Sometimes the Blind See More

People who are blind (can’t see) because they see less, often see more. That may sound like a contradiction (both statements can’t be true), but I believe it’s often true. I’d like to illustrate (show) what I mean with a story about a blind woman, a tall building, and a letter. When you get to the end, I think you’ll understand. And I think you’ll agree.

The woman is Helen Keller, who lived from 1880 until 1968. When she was 19 months old, Keller became very sick and, as a result, became both blind and deaf (couldn’t hear). Her blindness and deafness made it impossible for Keller to communicate with other people and left her isolated (alone). The Miracle Worker, a popular movie and play (story performed by actors in a theater), tells the dramatic (exciting) story of how her teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her break out of (escape from) her isolation to become a world famous speaker and author.

The building is the Empire State Building, perhaps the best-known building in New York City. This 102-story (floor or level) skyscraper (very tall building) was completed in 1931. For 40 years it was the tallest building in the world. It’s a landmark (easily seen and recognized), popular tourist destination (place to visit), and cultural icon – it’s easily recognized and represents New York and the U.S. to many people around the world. The Statue of Liberty is another cultural icon in New York City.

In 1932, a doctor, Dr. John Finley, saw a picture of Helen Keller standing at the top of the Empire State Building. He was struck by (it seemed unusual) the thought of a blind person visiting the top of the building, so he wrote her and asked what she “saw” from there. Keller answered his question in a letter that illustrates (shows) what I wrote earlier – even though she couldn’t see what we see from the top of the Empire State Building, she saw more.

She wrote that it was a thrilling experience to be “whizzed (taken quickly) in a ‘lift‘ (elevator) a quarter of a mile heavenward (up, toward heaven) and to see New York spread out like a marvelous tapestry (a picture made up of many different parts) beneath us.” She didn’t think about the building itself. She said she thought about the “passionate (showing strong feelings) skill (ability)” and “fearless idealism (dreams and beliefs)” that created the building. In her mind she saw so many skilled workers that they couldn’t be counted and heard the noisy sounds of construction. She thought about the many “frail (not strong)” human hands that worked together to lift the tall building to its “dominating (taller than other buildings) height.”

Keller called the completed building “a victory of imagination.” The Empire State Building, she wrote, gives people courage (be brave in a difficult situation) and helps them dream about even greater accomplishments. As she stood at the top, she says she felt as if she were standing among the sun and the stars. “The solar system (our sun and its planets) circled above my head!” she wrote. “Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs (an area around the center of a city) of New York, and I never knew it! … All sense (feeling) of depression and hard times vanished (disappeared).”

Truly (certainly), Helen Keller saw more, even though she saw less. You can find her complete letter at the Letters of Note web site.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, a web site where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

P.S. If you want to hear more about Helen Keller, listen to English Cafe 189.

Photo of the Empire State Building courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons


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21 Responses to Sometimes the Blind See More

  1. Øyvor says:

    Dear readers!
    Could I mention ”The being-glad game” from the book Polyanna here, this is a book I
    wish everyone would read. I`m sure most of you have read it..
    and if you haven`t, this is a story about a girl who teaches all people around her to be glad,
    no matter what they are suffering from. It`s a very hard game, she states, but she IS right,
    that blessed little girl, read it, and you will truly understand Helen Keller too=)
    My best wishes to everyone=)

  2. John says:


  3. Barbara says:

    What a wonderful article!!

    Sometimes we use eyes to see,

    but we didn’t aware of anything in our heart or mind.

  4. Dan says:

    Hello guys,

    Thank you Mr.Warren for remembering us these two incredible women, Ellen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
    I fondly remember E.C.189 wich struck me with this amazing story I had never heard of.

    I can only imagine what Anne Sullivan felt when Hellen got her university degree.

    I cannot decide what amazes me the most, the engineers and workers which erected the Empire or these two women.

    About the title’s blog “Sometimes the blind see more”
    I would say that in my life it occurred to me in many occasions that I found myself blinded.
    Sometimes unaware of what was goin on, at times maybe I wanted to be blind wich occasionally is a good thing.
    You know how they say, Ignorance is bless

    So, I agree with the title’ blog.

    I do not why, but this post makes me remember a phrase from a book:

    “perhaps you seek too much, that as a reult of your seeking you cannot find”

    Thanks, bye!

  5. Rasoul says:

    The story of Hellen Keller remind us that our duties in our lives are trying hard as much as possible. We just consider our abilities and we should not compare ourselves with each other.

  6. emiliano says:

    She did it.
    This person had the dream of going up till the top of the highest building never thought by humans and she did it.

    Hellen Keller could see the best about the building and the people who built it, even about the sight and the sky high
    above just because her mind has not limits and could see aspects that we usually didn´t perceived.

    The letter is incredible beauty, it seems like impossible that this woman could write it so nice, perfect, valid for
    all time.

