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Albert Schweitzer's Reverence for Life
by Jack Wellman
2008-01-14 09:47:48
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On a cold, blustery winter day on January 14, 1875, Albert Schweitzer was born in Upper-Alsace, Germany (which is now in France). An extraordinary theologian, philosopher, and musician. He would later win the Nobel Prize as a physician, unheard of today. What was it about this man that would effect much change in Africa and the world? And what drove him and his wife to help the diseased and dying in Africa? How could a doctor earn the Nobel Prize?

Hints of what Albert Schweitzer’s passion became evident in his becoming a doctor. Naturally, he wanted to help the sick and dying. His philosophy is one that is shared by many parents, like their natural benevolence to their own children. Like a parent, he was a person given to the service and preservation of human life but on a much grander scale. He was also a third-generation minister with sermons devoted to helping the less fortunate or disenfranchised.

Schweitzer studied theology and philosophy at the universities of Strasbourg, Paris and Berlin. After his pastoral duties, he entered medical school in 1905 with the dream of becoming a missionary in Africa. Schweitzer was also an acclaimed concert organist who played professional engagements to earn money for his education and by the time he received his Medical Degree in 1913, he had already published several books, including the influential The Quest for the Historical Jesus and a book on the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, with whom he was most infatuated with. His preferred performances were almost always Bach’s.

Schweitzer's worldview was based on his idea of Reverence of Life ("Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben"). He believed that this was his greatest single contribution to humanity. He saw Western Civilization crumbling, and with it, the ethical foundations such as the affirmation of life. He believed that all life must be respected and loved. This reverence for life would then naturally lead to a lifetime of serving others. This passion for life fueled his tireless work for the elimination of both nuclear weapons and nuclear tests as he fought side by side with his fellow Nobel Prize winners, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell.

Shortly after receiving his Doctorate, Albert Schweitzer, with his wife, Helene Bresslau, traveled to French Equatorial Africa. There they founded a hospital at Lambarene (Gabon today). Timing could not have been worse for Schweitzer. World War I started and since he was German-born, they were taken by the French as prisoners of war. They were not freed until 1918 and by 1924 they returned to Lambarene. For the next 30 years, Schweitzer toured much of Europe. His lectures on culture and ethics were always well attended and well received.

Schweitzer was living proof of his philosophy by putting theory into practice at his hospital in Africa. Those whom no one else would treat, patients with leprosy and the dreaded African sleeping sickness, he treated with great love and respect. Giving what many really lacked, dignity. Someone did care. After Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, he took the $33,000 award and built, from scratch, a leprosarium at Lambarene. The first of its kind in the world. From the early 1950s until his death in 1965, Schweitzer’s final years before his death in 1965, was of a global reverence…for all of mankind. To his deathbed, he doggedly fought, to the very end, to destroy and ban all nuclear tests and nuclear weapons. Benevolent to the end, the world owes thanks.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-14 12:44:49
What an inspiriting life! In many ways it goes against the grain of the cult of celebrity and personality so in vogue in our present brave new world. Shweitzer reminded modern man of three immemorial truths of human nature: that man does not live by bread alone albeit bread is a necessity and needs to be shared; that theory without experience and practice is sterile; that no man is an island unto himself.

Seth2008-01-14 22:28:18
That was one incredibly selfless individual.

laf laf2008-03-14 01:17:40
i want to say..
laf laf!! HA HA HA this is actully a really good page. THANKS!

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