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Quotes of the day: Albert Schweitzer

Published Wednesday, January 14, 2015 @ 12:00 AM EST
Jan 14 2015

Albert Schweitzer, OM (January 14, 1875 - September 4, 1965) was a German- and later French- theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary in Africa, also known for his interpretive life of Jesus. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to help all life which he is able to succor, and when he goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything living. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy as valuable in itself, nor how far it is capable of feeling. To him life as such is sacred. He shatters no ice crystal that sparkles in the sun, tears no leaf from its tree, breaks off no flower, and is careful not to crush any insect as he walks. If he works by lamplight on a summer evening, he prefers to keep the window shut and to breathe stifling air, rather than to see insect after insect fall on his table with singed and sinking wings.

Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy.

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

Don't let your hearts grow numb. Stay alert. It is your soul which matters.

Ethics in our Western world has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is a limited ethics. We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.

Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility to everything that has life.

Every start upon an untrodden path is a venture which only in unusual circumstances looks sensible and likely to be successful.

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

Faith which refuses to face indisputable facts is but little faith. Truth is always gain, however hard it is to accommodate ourselves to it.

Grow into your ideals, so that life can never rob you of them.

If I am to expect others to respect my life, then I must respect the other life I see, however strange it may be to mine.

In resigning ourselves to our fate without a struggle, we are guilty of inhumanity.

It does not matter so much what you do. What matters is whether your soul is harmed by what you do. If your soul is harmed, something irreparable happens, the extent of which you won't realize until it will be too late.

It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed.

Let me give you a definition of ethics: It is good to maintain and further life- it is bad to damage and destroy life. And this ethic, profound and universal, has the significance of a religion. It is religion.

Let no one measure himself by his conclusions respecting someone else.

Man can no longer live for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable, and that we are united to all this life.

May the men who hold the destiny of peoples in their hands, studiously avoid anything that might cause the present situation to deteriorate and become even more dangerous.

Not one of us knows what effect his life produces, and what he gives to others; that is hidden from us and must remain so, though we are often allowed to see some little fraction of it, so that we may not lose courage.

Only when an ideal of peace is born in the minds of the peoples will the institutions set up to maintain this peace effectively fulfill the function expected of them.

Service: Never have this word on your lips, but keep it in your hearts.

Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.

Start early to instill in your students awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others; that is as important to pass on to them as knowledge.

The awareness that we are all human beings together has become lost in war and through politics.

The disastrous feature of our civilization is that it is far more developed materially than spiritually.

The ethic of Reverence for Life prompts us to keep each other alert to what troubles us and to speak and act dauntlessly together in discharging the responsibility that we feel. It keeps us watching together for opportunities to bring some sort of help to animals in recompense for the great misery that men inflict upon them, and thus for a moment we escape from the incomprehensible horror of existence.

The fundamental principle of morality is that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.

The good conscience is an invention of the devil.

The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up. That is possible for him who never argues and strives with men and facts, but in all experience retires upon himself, and looks for the ultimate cause of things in himself.

The highest knowledge is to know that we are surrounded by mystery.

The last fact which knowledge can discover is that the world is a manifestation, and in every way a puzzling manifestation, of the universal will to live.

The most important thing in education is to make young people think for themselves.

The one essential thing is that we strive to have light in ourselves. When people have light in themselves, it will shine out from them.

The only way out of today's misery is for people to become worthy of each other's trust.

The result of the voyage does not depend on the speed of the ship, but on whether or not it keeps a true course.

The spirit of the universe is at once creative and destructive- it creates while it destroys and destroys while it creates, and therefore it remains to us a riddle.

The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo.

To the question whether I am a pessimist or an optimist, I answer that my knowledge is pessimistic, but my willing and hoping are optimistic.

True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness: 'I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live.'

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.

Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit.

We cannot abdicate our conscience to an organization, nor to a government. 'Am I my brother's keeper?' Most certainly I am! I cannot escape my responsibility by saying the State will do all that is necessary.

We must indeed attempt the limitless ocean, but we may set our sails and steer a determined course.

What has been presented as Christianity during these nineteen centuries is only a beginning, full of mistakes, not full blown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.

What really matters is that we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity. The horror of this realization should shake us out of our lethargy so that we can direct our hopes and our intentions to the coming of an era in which war will have no place.

When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.

World-view is a product of life-view, not vice versa.

Categories: Albert Schweitzer, Quotes of the day


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