    I agree with you Warren, circunstances of life could make our dreams absolutely vivid.
    Cuca knows a lot about that, me too but less than her.

    My best to you dear teacher.


  7. ALI says:

    I love the part describing the lift experience, “Heavenward”! Heaven can be on the roof, for such a cristal soul.

  8. tania says:

    Hi! Last year you told us about the best-known icons:
    – The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark
    – Mannenken Pis -le Petit Julien- a famous Brussels landmark, Belgium
    – the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, Japan
    – the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
    – Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    – the Statue of Liberty, New York.

    Thank you for this new cultural icon Empire State Building.

  9. Myo ko ko says:

    Hi, Warren,
    I just get back to you. How do you do?

    I always love to read your pieces.
    Needless to say, this time is no exception!

    Yup, Warren, The way she could make it is inspiring, and still sparkling motivations to those who happen to read about her.
    Still sort of chicken soup for most people all over the world.
    You never know, Warren, I had to read at my high school about her and her life as part of our English curriculum.

    And I have to agree with you that the blind can see more.
    By the way, Warren,
    In your title, why the subject “the blind” takes “plural verb,” that is, why not “the blind sees?”
    Just because “the blind” represents not just one?? Like the way we use “the poor” to represent the people in need?? I guess so.
    or just because it is a title??

    Thanks Warren for your piece. I’m learning something from yours day by day. 😉

  10. Peter says:

    guys ,

     Eslpod has brought about a brave new world of linguistic learning style,where a series of weekly audio lessons and scripts along with an incessant blog interaction move English language enthusiasts  smoothly, and quickly up to the level in which they can express thoughts,run debates ,and write reports and essay  , as easy in English as they do in their mother tongue. As a long member of this community ,I just want to take a moment here to applaud my dear professors “Dr.Lucy Tse and Dr. Jeff McQuillan” for their hard work and the luxury the have been rendering us.

    Sorry ,If I got too emotional again,

    But, I got 95 out of 100 on a 5-page essay format article I wrote about stem cells for my literature class. It took just 5 hours excluding research.
    ” for the whole time of writing the report I had Jeff’s words and Lucy’s scripts in my mind like they are there and dictating me the report.
    My Literature prof noted me on my report :” good use of word and instructors.”
    That is not the point ,the point is :
    I owe you big Jeff and Lucy ,you are my personal hero,so I owe you bigger:)
    Before you guys, I would work up a sweat writing just one small paragraph. Now,words and sentences just come dancing before my eyes.
    Jeff,the way you address us on English caffes ,just genius.

    A big fan,


  11. Myo ko ko says:

    So much thanks, my ESL friends, emiliano, Sergio and Betty, for your nice words about me.
    I always appreciate your kind words, even though I’m not that smart. 😛

  12. Myo ko ko says:

    For your information,
    “pee” and “poop”?
    Open up your “learning guide” for #613, there is a corner for them, but not that much.
    I think Jeff explained these words only for kids.

    But even in our native or mother language, we don’t use “direct” words about them.
    I don’t know anymore. I don’t live in an English speaking country, You see.

  13. Myo ko ko says:

    Yup, Peter,
    You are dead right!! 😉
    I can see “living part” of the English in your comments.
    Keep up the good works!!
    I wish I were in an English speaking country, like you!! 😉


  14. Jack Yu says:

    just stopped by to say that i am a big fan of Jeff & Lucy, are u guys a couple?
    you guys really stick around, 771 episodes so far, kudos!
    never made my donation or anything, but you two have won my respect!
    hope to hear more from ESL, and when the kids or dogs Jeff hates so much grow up and begin to understand what he is doing, they will give not hold a grudge~
    Jeff~big fan from China~ it is not a so bad country really~

  15. sergio says:

    Dear Warren,
    as I already wrote on twitter to you – but I don’t know
    if you read it – I really appreciate the structure of all your post on ESL:
    hand in hand you bring the readers where you want!
    Thank you for your tip about Audiofiles too.
    P.S. The movie is a classic of my early teens:
    oh, my God how, many time until the first time I saw
    “Anna dei miracoli” (Miracles Ann)!!!

  16. Betty says:

    What is a good teacher?

    I have googled the internet many times with “What is a good teacher” in the past.

    This morning, the google returned my request with about 494,000,000 results in 0.35 seconds.

    You will find many scholarly articles for “What is a good teacher”.

    You will find good powerful articles written by writers in many big organisations (eg bbc, guardian etc) in the list.

    I needed to find an answer to the question because I had to prepare to answer any topic related to teachers – that’s for the assessment for teachers, an “exam” I take every year when I can.

    Warren (and, of course Jeff and Lucy included) are not just good teachers. They are excellent teachers.

    How many teachers can motivate old and tired people to learn and improve their second language to a good standard?

    The answer is “NOT MANY”.

    My initial intention was to write a review of what I had learned from the article posted above by Warren. But my mind has been preoccupied by the thankfulness and gratefulness that I wanted to express to our three teachers here.

