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Helen Keller's Optimism

"If I should try to say anew the creed of the optimist, I should say something like this: “I believe in God, I believe in man, I believe in the power of the spirit. I believe it is a sacred duty to encourage ourselves and others; to hold the tongue from any unhappy word against God’s world, because no man has any right to complain of a universe which God made good, and which thousands of men have striven to keep good. I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers.” These are the articles of my faith, and there is yet another on which all depends—to bear this faith above every tempest which overfloods it, and to make it a principle in disaster and through affliction. Optimism is the harmony between man’s spirit and the spirit of God pronouncing His works good."


"All the world’s great philosophers have been lovers of God and believers in man’s inner goodness. To know the history of philosophy is to know that the highest thinkers of the ages, the seers of the tribes and the nations, have been optimists."

Quotable Quotes from "Optimism An Essay"

"Could we choose our environment, and were desire in human undertakings synonymous with endowment, all men would, I suppose, be optimists. Certainly most of us regard happiness as the proper end of all earthly enterprise. The will to be happy animates alike the philosopher, the prince and the chimney-sweep. No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right."

"If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life,—if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing."

"So my optimism is no mild and unreasoning satisfaction. A poet once said I must be happy because I did not see the bare, cold present, but lived in a beautiful dream. I do live in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present,—not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings. The very evil which the poet supposed would be a cruel disillusionment is necessary to the fullest knowledge of joy. Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness."

"No doubt, there were comfortable optimists who thought Wilberforce a meddlesome fanatic when he was working with might and main to free the slaves. I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, “Hurrah, we’re all right! This is the greatest nation on earth,” when there are grievances that call loudly for redress. That is false optimism. Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house builded 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."

"For the very reason that I have come in contact with it, I am more truly an optimist. I can say with conviction that the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings."

"My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to coöperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life. The world is sown with good; but unless I turn my glad thoughts into practical living and till my own field, I cannot reap a kernel of the good."

"Some have said Carlyle was taking refuge from a hard world by bidding men grind and toil, eyes to the earth, and so forget their misery. This is not Carlyle’s thought. “Fool!” he cries, “the Ideal is in thyself; the Impediment is also in thyself. Work out the Ideal in the poor, miserable Actual; live, think, believe, and be free!” It is plain what he says, that work, production, brings life out of chaos, makes the individual a world, an order; and order is optimism."

"I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all."

"I trust, and nothing that happens disturbs my trust. I recognize the beneficence of the power which we all worship as supreme—Order, Fate, the Great Spirit, Nature, God. I recognize this power in the sun that makes all things grow and keeps life afoot. I make a friend of this indefinable force, and straightway I feel glad, brave and ready for any lot Heaven may decree for me. This is my religion of optimism."

"Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts, “the source and centre of all minds, their only point of rest.”

"The story of man’s slow ascent from savagery through barbarism and self-mastery to civilization is the embodiment of the spirit of optimism."

"In America the optimist finds abundant reason for confidence in the present and hope for the future, and this hope, this confidence, may well extend over all the great nations of the earth."

"If we compare our own time with the past, we find in modern statistics a solid foundation for a confident and buoyant world-optimism. Beneath the doubt, the unrest, the materialism, which surround us still glows and burns at the world’s best life a steadfast faith. To hear the pessimist, one would think civilization had bivouacked in the Middle Ages, and had not had marching orders since."

"The recognition of the right of all men to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, a spirit of conciliation such as Burke dreamed of, the willingness on the part of the strong to make concessions to the weak, the realization that the rights of the employer are bound up in the rights of the employed—in these the optimist beholds the signs of our times."

"The optimist cannot fall back, cannot falter; for he knows his neighbor will be hindered by his failure to keep in line. He will therefore hold his place fearlessly and remember the duty of silence."

"Shakespeare is the prince of optimists. His tragedies are a revelation of moral order. In “Lear” and “Hamlet” there is a looking forward to something better, some one is left at the end of the play to right wrong, restore society and build the state anew. The later plays, “The Tempest” and “Cymbeline,” show a beautiful, placid optimism which delights in reconciliations and reunions and which plans for the triumph of external as well as internal good."

"Every optimist moves along with progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the world at a standstill. The consequence of pessimism in the life of a nation is the same as in the life of the individual. Pessimism kills the instinct that urges men to struggle against poverty, ignorance and crime, and dries up all the fountains of joy in the world."

"t is significant that the foundation of that law is optimistic. In Latin countries the court proceeds with a pessimistic bias. The prisoner is held guilty until he is proved innocent. In England and the United States there is an optimistic presumption that the accused is innocent until it is no longer possible to deny his guilt. Under our system, it is said, many criminals are acquitted; but it is surely better so than that many innocent persons should suffer.

"Even on Christmas Day do men remember that Christ came as a prophet of good? His joyous optimism is like water to feverish lips, and has for its highest expression the eight beatitudes. It is because Christ is an optimist that for ages he has dominated the Western world. For nineteen centuries Christendom has gazed into his shining face and felt that all things work together for good.

"The optimist is he who sees that men’s actions are directed not by squadrons and armies, but by moral power, that the conquests of Alexander and Napoleon are less abiding than Newton’s and Galileo’s and St. Augustine’s silent mastery of the world. Ideas are mightier than fire and sword.

"Christmas Day is the festival of optimism.

"As I stand in the sunshine of a sincere and earnest optimism, my imagination “paints yet more glorious triumphs on the cloud-curtain of the future.”

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