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Out of My Life and Thought (Albert Schweitzer Library)
ISBN 0801860970 / 9780801860973 / 0-8018-6097-0
Publisher The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Out of My Life and Thought is the autobiography of Albert Schweitzer, the theologian, musician, scientist, and medical missionary who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 (and donated his prize to build a leper colony). Schweitzer's autobiography is a masterful and motley blend of confession, narrative, adventure, and philosophy. The chapters about how he came to write The Quest for the Historical Jesus and The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle are indispensable summaries of and apologies for those books; the chapter called "I Resolve to Become a Jungle Doctor" is a model of Rilke-style life-changing decision; and the chapters on Bach and on organs are full of fascinating historical and mechanical detail. For contemporary readers, Out of My Life and Thought may be most compelling for its epilogue, which describes the ethical mysticism that Schweitzer called "Reverence for Life," which he achieved in his later years. The epilogue is full of stirringly Germanic passages such as the following: "Once man begins to think about the mystery of his life and the links connecting him with the life that fills the world, he cannot but accept, for his own life and all other life that surrounds him, the principle of Reverence for Life. He will act according to this principle of the ethical affirmation of life in everything he does. His life will become in every respect more difficult than if he lived for himself, but at the same time it will be richer, more beautiful, and happier. It will become, instead of mere living, a genuine experience of life." Because Schweitzer believed Christianity implied such world-encompassing reverence, he had the confidence and faith to "demand from Christianity that it reform itself in the spirit of sincerity and with thoughtfulness, so it may become conscious of its true nature." --Michael Joseph Gross [via]