    They have taught everyone in the world indiscriminately. Many of you (or us) learning here have not spent a single penny or cent on our teachers. You know there is no ‘google advertisement’ in this website so they don’t get any money from advertisements at all*. (Please see footnote*).

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I am extremely lucky to have found this website – thanks to the exam I took and failed, which prompted me to search for advanced good English learning websites.

    Thank you very much indeed, Warren, you are a very good Advanced English teacher.

    My daughter spotted what I had on the computer screen and told me she needed to read more good articles like yours. I totally agree with her. Young people these days really need to read and write more good articles to make the world a better place to live.

    Thanks again. Look forward to your next article soon.

    Betty 🙂

    Footnote*: Please excuse me if I am wrong. There are many ways people can make money from their websites these days. They may be building a massive website which will attract a rich buyer one day. I should be happy for them if that happens, instead of being angry that we don’t get a share of the commission. What more can we wish for? Many good teachers are poor for their whole life. They produced many rich students but they themselves died a poor good teacher.

    Jeff you may be laughing now because you have a beautiful wife who does not insist of having a cat in the house and who gladly accompany you to go to an expensive restaurant. You also have a good house which offers you the chance to enjoy mowing the lawn – you can’t be the poorest teacher in this world.

    How about Lucy? She hardly has any spare time to enjoy any shopping. She only can afford to go to museums that do not charge for an entrance fee.

    Warren might be the richest amongst them. He is contented with his expensive camera which takes the best picture in the world.

    Just joking. Please forgive me for my insanity. ;):)

  17. Betty says:

    Myo Ko Ko,

    Thank you so much for your direction about ‘pee’ and ‘poop’ in answering my wish to find out how Jeff and Lucy would describe these ‘nature’s call’ (or call of nature) for animals.

    Yes, you are right, ESL Podcast 613 – Being a First-Time Parent has mentioned about ‘pee’ and ‘poop’. How dared I manage to forget it?

    And, yes, you are right, we human being do not use direct words about them, I guess it is the same for any languages in any country.

    We need to use the direct words when we care for very young children or very old people (unfortunately incontinent or the opposite do exist).

    Thanks again, Myo Ko Ko, I always enjoy reading your messages here. You don’t need to live in an English speaking country to be good at English. Your English is better than a lot of native English speakers. It is true!

    Betty 🙂

  18. Dan says:


    Congratulations! I am pleased to read that.

  19. Betty says:

    Hi, Emiliano

    Thank you very much for your messages and kind remarks.

    I am very sorry for the delay in my reply.

    Helen Keller wrote such a powerful letter about The Empire State Building that I reckon I should really write something about my new flat as well.

    I was actually a ‘deafblind’ for English until I was well into my teens. I will never be able to depict anything so beautifully as Helen Keller. No even 1% of her ability to use English. However, in order to answer your question, I will try to write sometime in the following paragraphs.

    Yes, I like my new flat very much. It is not as sophisticated as the previous flat – everything very basic. For example, the hot water supply in the old flat was ten times better than this flat, the electric switches here is thirty year behind the old flat.

    But still, this new place offers me a new life. The short comings of this new flat have been compensated by the advantages of its surroundings.

    Instead of living in the less densely populated mid-level in Hong Kong Island, I now live in a massive estate which was a dockyard when I was a little girl.

    As you can see, because it was a dockyard, it is very close to the sea. I used to enjoy looking down the hill, and looking at the sea afar. This distance has diminished. Within 5 minutes’ walking, I can arrive at the sea front and watch people fishing.

    In order to serve the big population in this estate, there is a huge and beautiful shopping mall as part of the development.

    I used to hate coming to this shopping mall because it was so big that I felt tired very quickly. Now I spend about half an hour every day to walk in the shopping mall, to get to know all the world class labels, and I gradually become very fond of this place.

    Last but not least, this place is only 5 minutes’ walk from my father’s flat. It means I do not have to worry about flagging down a taxi in order to rush to him when needed.

    Finally, I would like to thank you again, Emiliano, for giving me the idea of writing something about this new flat. I am glad I have finally finished writing about it.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  20. Betty says:

    Sorry, mistake in my post above:

    “No even 1% of her ability to use English”.

    Should read as: “Not even 1% of her ability to use English”.


  21. Betty says:

    Yes, Warren, like our blog friends here who have thanked you for introducing the ‘Audiofiles’ website to us in your website, I also want to thank you for your generosity in giving us very valuable tips in English learning, again.

    I have been listening to the “Ted Talks”.

    I think my English listening skill must have improved a lot since not too long ago – I can understand the audio stories!

    It is just a shame that there was no transcript for those audio files. There are some words that I did not know but I think I am very lucky to be able to understand most of the audios.

    Thank you again, Warren. The Ted Talks are excellent, truly.

    Best Regards

    Betty 😉

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