One of Schweitzer's defining ideals was a "reverence for all life".
  • One of Schweitzer's defining ideals was a "reverence for all life".
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While September 4 was Labor Day, for some of us it was also a birthday celebration. Whose birthday? Anton Bruckner and french composer Darius Milhaud. It also marked the death, in 1965, of Albert Schweitzer.

Labor Day became something of a memorial day in my neck of the woods.


Albert Schweitzer plays Bach on the organ

There is an interesting convergence of these three independent personalities. Bruckner is famous not only as a composer but also as an organist. Schweitzer was portrayed as the leading interpreter of Bach’s organ music during his lifetime.

One of Milhaud’s most famous pieces of music is The Creation of the World which is based on African mythology. Schweitzer spent the greater part of his life running a medical clinic in West Africa in an effort to help atone for the sins of colonialism.

Bruckner’s spiritual intensity and Schweitzer’s Christian idealism also lineup. Idealism is probably the wrong term to use regarding Albert Schweitzer.

Schweitzer famously said that his life was his argument. When one lives out one’s ideals, the term which comes to mind is authenticity. It is difficult, but not impossible, to find fault with the life Schweitzer led.

We are living in a culture which could be defined as the epitome of hypocrisy. Of those who even profess ideals, how many are living them beyond their online profile statements?

Schweitzer was all but certain to have a successful career as an academic and intellectual having published books on Bach and Kant before he was 30 years old. Yet in his 30’s he went to medical school in order to go to Africa and establish a small clinic. He performed organ concerts in order to raise money which he then took to found his clinic in Gabon, West Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

I spent the remainder of the week watching documentaries on Schweitzer, reading his Nobel lecture, and listening to his organ recordings.

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