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The Hand Of The World

Creator: Helen Keller (author)
Date: December 1912
Publication: The American Magazine
Source: Available at selected libraries

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HELEN KELLER, now 32 years old -- deaf, dumb, and blind since the age of 19 months as a result of illness, -- is the inspiration of all those with physical infirmities. Ever since she began her education, at the age of 17, she has astonished the world. Since her graduation from Radcliffe College in 1900 she has gone right forward, until to-day she is one of the best educated and most intelligent people in the world.


Her last and in many ways most extraordinary achievement was an exhibition of singing last summer at the Harvard Medical School. According to Professor White of the New England Conservatory, Miss Keller has the rare faculty of absolute pitch. Previous to giving this exhibition Miss Keller made an address in English, portions of which she repeated in French and German.


A letter from a friend tells of her starting to take vocal lessons. "A teacher at the Conservatory offered to give her his whole time this summer (1911), so she has been occupied all day. At present her attention is engrossed with the problem of speech. To take to pieces the habits of twenty years, to build a diction and a 'voice-quality' all over again, is enough for one summer, isn't it? We are all watching with hopeful interest."


There is apparently nothing that this human being cannot do, and no subject in which she is not interested.


The Hand Of the World


By Helen Keller


"The symbol, sign, and instrument
of souls purpose, passion,
of fires in which are poured and
thier all of love, their all of life.


O feeble, mighty human hand!
O fragile, dauntless human heart!
The universe holds nothing
with such sublime, transcendent




AS I write this, I am sitting in a pleasant house, in a sunny, wide-windowed study filled with plants and flowers. Here I sit warmly clad, secure against want, sure that what my welfare requires the world will give. Through these generous surroundings I feel the touch of a hand, invisible but potent, all-sustaining -- the hand that wove my garments, the hand that stretched the roof over my head, the hand which printed the pages that I read


What is that hand which shelters me? In vain the winds buffet my house and hurl the biting cold against my windows: that hand still keeps me warm. What is it, that I may lean upon it at every step I take in the dark, and it fails me not? I give wondering praise to the beneficent hand that ministers to my joy and comfort, that toils for the daily bread of all. I would gratefully acknowledge my debt to its capability and kindness. I pray that some hearts may heed my words about the hand of the world, that they may believe in the coming of that commonwealth in which the gyves shall be struck from the wrist of Labor, and the pulse of Production shall be strong with joy.


All our earthly well-being hangs upon the living hand of the world. Society is founded upon it. Its life-beats throb in our institutions. Every industry, every process is wrought by a hand, or by a superhand -- a machine whose mighty and cunning fingers the human hand invents and wields. The hand embodies its skill, projects and multiplies itself, in wondrous tools, and with them it spins, plows and reaps, converts clay into walls, and roofs our habitations with trees of the forest. It compels Titans of steel to heave incredible burdens and commands the service of nimble lackeys which neither groan nor become exhausted. Communication between mind and mind, between writer and reader, is made possible by marvelous extensions of the might of the hand, by elaborate reduplications of the many-motioned fingers. I have touched one of those great printing-presses in which a river of paper flows over the types, is cut, folded, and piled with swift precision. Between my thoughts and the words which you read on this page a thousand hands have intervened; a hundred shafts of steel have rocked to and fro, to and fro, in industrious rhythm.


The hand of the world! Think how it sends forth the waters where it will to form canals between the seas, and binds the same seas with thought incorporate in arms of stone! What is the telegraph cable but the quick hand of the world extended between the nations, now menacing, now clasped in brotherhood? What are our ships and railways but the feet of man made swift and strong by his hands? The hand captures the winds, the sun, and the lightnings, and despatches them upon errands of commerce. Before its irresistible blows mountains are beaten small as dust. Huge derricks -- prehensile power magnified in digits of steel -- rear factories and palaces, lay stone upon stone in our stately monuments, and raise cathedral spires.


On the hand of the world are visible the records of biology, of history, of all human existence since the day of the "first thumb that caught the trick of thought." Every hand wears a birth-seal. By the lines of the thumb each of us can be identified from infancy to age. So by the marks on the hand of the world its unmistakable personality is revealed. Through suffering and prosperity, through periods of retrograde and progress, the hand keeps its identity. Even now, when the ceaseless ply of the world-shuttles is so clamorous and confused, when the labor of the individual is lost in the complexities of production, the old human hand, the symbol of the race, may still be discerned, blurred by the speed of its movements, but master and guide of all that whirring loom.

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