083: The Words of Albert Schweitzer by Albert Schweitzer

by Gerard

083.1: Schweitzer, Albert. The Words of Albert Schweitzer. Selected and edited by Norman Cousins. New York: Newmarket Press, 1984. 96 pp. ISBN 0-937858-41-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 000: Computer Science, Information, and General Works
  • 080: General Collections
  • 083: General collections in other Germanic languages
  • 083.1: General collections in German

[This book was so short that I finished it in about an hour, so I thought I’d treat you to another review today.]

When you first come upon the “general collections” division in the Dewey (080s), it’s a bit confusing. The classification note for 080 reads as such: “Class here abstracts, addresses, lectures, essays, interviews, graffiti, [and] quotations.” This means that books that are just a collection of any of those things get sorted here. Since today’s subject—Albert Schweitzer—originally wrote in German and since it is a collections of quotations and an excerpt from a speech, the only place to fit this volume is in 083.

Albert Schweitzer was born in Alsace in 1875. After studying theology, music, and medicine (an already interesting mix), he set out to become a missionary doctor, traveling to the French mission hospital at Lombarene in French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon). Through both his spiritual and physical healing, he realized that the best way to combat the diseases of the region was to set up a hospital that took into account both Western medicine and African village philosophies. He would treat patients in the main building and then transfer them to many of the out-buildings on the property of the hospital made to emulate a traditional African village. This way, the family members of the patient would be encouraged to stay on the premises and look after their sick relative.

Schweitzer’s moral philosophy is in direct contrast to Nietzsche’s (see the previous review) in that he felt morally obligated to respect all life, to end all suffering, and treat each waking moment as a miracle from God. His philosophical treatise Reverence for Life, as well as his continued work towards brokering peaceful solutions to local and global conflicts, earned him the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 1965 at the age of 90.

Norman Cousins’ collection of Schweitzer’s sayings is slender but powerful. I got a very good sense of the cause and life of Schweitzer. His overwhelming motive was to engage with life with purpose, morality, and joy. He wanted nothing else than to make a positive impact on the world and to truly enjoy the positive impact the world had on him. Here a few of my favorite lines:

  • On success: “The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.”
  • On technology: “We have created many things, but we have not mastered the creation of life. We cannot even create an insect.”
  • On immortality: “No one has ever come back from the other world. I can’t console you, but one thing I can tell you, as long as my ideals are alive I will be alive.”
  • On peace: “The only way out of today’s misery is for people to become worthy of each other’s trust.”

COMING UP: If you haven’t noticed by now, to start this project, I’ve carefully chosen the first 100 or so books so that I could read one book in each Dewey division. In the next thirty days, I hope to finish that first milestone. I’ve selected ten books—one from each class—that will finish out the first major round of reading. The last 99 books of this project (tentatively scheduled for 2018) will incorporate the same strategy, making a grand divisional tour of the Dewey to finish the quest.

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