“Tableaus of Greatness” Department: Dr. Schweitzer’s Sensitivity Toward the Living Extended to the Single, Solitary Ant

Like so much about the man, Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s fondness for animals was legendary. In his book, The Africa of Albert Schweitzer (Harper & Brothers, 1948), Charles Joy captures a moment of confirmation:

“I was sitting beside him on a wall one day, and noticed an ant on his collar. I started to brush it away, but he quickly protested. “No, no, leave it alone. It’s my ant,” he said.

And he would never burn a field because of the insects that would perish. The personal prohibition came from his reading of a Chinese work, Kan Ying Pien (Book of Rewards and Punishments), where hunters are forbidden to set fire to the fields for the same reason, the toll on insects. Schwietzer told Joy: “As I read the words of this venerable book, where pity for all living things is recognized for the first time as a human duty, I think of the days towards the end of dry season here in this country, when the natives burn vast areas of brush and forest, to make room for their plantations. Night after night I see the light of these great conflagrations all around the horizon, and my heart is filled with pity.”

[I'd give you the page numbers for these quotes but there is not a single page number in this book!]

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