Wisdom of Life

Albert Schweitzer: The Purpose of Life and the Full Measure of Man

EINecbMXkAEZ4CN“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. Only then have we ourselves become true human beings.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Life becomes harder for us when we live for others but it also becomes richer and happier. Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe. As we know life in ourselves we want to understand life in the universe in order to enter into harmony with it.

The fundamental principle of morality which we seek as a necessity for thought is not, however, a matter only of arranging and deepening current views of good and evil, but also of expanding and extending these. A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to help all life which he is able to succour, and when he goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything living. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy as valuable in itself, nor how far it is capable of feeling. To him life as such is sacred. He shatters no ice crystal that sparkles in the sun, tears no leaf from its tree, breaks off no flower, and is careful not to crush any insect as he walks. If he works by lamplight on a summer evening, he prefers to keep the window shut and to breathe stifling air, rather than to see insect after insect fall on his table with singed and sinking wings.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness: “I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live”.

True resignation consists of this: that man, feeling his subordination to the course of world events, makes his way toward inward freedom from the fate that shapes his external existence. Inward freedom gives him the strength to triumph over the difficulties of everyday life and to become a deeper and more inward person, calm, and peaceful. Resignation, therefore, is the spiritual and ethical affirmation of one’s own existence. Only he that has gone through the trial of resignation is capable of accepting the world.

In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet. The tragedy in a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives. He who does not reflect his life back to God in gratitude does not know himself.

The Full Measure of a Man is not to be found in the man himself, but in the colors and textures that come alive in others because of him. The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.”

Excerpts from:

  • Albert Schweitzer, The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer
  • Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography
  • Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life: The Words of Albert Schweitzer

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~Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian polymath. He was a theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician.

Excellence Reporter 2019

Categories: Wisdom of Life