The Study and Science of Passion: The Meaningful Relationship and the Amazing Motivation of Helen Keller

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of humans 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. Helen Keller

“Passion comes from the heart and is manifested as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, and determination.” Stephen R. Covey (the 8th Habit)

Helen Keller was deaf and blind, cut off from the world and human contact, until Anne Sullivan came along.

The relationship between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan is truly amazing. It not only signifies the autonomy and relatedness of these two individuals, but it also magnifies the theory of motivation for both.

Sullivan’s motivation and creativity instilled in Helen a passion not to give up. She was motivated so much by her unabashed persistence and determination to reach her. Helen Keller later recalled the first moment when that motivation, persistence, love, and passion bore fruit:

“My teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, had been with me for nearly a month, and she taught me the names of a number of objects. She would put them in my hand, spell out their names with her fingers, and help me form the letters.

“But I didn’t have the faintest idea of what she was doing. I do not know what I thought. I have only a tactile memory of my fingers going through those motions and changing from one position to another.

One day she handed me a cup and spelled the word. Then she poured some liquid into the cup and spelled the letters: W-A-T-E-R. ” She says I looked puzzled. I was confusing the two words, spelling cup for water and water for cup.

“Finally, I became angry because Miss Sullivan kept repeating the words over and over. In despair, she led me out to the ivy-covered pump house and made me hold the cup under the spout while she pumped.

“In her other hand, she spelled W-A-T-E-R emphatically. I stood still, my whole body and attention fixed on the motions of her fingers.

As the cool stream flowed over my hand all at once, there was a strange stir within me—a misty consciousness, a sense of something remembered. “It was as if I had come back to life after being dead.” (Unification? (You will read about unification in chapter two; however, we suggest you make a note of it here.)

One of the greatest insights in the field of human motivation is the fact that “Satisfied Needs” do not motivate. Then it should also be true that it’s only unsatisfied needs” that motivate. How much unsatisfied need do you feel for Helen? How much of that is passed on to Ann?

Unification theory is very interesting and is what makes learning, concentration, and meditation so joyful. We will touch on the Unification Theory and expand on it with several examples, such as rock climbing and surgery. I strongly suggest that after you read about the unification theory and understand exactly what it means, you come back and read the Helen Keller story one more time. I am sure you will sense the unification theory in her words (misty consciousness).

Antonio Gramsci (source: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Antonio Gramsci, the philosopher of humanistic socialism, had such a strong influence on the development of European thought in this century and on the eventual demise of Leninism and Stalinism. Born in 1891 to a destitute family on the poor island of Sardinia, Antonio had a deformed spine and was sickly all through childhood. Their poverty became almost intolerable when his father, arrested on false charges, was imprisoned and could no longer support his large family. In an unsuccessful attempt to cure his hunchback, Antonio’s uncle would hang the child by his ankles from the rafters of the hovel in which they lived. Antonio’s mother was so sure that the child was eventually going to pass away in his sleep that every night she set out his one good suit and a pair of candles on the dresser so that the funeral preparations would take less time.

Given these facts, it would have come as no surprise that Gramsci grew up full of hatred and spite. Instead, he dedicated his life to helping the oppressed by becoming a subtle writer and brilliant theoretician. Although he was one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party, he never compromised his humanitarian values for the sake of expediency or party dogma. Even after Mussolini had him imprisoned in a medieval jail so that he would die in solitary confinement, he kept writing letters and essays full of light, hope, and compassion. All of the external factors conspired to twist Gramsci’s life; he must take all the credit for achieving the intellectual and emotional harmony that he left as his heritage. (Source: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Linus Pauling (source: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Another example concerns the life of Linus Pauling. He was born in Portland, Oregon, at the turn of the century. His father died when Linus was nine years old, leaving the family impoverished. Although he was an omnivorous reader and collected minerals, plants, and insects, Linus did not think he would go past high school. Fortunately, the parents of one of his friends almost forced him to enroll in college. Then he received a scholarship to get into Cal Tech, became involved in research, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He describes his college years as follows:

I made a little money by doing odd jobs, working for the college, and killing dandelions on the lawn by dipping a stick in a bucket containing sodium arsenate solution and then stabbing the stick into the dandelion plant. Every day I chopped wood, perhaps a quarter of a cord, into lengths—they were already sawed—into a size that would go into the wood-burning stoves in the girls’ dormitory. Twice a week I cut up a quarter of a beef into steaks or roasts, and every day I mopped the big kitchen, the very large kitchen area. Then, at the end of my sophomore year, I got a job as a paving engineer, laying blacktop pavement in the mountains of Southern Oregon.

What was so amazing about Linus Pauling is that even at ninety years of age, he kept the enthusiasm and curiosity of a young child. Everything he did or said was bubbling with energy. Despite the early adversity and the later hardships, he exuded an obvious joie de vivre. And there was no secret about how he did it; in his own words, “I just went ahead and did what I liked to do.” (Source: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

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