Sunday, October 31, 2010

Albert Schweitzer

I see the bug on the sink. I am about to turn on the water. I think of killing it...then...I think of Albert Schweitzer.

Schweitzer was one of the greatest human beings who lived in the 20th Century, a Nobel Prize winner; yet he is mostly overlooked now. I think because he was such a strongly religious man. His devout Christianity was held against him by the intelligentsia; and his accomplishments demeaned by their cynicism. His bio is amazing. A world class Philosopher and writer (of myriad books and voluminous letters) in his 20s, as well as a brilliant, world class organist, he then became a minister as well as a medical student (and doctor) in his 30's. Completing his medical studies, he gave up on civilization (at least in life style) and went to work as medical missionary and doctor amongst the poorest of the poor in Gabon, Africa' There he spent the remainder of his days, and used his growing world fame to raise money to build a hospital in the middle of the jungle. It was his crowning achievement. He remained there, ministering to the body and spirit of the local natives, until he died at the age of 90s.

Throughout his five decade sojourn into the heart of Africa, he lived according to his philosophy, "A Reverence for Life" (the title of a book his wrote early in his career). According to that simple yet comprehensive doctrine, he refused to kill any animal or insect or other living thing. He lived in the tradition of Jesus, whom Godhead believed in and loved devotedly, and Gandhi, Buddha and, eventually, later than him, Mother Teresa. He maintained a reverence for all life,

After my brief ruminating on Schweitzer, I paused in turning on the water in the sink until I lifted the bug on a sheet of paper and deposited it gently on the ground outside my door. "One for you, Albert," I thought. Then I recommenced washing the dishes.

I though it was the least in that small way I could do to honor him, one of his Century's great human beings; a great man who walked the walk and set standards of compassion and life's interconnectedness as he watched and refused to participate in humanity's wasteful defoliation, deforestation, war, animal cruelty, species' extinction and all the other unthinking death and pain humankind rains down on the planet;s fellow creatures.

Few of us can be Schweitzer, but we can honor his standards by (1) accepting the impossibility (and yes, naivete) of his ideals in the abstract; and yet (2) each day, striving to match them in the smallest way. Isn't that the purpose or reason; to gain mastery over chaotic and cruel existence? Thus illogical grows into logic, and progress moves forward in spite of silly little living bug at a time.


Blogger Linda said...

Kindness matters. You are a good man, Cliff Osmond. I'm glad I know of you.

12:58 PM  

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