Cantina Quote o’ the Week: Albert Schweitzer


The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.

-Albert Schweitzer

This one sometimes gets passed off as a quote by Albert Einstein, but it appears Einstein was himself quoting a fellow German. Albert Schweitzer turns out to be a fascinating man. He was a musician, an excellent one who wrote books on Bach and invented a new way of recording people performing Bach. At the age of thirty, he gave all that up to spend years becoming a doctor, opened a hospital in Africa, and healed people for the rest of his life. He won a Nobel Peace Prize, and his Albert Schweitzer Fellowship continues on.

He was a Christian who wrote The Quest of the Historical Jesus. He also wrote Indian Thought and Its Development, and admired the Jains for their non-violent philosophy. He didn’t believe his best work was his hospital in Africa, but his ethic of Reverence for Life. He saw his hospital as the result of that.

And he was critical of colonialism when being so wasn’t yet fashionable.

This quote of his has been a good guide, a reminder that there is more than one kind of death. The big one at the end isn’t half so scary as the innumerable small ones that can be suffered in the course of a life. It reminds me to live, do my best not to let pieces of myself die away. When the end comes, if there’s a moment to look back, it would be nice to see that while I lived, I was very much alive.

Comments

  1. rq says

    It reminds me of Chekhov’s “Any fool can survive a crisis. It is this day-to-day living that wears you out.”** Same sesntiment of weariness and sadness (as I read it).
    (** As quoted from memory; wording may be wrong.)

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.

    -Albert Schweitzer

    Yet ask any old person and they’ll tell you they still feel like they are seventeen on the inside – nothing died at all.

  3. Ysanne says

    grumpy,
    that’s what I thought based on my grandparents, but then I met the prof who ran my stipend’s meet-up group. He split the topic of our sessions evenly between complaining that no-one in the group proposes to do anything fun together anymore (then shot down any fun ideas for being too low-brow), and complaining that all the fun and passion in his life has drained away and new discoveries, new experiences and new girlfriends can’t excite him any more.
    We all learned a lot from him: For example, how to convincingly “unfortunately” reschedule group meetings at the last minute to a time he can’t make.