Discussing life in Schweitzer’s terms

By on November 2, 2005

In a panel based on “Schweitzer and the Environment,” Quinnipiac professors Timothy Dansdill and Edward D’Angelo, and junior Christopher Weaver stressed the idea of “reverence” and discussed their personal feelings towards empathy and how humans treat the environment.

“The only afterlife is life itself,” said Dansdill, assistant professor of English. Dansdill opened his discussion by defining terms such as divine, dominion, reverence and sanctuary. He brought up the Declaration of Independence, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Declaration of Human Rights and the 1948 United Nations Preamble. Dansdill illustrated how all of these documents make reference to the rights of property, and later said that powerful men won’t change rights by property and dominion.

After illustrating the slight difference between man and chimpanzees through images, he said they “are not separated by a very sharp line because the line is blurred.” Dansdill showed images of the ancient Gaia and discussed the power of woman through time.

Weaver, a biology major focused his discussion on ethics and empathy. Over time, the world and environment has changed dramatically. We are wasteful and there may not be a way to reverse the damage we have created. Medical research helps create cures for diseases, but at the same time, we are damaging the environment. He said that there needs to be a balance of reason to help sustain the world.

Because of the excessiveness we live with everyday, “we are perpetuating unnecessary suffering,” Weaver said.

Weaver said that people need to connect reason with empathy to attain a reverence for life. Empathy is the process of understanding suffering. The Cartesian model of ethics shows a world of competition, struggle and suffering.

Weaver traveled to Nicaragua last spring break and was inspired by this trip to reach out and help to end the unnecessary suffering. It takes more than one person to step up, but the more people that take action, the better. Weaver mentioned that he wants to transform the experience of Nicaragua and not let it blow by in the wind.

D’Angelo, adjunct professor of philosophy redefined key terms like Dansdill, defining reverence as a “high respect and a sense of holiness.” He said the three needs in life are the will to life, the will to self realization and the will to relatedness.

The will to life is to strive and continue on. The will to self realization is to use ones to the powers to the max and to realize the potential in all things. The will to relatedness is the dependency on relations outside the United States.

He brought up the fact that it in unrealistic to say that you cannot kill living things in order to eat, because some could argue that plants, not just animals are living organisms and should not be eaten. He said that Albert Schweitzer was aware of this problem and that the world offers us this difficult drama.

D’Angelo said that empathy has to do with caring and is the basis for helping and rescuing people. Our personal will to live cannot be fulfilled without empathy towards others. Our empathy towards others also has to do with how we treat the environment because we need to regard nature with respect because we live in an interconnected world.

All three panelists agreed that the idea of reverence for life has to start in schools. We need to engrave empathy in the hearts of children, and hope that they move forward in the future, trying to help others while respecting the environment.

“We have to take into consideration what we’ve done and change it drastically,” Weaver said. “We have layers of insulation that we haven’t noticed and it’s important to be active and help make changes.”


About Bethany Dionne