Wisdom and the Meaning of life according to Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Albert Schweitzer, the Franco-German missionary and Nobel peace prize laureate, dedicated a great deal of his life to medical missionary work at his hospital in Lambarene, Gabon and campaigning against nuclear tests. Despite often being criticised for an overbearing and condescending attitude towards his African brothers and sisters, he remains recognised for his philosophy of reverence for life.
Reverence for life
A Lutheran missionary, Schweitzer believed that ethical values should be world and life affirming. His core certainty is that we are alive and desire to go on living and this is something that we share with all other living things. The very universe itself has evolved to cater for life. A thinking Being becomes aware of this and is touched by a certain reverence for life. It then guides its will and actions towards fostering this life and never thoughtlessly harms or destroys life.
The role of civilisation
The concept of true civilisation permeates Albert Schweitzer’s philosophical work, perhaps due to a concern with what he perceived as a decline in European civilisation. His prominent opposition to colonialism and personal abhorrence of the injustices committed in Africa, in the name of missionary work and civilisation probably also played a part.
To Schweitzer, the ideal of true civilisation of the individual and society represents the only path out of chaos. Science and material progress should be moderated by deep rooted awareness of world and life affirming ethical values – The will to civilisation and the will to progress tempered with a reverence for life.
The problem of peace
In his Nobel lecture, Schweitzer argues that world peace and the absence of war is not a Utopian ideal. The peoples of the world can adopt an ethical mentality and be touched by an ethical spirit, the which spirit can be shown to be pervasive in all levels of civilisation going back in time. This spirit will in turn move the world and its peoples to a dimension where compassion is the norm.
How to be happy according to Albert Schweitzer
Temper or moderate your own ambition and will to progress with the recognition that you are life amongst life. Find a way to truly help and serve your fellow men. An awakened reverence for life, adds a spark of compassion towards all things living that can truly turn the individual and society at large into a civilised and advancing one.
Five Albert Schweitzer Quotes
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others
Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid.
Make up your own mind about Albert Schweitzer by reading some of his work
Reverence for life (1965)
African Notebook (1939)