“Reverence For Life”

by Deacon Stephen Bowling

It has been said that one of the best ways to become truly wise is to seek the counsel of those who have gone before. In fact, one might say that the entire philosophy of a classical education is based upon this principle.

Although wisdom originates from God, it is often transmitted to us from others. Not through “quantity,” as the rise of internet discourse might seem to suggest, but more in fact through “quality,” as the timelessness of so many writings come down to us throughout the ages – from the saints for example – would illustrate.

When it comes to the issue of the dignity and sanctity of life – in all of its many facets and forms, but, of course, primarily in its human one – very few people, I think, have been wiser than Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

As we observe “Respect Life Month” every October, I cannot help but recall Schweitzer’s famous philosophy of “Reverence for Life.“ Schweitzer developed this powerful way of looking at the world – as is so often that case – by a spiritual awakening, which he believed was granted to him by God’s grace I 1915. This epiphany happened to him while on a boat trip on the Ogooué River in what was at the time known as French Equatorial Africa, but which is now known as the Central African nation of Gabon.

The quotation in the graphic above is Schweitzer’s own summation of the central place in which respect for life (or as he would say, “reverence for life”) should occupy in all that we do or say. And although Schweitzer was in fact a Lutheran, there is no doubt that the fundamental tenets of Jesus Christ, which we all revere and strive to put into practice, were at the beating heart of his philosophy.

Therefore, this October, as we once more celebrate the dignity and sanctity of all human life, it might be worth our time to delve a little deeper into the life and works of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, one of the wise philosophical fathers whose work continues to inspire us a century later.

To learn more, please consider spending some time reading James Brabazon’s excellent work, Albert Schweitzer: A Biography or perhaps read Schweitzer’s own words directly in his own bestselling autobiography “Out of My Life and Thought.” Both are widely available, inexpensive and accessible reading for anyone.

If you prefer watching rather than reading about Schweitzer and his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”, check out the episode “Oganga, the Giver and Taker of Life” from George Lucas’ excellent television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. It is available on DVD or even for viewing on YouTube. It will be 90 minutes well spent, I assure you.

Reverence for Life is a way of living . . . but in order to make it truly alive in our midst it requires some effort on our part, in addition to God’s divine assistance.

I can assure you that this learning more about this concept is indeed worth that effort.



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