Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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What does the quote "Only the deaf appreciate hearing, only the blind realize the manifold blessing that lie in sight" mean?

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The quote reflects the basic idea that there are attributes and qualities that all learners have. At the same time, the quote reminds all of us of the qualities that are so easily taken for granted, yet appreciated by those who are impacted by their absence.  For example, someone who is hearing impaired, or "deaf," will value the ability to hear because it is something they lack.  The person who possesses this sense might not appreciate it as such because they are more likely to take it for granted.  The same applies to those who are vision impaired, or "blind."  They would appreciate sight, whereas someone who has it might not appreciate it as much.  In the end, the quote compels all of us to appreciate what it is we have.  Too often, individuals lament what they lack and what they don't have.  The quote might be suggesting that to be thankful for what basic elements are present will allow individuals to lead a more purposeful life, one with meaning, compassion, and understanding.  In this light, the quote both makes a point about those who face significant physical challenges in their lives and those who do not.  Helen Keller becomes the epitome of those individuals who are able to embrace what they have, allowing life to become a more purposeful existence and not being defined by any physical condition.

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"Only the deaf appreciate hearing" - How often have you used your iPod to block out noise from another source? People use ear buds or headphones to avoid listening to conversations, to mask noise from interfering with work, to protect their ears from noise that is too loud. Someone who is deaf would find great pleasure in being able to hear those sounds but is unable to do so.

In the same way, those of us who have the gift of vision take it for granted. We forget to appreciate the miracle that is the beauty of a tree while we are raking the fallen leaves. We get frustrated and angry when caught in a traffic jam instead of realizing how fortunate we are to be capable of getting into a car and going to another location whenever we want. We do not really understand how totally changed our lives would be if we could not do the things we do every day because we can see to do them.

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