CHAPTER SIX
THE WORLD LISTENS

During the dark years of World War II, Dr. Schweitzer remained at Lambarene, short-staffed and under-supplied, relying on supportive groups, particularly the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship in the United States. He emerged from Africa in 1948 to a wounded, changed and changing world. Victors and vanquished alike looked to Dr. Schweitzer's philosophy for the restoration of hope and sanity.

In 1952, he was chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his humanitarianism. There could be no peace, he said in his acceptance speech, no harmony among men and nations unless prejudice and nationalism were laid aside, and all humankind recognized and embraced the universality of life -- specifically, "all living creatures."


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Compassion The human spirit is not dead: It lives on in secret.... It has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.

      Little that Dr. Schweitzer pointed to in those postwar years showed more clearly the interrelationship between man and nature than the effect on man and the biosphere of continued nuclear testing.

      Warning of the insidious effects on generations of unborn children for centuries to come, his voice and those of thousands of scientists were heard by many governments that ceased their open-air nuclear testing.

Nuclear
Fall-out
The radioactive elements released in the air by nuclear tests do not stay there permanently. In the form of radioactive rain and radioactive snow they fall down on the earth. They enter the plants through leaves and roots and stay there. We absorb them through the plants, by drinking milk from the cows or by eating the meat of animals which have fed on them. Radioactive rain infects our drinking water.

      More Americans became aware of Dr. Schweitzer when in 1949, at age 74, he made his first trip to the United States to pay homage to one of the greatest influences on his life, the poet-dramatist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose 200th anniversary was being celebrated at Aspen, Colorado. His debt to Goethe was profound.

Goethe What binds us together in the deepest depths of our being is his [Goethe] philosophy of nature.

      Perhaps the most heartening moment during his trip was the sight from his train window of bales of hay being dropped from airplanes to hungry deer gathered in an inaccessible valley. "Reverence for Life, " he called out, "Vive I' Amerique!"
      Dr. Schweitzer's philosophy opened a new dimension to the struggling world of North American animal welfare, becoming especially noticeable in the early 1950's. For then, there came into being the Animal Welfare Institute, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, The Humane Society of the United States and the Kindness Club in Canada.

      In most communities, humane societies -- if such existed -- struggled to make ends meet, their efforts often denigrated. But now they saw a leader: at last, a world figure, unafraid to speak up for animals. Encouraged, they took their fight for stronger animal protection to court houses, legislatures and to Washington's Capitol Hill. In the years following Dr. Schweitzer's presence in the United States, when there was only one animal protective Federal law on the statute books, soon one after another was to be enacted. It was not easy. Bitter struggles ensued and continue today in the effort to seek broader coverage and better enforcement. Dr. Schweitzer, clearly realized that the tide had turned.
      In 1954 the Animal Welfare Institute presented to Dr. Schweitzer a gold replica of its Albert Schweitzer medal, awarded annually thereafter for outstanding service to animals. On it, his image with his dog, Tchu Tchu, and his words:

Boundless
Ethics
We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.

      In giving his permission to strike the medal, Dr. Schweitzer wrote to "my companion in the struggle," AWI president, Christine Stevens:

Moving Surprise I am profoundly moved that you would like to give my name to the medal you have created. I give you this right with all my heart. I would never have believed that my philosophy, which incorporates in our ethics a compassionate attitude toward all creatures, would be noticed and recognized in my lifetime. I knew this truth would impose itself one day on human thought, but it is the great and moving surprise of my life that I should still be able to witness this progress of ethics.

      Greatly inspired by Dr. Schweitzer, the founders of The Humane Society of the United States -- today one of the western hemisphere's largest humane organizations -- dedicated themselves in 1954 to "making reverence for life a living reality." It has reached out to help -- through direct action, education at all levels and support of protective legislation -- countless animals in slaughter houses, laboratories, zoos, pounds, in the wild, on the high seas. In the 1970's it became the sponsor of the International Kindness Club, whose Canadian founder, Aida Flemming, had invited Dr. Schweitzer in 1959 to serve as honorary president. Having often observed "the dreadful play" of uninstructed children with helpless animals, he gladly accepted, writing:

A New
Humanity
Our civilization lacks humane feeling. We are humans who are insufficiently humane! We must realize that and seek to find a new spirit. We have lost sight of this ideal because we are solely occupied with thoughts of men instead of remembering that our goodness and compassion should extend to all creatures. Religion and philosophy have not insisted as much as they should on the fact that our kindness should include all living creatures....
The pages that you sent me tell me that you also are seized with this idea. I am greatly impressed by your letter. I am profoundly moved, because we aspire to a new humanity.

      From Japan in 1961 came the request that he serve the Japanese Animal Welfare Society as an honorary patron. In his acceptance, he wrote:

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

      By the 1960's, more than 45 schools asked permission to bear his name. On acceptance, he would write:

Heart and
Reason
Start early to instill in your students an awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others... May it be the good fortune of this school to have teachers who not only pass on knowledge to the children on the road of life, but who also give them the deep realization that the heart must always play its part as well as reason.

      The world in the post-war years seemed to be "beating a path" to Dr. Schweitzer's Lambarene door, so inspired were the volunteer physicians, nurses, technicians, theologians, philosophers, journalists by the example of this selfless, many-faceted man. Sometimes "le grand docteur" would disappoint them by talking at length about his animals instead of the great issues of the day!

      On occasion, he discouraged his admirers from coming to the now greatly expanded Lambarene hospital and village, reminding them that their services probably could be used more effectively at home or elsewhere. He told them:

      Everyone has his Lambarene.

      Making her own Lambarene in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., was Rachel Carson as she labored, though weakening from cancer, to alert the world to the dangers of misuse of certain "miracle" pesticides, just as had Dr. Schweitzer warned on the dangers of nuclear contamination. She dedicated her 1962 book Silent Spring to Dr. Schweitzer, using his own words:

Capacity
to Foresee
Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.

      The great environmental awakening began with that book. (Soon, in the United States there was public demand for a National Environmental Policy Act. In Schweitzerian fashion, this 1969 Act required any government agency planning to alter the environment to justify, in detail, the action's necessity.)


Rachel Carson

      On receiving the Albert Schweitzer Medal in 1962, Rachel Carson called Dr. Schweitzer "the one truly great individual our modern times have produced." She said: "If during the coming years we are to find our way through the problems that beset us, it will surely be in large part through the wider understanding and application of his principles."

      Albert Schweitzer was never to meet some of those humanitarians and naturalists whom he influenced the most, for he had returned permanently to Africa in 1959, leaving behind forever the hills of Alsace, where nature first "spoke" to him.

A Longer
Journey
Now I have left the mountains and the castles and the woods. I stand before the church and see the swallows once more. The swallows are gathering for the journey south. We will set out together. But a time will come when I will not see you when you gather for this journey, and you will set out for the south without me, for I will have gone on a longer journey from one world to another.

      Albert Schweitzer died at age 90 on September 4, 1965, at Lambarene, realizing that attitudes were changing. He had the satisfaction of knowing that by persistently seeking answers to his boyhood questions, he had given guidance to those whose hearts were lacerated by animal suffering and the ravaging of nature. But he had no way of knowing that in coming years philosophers and thoughtful men and women everywhere would no longer shrink from confronting the last unacknowledged right: the right of an animal -- or even a tree -- (communicating through the conscience of man) to say "No." Nor could Dr. Schweitzer know that a new and different future for exploited animals and nature was evolving, largely because of him. But by looking to the past, he was well aware that no revolutionary truth is acceptable to the majority when it is first introduced.

The Fate
of Every
Truth
It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed. It was once considered foolish to suppose that black men were really human beings and ought to be treated as such. What was once foolish has now become a recognized truth. Today it is considered as exaggeration to proclaim constant respect for every form of life as being the serious demand of a rational ethic. But the time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility with regard to everything that has life.

      As his life unfolded, Albert Schweitzer steadily grew into his ideals. It was not always easy. But he was convinced that others could do likewise once they gave serious thought to the possibility of breaking away from the tyranny of cultural custom and personal habit.

Let
Us Work
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. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come.

      Albert Schweitzer realized that even his deepest concentration could not solve the puzzle that dominated his life since childhood: I am life which wills to live in the midst of life which wills to live. But he came to a kind of terms with the mystery and showed others how they could do likewise:

      Make judgments with a prayerful and humble heart, realizing that love cannot be compartmentalized. It embraces all life.

For All
Creation
To think out in every implication the ethic of love for all creation -- this is the difficult task which confronts our age.


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