By: John Webster and Ty F. Webster
Reviewed Edition: Prell Books and Multimedia, Sparta, WI 2005 (Apparently self-published; it may be necessary to contact the authors to obtain a copy.)
Softcover, 306 pages
Table of Contents
In Reverence for ALL Life, the father and son team of John and Ty Webster present an eclectic collection of personal stories, advice, ethical and political essays, biographical sketches, and even a few recipes. They begin with a very brief overview of Schweitzer's life and ethical philosophy, then describe how they have incorporated Schweitzer's approach into their own lives. On a personal level, they emphasize the importance of consciously considering the impact of all available courses of action, and selecting the one that best balances the competing interests of all affected living things. Politically, they attack current American war and environmental policies.
The strongest part of the book describes how Schweitzer's key concept of reverence for life based on the fact that we are all life that wills to live has affected the authors' day-to-day decisions. Everything we do--or avoid doing--impacts other life, whether it be insects crushed while walking, animals killed for human consumption, helping a wounded bat, or loving one's family. As humans, we have the ability and the responsibility to minimize the damage we do and to maximize the aid we provide to all life. The Websters describe how they go about doing this while living modern American lives, and even provide a list of small (or sometimes large) steps we can each take to improve life all around us.
The Websters' political discussion is much weaker. They extend Reverence for Life to create a special exemption for humans, such that (with the possible exceptions of abortion and euthanasia) humans should never have to take another human life. Thus the possibility of thoughtful assessment of the alternatives, as in the case of self defense, is eliminated and current American administration policies such as the War of Terror held to be obviously immoral. It is odd that in a book largely dedicated to removing the moral distinction among life forms, humans are here given the traditional higher status. While I think most people would agree with this, I would have preferred that the authors discuss its ethical basis, as this is one of the key issues in relating Reverence for Life to concrete political problems. More importantly, a thoughtful analysis of whether a right to self defense exists, and how it applies at the national level, would lead to a nuanced analysis of administration policies. Instead we get a series of straw men--war is bad, the administration is involved in a war, therefore the administration is bad--that will appeal only to those who already oppose current policies. Similarly, the authors take it as a given that things are getting worse (and that it is the responsibility of the federal government to do something about it), when a case could be made that war, environmental degradation rates, extreme poverty and other ills are lower today than in most of human history. I am not here attempting to defend specific policies, only to suggest that the political views in Reverence for ALL Life are not well defended, and will likely only appeal to those already convinced that the current policies are immoral.
"...the reward for incorporating Reverence for Life into one's own life is great. It is a life filled with the great reward of knowing that one has risen to a higher level of awareness--that one has overcome the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of living only for oneself. It is an existence filled with the glory of knowing that the individual is not merely an isolated fragment struggling for survival in an uncaring universe, but rather an important piece of the greater whole. It is an existence that knows the comfort of being at one with all of creation."
"This calls us to continue to struggle with an ongoing question: 'Should it ever be necessary to kill another human being?' There may be room for argument on the topics of euthanasia and abortion. But generally speaking, I submit that the ethic of Reverence for Life says 'NO!' It should never be necessary to kill another human being. It certainly is not right and should never be necessary."
"Our enemies should not be the people who live on the other side of borders, but the borders themselves. The borders must be removed."
"I will never be convinced that the death of one of these creatures is not a big deal. I cannot justify my actions with the thought, 'it is only a little fly,' while I swat, swat, swat. It is so easy to say, 'every fly must be killed!' when in fact a few can be saved. Our courtroom should always be open and the judge always alert enough to make decisions on an individual basis, even for things as seemingly insignificant as a fly or an ant or a worm."
Table of Contents of Reverence for ALL Life
Preface Introduction A Song of Reverence
Appendix A Process Perspective of God and Creation What is Possible? Bibliographies Recommendations for Learning More about Schweitzer A Final Word In Conclusion
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