life. We always wait for the big success and the never-ending happiness. While Helen tells to "Live in the Moment" in her concluding lines:

“Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. Hear the music of voices. The song of a bird, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers. Taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense; But of all the senses, I am sure that sight must be the most delightful.”

Takeaways from the Essay

  • Never take life for granted that is ceased away from you. In fact, seize every breath from the life as if it is the last one to breathe.
  • Never misuse your senses: By not looking at the sunrise or sunset. Not listening to the sound of the rain. Not tasting the power of kindness by lending a helping hand to the needy. Not smelling the fragrance of love. Not touching any one’s heart with your kind words and actions.
  • Learn from yesterday. Live today. Hope for tomorrow.
  • Always be grateful for the life as the precious gift of the God. Never wait for the big moments to happen. Instead, live in the present and stay peaceful. Make the living moment as the lifetime one.
  • Life is not measured by the breaths we take. Instead, by the moments that take away our breaths!

Life is a precious gift. The five senses are the essence of enjoying life. The best way to live is utilizing our senses to the best of our abilities. To see and foresee. To hear and listen. To touch and be touched. To taste the pleasure and pain gracefully, is the art of living in the end:

"Life is a struggle,

For man to go through it.

Life is a dream,

For man to live it!"

The moment I read Helen Keller's essay "Three Days to see" she touched me deeply. Her powerful depiction of natural scenery in this essay despite being blind made me her fan. The way she conveyed strong vibes to the reader to use the gifted five senses has inspired me to live life each day, as if this is the last. She is the motivation for all of us. To pursue a meaningful existence with the help of our five senses, to rightfully feel being "alive!"

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© 2018 Tajwer Shakir