More on and from
Albert Schweitzer


Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which people cease to
live unreflectively and begin to devote themselves to their lives
with reverence in order to raise them to their true value.  To affirm
life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will-to-live.


A great secret of success is to go through life as a person who never gets used up.

It is not enough merely to exist.  It's not enough to say, "I'm earning enough to support my family.  I do my work well. I'm a good father, husband, mother, wife, churchgoer."  That's all very well.  But you must do something more.  Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every person has to seek in his or her own way to realize his or her true worth.  You must give some time to your fellow human beings.  For remember, you don't live in a world all your own.  Your brothers and sisters are here, too.
Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which people cease to live unreflectively and begin to devote themselves to their lives with reverence in order to raise them to their true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will-to-live.
Those who thank God much are the truly wealthy.  So our inner happiness depends not on what we experience but on the degree of our gratitude to God, whatever the experience.  Your life is something opaque, not transparent, as long as you look at it in an ordinary human way.  But if you hold it up against the light of God's goodness, it shines and turns transparent, radiant and bright.  And then you ask yourself in amazement:  Is this really my own life I see before me?

Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of the way, but must accept his or her lot calmly, even if they roll a few stones upon it.

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to humankind.


One can do only what one can do.  But if someone does that each day
he or she can sleep at night and do it again the next day.


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Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun
makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding,
mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.


Everything deep is also simple and can be reproduced
simply as long as its reference to the whole truth is maintained.
But what matters is not what is witty but what is true.

Impart as much as you can of your spiritual being
to those who are on the road with you, and accept
as something precious what comes back to you from them.

When in the spring the withered gray of the pastures
gives place to green, this is due to the millions
of young shoots which sprout up freshly from the old roots.
In like manner the revival of thought which is essential
for our time can only come through a transformation
of the opinions and ideals of the many brought about
by individual and universal reflection about
the meaning of life and of the world.

The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes
better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities,
it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover
their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character.

Everything deep is also simple and can be reproduced
simply as long as its reference to the whole truth is maintained.
But what matters is not what is witty but what is true.

Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875-September 4, 1965) was born into an Alsatian family which for generations had been devoted to religion, music, and education. His father and maternal grandfather were ministers; both of his grandfathers were talented organists; many of his relatives were persons of scholarly attainments.

Schweitzer entered into his intensive theological studies in 1893 at the University of Strasbourg where he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in 1899, with a dissertation on the religious philosophy of Kant, and received his licentiate in theology in 1900. He began preaching at St. Nicholas Church in Strasbourg in 1899; he served in various high ranking administrative posts from 1901 to 1912 in the Theological College of St.Thomas, the college he had attended at the University of Strasbourg.  In 1906 he published The Quest of the Historical Jesus, a book on which much of his fame as a theological scholar rests.

Meanwhile he continued with a distinguished musical career initiated at an early age with piano and organ lessons. Only nine when he first performed in his father's church, he was, from his young manhood to his middle eighties, recognized as a concert organist, internationally known. From his professional engagements he earned funds for his education, particularly his later medical schooling, and for his African hospital. Musicologist as well as performer, Schweitzer wrote a biography of Bach in 1905 in French, published a book on organ building and playing in 1906, and rewrote the Bach book in German in 1908.

Having decided to go to Africa as a medical missionary rather than as a pastor, Schweitzer in 1905 began the study of medicine at the University of Strasbourg. In 1913, having obtained his M.D. degree, he founded his hospital at Lambaréné in French Equatorial Africa, but in 1917 he and his wife were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war.  Released in 1918, Schweitzer spent the next six years in Europe, preaching in his old church, giving lectures and concerts, taking medical courses, writing On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, The Decay and Restoration of Civilization, Civilization and Ethics, and
Christianity and the Religions of the World.

Schweitzer returned to Lambaréné in 1924 and except for relatively short periods of time, spent the remainder of his life there.  With the funds earned from his own royalties and personal appearance fees and with those donated from all parts of the world, he expanded the hospital to seventy buildings which by the early 1960's could take care of over 500 patients in residence at any one time.

At Lambaréné, Schweitzer was doctor and surgeon in the hospital, pastor of a congregation, administrator of a village, superintendent of buildings and grounds, writer of scholarly books, commentator on contemporary history, musician, host to countless visitors. The honors he received were numerous, including the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt and honorary doctorates from many universities emphasizing one or another of his achievements.  The Nobel Peace Prize for 1952, having been withheld in that year, was given to him on December 10, 1953.  With the $33,000 prize money, he started the leprosarium at Lambaréné.

Albert Schweitzer died on September 4, 1965, and was buried at Lambaréné.
(adapted from Wikipedia)
A passage from Alan Loy McGinnins' Bringing Out the Best in People:

In 1875, a sickly child was born in Upper Alsace who was slow to read and write and was a poor scholar.  But as he grew up he made himself master subjects that were particularly difficult, such as Hebrew.  In music, he turned out to be a genuine prodigy, playing the organ at eight when his legs were scarcely long enough to reach the pedals.  At nine he substituted for the regular organist in a church service.

His name was Albert Schweitzer, and everyone knows how by early manhood he had several professional lives proceeding concurrently.  At the University of Strasbourg he earned his first Ph.D. in philosophy, then went on to win doctorates in theology and music theory.  By the time he was 30, he had a flourishing career as a concert organist and was publishing a stream of books.  But then he abruptly stopped his academic career in order to study medicine and devote the rest of his life to being a missionary.  This had begun when by chance he read a magazine article about the Congo.  "While we are preaching to these people about religion," the article said, "they are suffering and dying before our eyes from physical maladies."

Schweitzer had received his calling, and he began to lay plans to go to Africa.  Friends protested:  if the aborigines of Africa needed help, let Schweitzer raise money for their assistance.  He certainly was not called upon to wash lepers with his own hands.

There will always be such people who try to tell us to be realistic, people who seem to find it their calling to attempt to flatten our dreams and diminish our lives.  But there will always be a few, thankfully, who will encourage our ideals and gladly join us in our goals.  When Schweitzer fell in love with Helen Bresslau, the daughter of a Jewish historian, he bluntly proposed:  "I am studying to be a doctor for the people of Africa.  Would you spend the rest of your life with me--in the jungle?"

And she answered, "I shall become a nurse.  Then how could you go without me?"  And on Good Friday of 1913, the two of them left for French Equatorial Africa.  For more than 50 years he served there, eventually to become a Nobel laureate and a legend.



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