Today is Albert Schweitzer’s birthday (1875). He was a doctor, theologian, musician, philosopher, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1952), a great humanitarian… and, at least at some points in his life, a vegetarian. He built a hospital in Gabon, Africa, and worked there for many years. Schweitzer believed that all forms of life, not only human, are worthy of reverence. Ethical people try to preserve and nurture life as much as they can, according to Schweitzer. To injure or destroy life is evil, but sometimes unfortunately it’s necessary; so we must all be aware of our responsibility to minimize the harm that we cause to other living creatures.
Here are some quotes from Albert Schweitzer on the theme of extending our compassion beyond humans to other creatures:
“Our civilization lacks humane feeling. We are humans who are insufficiently humane! We must realize that and seek to find a new spirit. We have lost sight of this ideal because we are solely occupied with thoughts of men instead of remembering that our goodness and compassion should extend to all creatures. Religion and philosophy have not insisted as much as they should on the fact that our kindness should include all living creatures.” – Letter to Aida Flemming, 1959
“It is our duty to share and maintain life. Reverence concerning all life is the greatest commandment in its most elementary form. Or expressed in negative terms: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. We take this prohibition so lightly, thoughtlessly plucking a flower, thoughtlessly stepping on a poor insect, thoughtlessly, in terrible blindness because everything takes its revenge, disregarding the suffering and lives of our fellow men, sacrificing them to trivial earthly goals.” – Reverence for Life
“Let no one regard as light the burden of his responsibility. While so much ill-treatment of animals goes on, while the moans of thirsty animals in railway trucks sound unheard, while so much brutality prevails in our slaughterhouses… we all bear guilt. Everything that lives has value as a living thing, as one of the manifestations of the mystery that is life.”
“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.” – The Philosophy of Civilisation
For more on Albert Schweitzer, see: