Mission Driven Stories: Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and is known world wide for his service to humanity. Yet, he began life in an ordinary home, with an ordinary family in a small village in the mountains.

We might well ask: What made him different?  What did he do to have far-reaching impact for good?  And what clues for living life mission can his life story reveal?

In this podcast you’ll learn the story of  Albert Schweitzer’s life and his journey through the 7 Laws of Life Mission.  You’ll be fascinated to see how he prepared, heard the call to life mission and executed his mission–despite the opposition of family and friends, without the financial means he needed, with years of preparation still ahead of him.

As you listen, perhaps you will find insights from Albert Schweitzer’s life that will help you see more clearly your own mission path. You may even see where you are on the path right now and what you need to do to take the next step.

Listener’s Guide:

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast. 

2:07  Law 1–Love of God
4:07  Law 2–Love of Self
8.22  Law 3–Love of Truth
10:44  Law 4–Love of Humanity
21:34  Law 5–Hear the Call

39:05  Law 6–Courageously Execute
46:11  Law 7–Do it Again

Quotes from this Episode:

“When I was five years old my father began giving me music lessons on the old square piano which we had inherited from grandfather Schillinger.  He had no technical skill, but improvised charmingly.  When I was seven I surprised our schoolmistress by playing hymn tunes on the harmonium with harmonies which I supplied myself.  At eight, when my legs were hardly long enough to reach the pedals, I began to play the organ.  My passion for that instrument was inherited from my grandfather Schillinger…I was nine years old when for the first time I took the place of the organist for a service at Gunsbach.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“Three times a week, from eleven to twelve, when the morning lessons were over, I had to take the Confirmation classes for boys, which in Alsace continue for two years.  I tried hard to give them as little home work to do as possible, that the lessons might be a time of pure refreshment for heart and spirit.  I therefore used the last ten minutes for making them repeat after me, and so get to know by heart, Bible sayings and verses of hymns which they might take away from these classes to guide them throughout their lives.  The aim of my teaching was to bring home to their hearts and thoughts the great truths of the Gospel, and to make them religious in such a way that in later life they might be able to resist the temptations to irreligion which would assail them.  I tried also to awake in them a love for the Church, and a feeling of need for a solemn hour for their souls in the Sunday services.  I taught them to respect traditional doctrines, but at the same time to hold fast to the saying of St. Paul that where the spirit of Christ is, there is liberty.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“Intoxicated as I was with the delight of dealing with realities which could be determined with exactitude, I was far from any inclination to undervalue the humanities as others in a similar position often did.  On the contrary, through my study of chemistry, physics, zoology, botany, and physiology I became more than ever conscious to what an extent truth in thought is justified and necessary, side by side with the truth which is merely established by facts.  No doubt something subjective clings to the knowledge which results from a creative act of the mind.  But at the same time such knowledge is on a higher plane than the knowledge based only on the facts.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“We can find our right place in the Being that envelops us only if we experience in our individual lives the universal life which wills and rules within it.  The nature of the living Being without me I can understand only through the living Being which is within me.  It is to this reflective knowledge of the universal Being and of the relation to it of the individual human being that the humanities seek to attain.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“It struck me as incomprehensible that I should be allowed to lead such a happy life, while I saw so many people around me wrestling with care and suffering. Even at school I had felt stirred whenever I got a glimpse of the miserable home surroundings of some of my schoolfellows and compared them with the absolutely ideal conditions in which we children of the parsonage at Gunsbach lived.  While at the university and enjoying the happiness of being able to study and even to produce some results in science and art, I could not help thinking continually of others who were denied that happiness by their material circumstances or their health.  Then one brilliant summer morning at Gunsbach, during the Whitsuntide holidays—it was in 1897 [21 years old]—there came to me, as I awoke, the thought that I must not accept this happiness as a matter of course, but must give something in return for it.  Proceeding to think the matter out at once with calm deliberation, while the birds were singing outside, I settled with myself before I got up, that I would consider myself justified in living till I was thirty for science and art, in order to devote myself from that time forward to the direct service of humanity.  Many a time already had I tried to settle what meaning lay hidden for me in the saying of Jesus!  ‘Whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospels shall save it.’  Now the answer was found.  In addition to outward, I now had inward happiness.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“In talking about what’s happening in education and how it’s causing a moral decay and his concerns and grievances over that problem,[Albert Schweitzer] said, ‘I aim at making people morally better by making them think.’And that encapsulates everything that I’m about.  I want to make people think.  Because, really, when we don’t see the truth, it’s because our thinking is too shallow.  The truth is there.  We just have to think deeper, we have to dig deeper, we have to try harder and find that truth that is waiting for us to be a light to us and to guide us on our way.” ~Audrey Rindlisbacher

Additional Quotes by Albert Schweitzer:

“Of those who feel any sort of impulse, and would prove actually fitted, to devote their lives to independent personal activity, the majority are compelled by circumstances to renounce such a course.  As a rule this is because they have to provide for one or more dependents, or because they have to stick to their calling in order to earn their living…I am compelled, therefore, not only by what I have observed, but by experience also, to admit that worthy and capable persons have had to renounce a course of independent action which would have been of great value to the world, because circumstances rendered such a course impossible…[but] The hidden forces of goodness are embodied in those persons who carry on as a secondary pursuit the immediate personal service which they cannot make their lifework…Yet no one finds himself in a position of having no possible opportunity of giving himself to others as a human being…What is even more important is that sufferers [those who do not enjoy their full time employment] shall not simply bow to their fate, but shall try with all their energy to assert their human personality amid their unfavorable circumstances by spiritual activity.  Anyone can rescue his human life, in spite of his professional life, who seizes every opportunity of being a man by means of personal action, however unpretending, for the good of fellow men who need the help of a fellow man.  Such a man enlists in the service of the spiritual and good.  No fate can prevent a man from giving to others this direct human service side by side with his lifework.  If so much of such service remains unrealized, it is because the opportunities are missed.”

“That everyone shall exert himself in that state of life in which he is placed, to practice true humanity toward his fellow men, on that depends the future of mankind.  Enormous values come to nothing every moment through the missing of opportunities, but the values which do get turned into will and deed mean wealth which must not be undervalued.

“How wonderful were the experiences vouchsafed me during these years! [1917-1923] When I first went to Africa I prepared to make three sacrifices: to abandon the organ, to renounce the academic teaching activities, to which I had given my heart, and to lose my financial independence, relying for the rest of my life on the help of friends.

These three sacrifices I had begun to make, and only my intimate friends knew what they cost me.

But now there happened to me, what happened to Abraham when he prepared to sacrifice his son.  I, like him, was spared the sacrifice.  The piano with pedal attachment, built for the Tropics, which the Paris Bach Society had presented to me, and the triumph of my own health over the tropical climate had allowed me to keep up my skill on the organ.  During the many quiet hours which I was able to spend with Bach during my four and a half years of loneliness in the jungle I had penetrated deeper into the spirit of the works.  I returned to Europe, therefore, not as an artist who had become an amateur, but in full possession of my technique and privileged to find that, as an artist, I was more esteemed than before. 

For the renunciation of my teaching activities in Strasbourg University I found compensation in opportunities to lecture in very many others.

And if I did for a time lose my financial independence, I was able now to win it again by means of organ and pen.

That I was let off the threefold sacrifice I had already offered was for me the encouraging experience which in all the difficulties brought upon me, and upon so many others, by the fateful postwar period has buoyed me up, and made me ready for every effort and every renunciation.” ~Albert Schweitzer

Books from this Episode: