Lots of birthdays today. And I was so tempted to just leave the whole article at that last sentence. But there are some really great people who were born today. But I’m going to have to get through this in pieces. Are you ready? I’m not. Hang on a second… Okay. Here we go.
On this day in 1841, the great impressionist Berthe Morisot was born. I don’t think she gets enough credit as an important member of that movement. Her style is quite distinct from the others of the movement. I think people tend to dismiss her because of her close association with Manet. But as far as I can tell, she influenced him at least as much as he influenced her. Regardless, her work is incredible. I remember when I was very young going to the impressionist show that was touring the country (and probably the world), The New Painting. And it was Morisot that most impressed me—especially in the early years. Since that time, I’ve come to appreciate other people more, but there is no doubt of the quality of her work and her importance.
The great singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen was born in 1949. He is best know as Jim Croce’s side man. But before he was, Croce was his sideman. And Croce learned a great deal from Muehleisen. Basically, he allowed Croce to move from the pure 3-chord folk songs he was writing to more classical and jazz based chord progressions. Anyway, to give you just a small taste of Muehleisen, here is the first song of his I ever heard sung by him (really, it’s a nice song; listen to it):
Other birthdays: the great French painter Jean-Baptiste van Loo (1684); polymath Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806); French painter Henri Fantin-Latour (1836); creator of Dr Dolittle, Hugh Lofting (1886); anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemoller (1892); great film producer Hal Roach (1892); feminist writer Tillie Olsen (1912); “humorist” Andy Rooney (1919); musician Allen Toussaint (76); actor Faye Dunaway (73); musician T-Bone Burnett (66); actor Carl Weathers (66); film director Lawrence Kasdan (65); generally over-rated film director Steven Soderbergh (51); actor Mark Addy (50); probably liberal, probably gay Fox News host Shepard Smith (50); actor Emily Watson (47); musician LL Cool J (46); and actor Jason Bateman (45).
The day, however, belongs to the great Albert Schweitzer who was born on this day in 1875. There is so much to say about Schweitzer. What I like about him is his theological writings. But the truth is, I just don’t have the energy to look the stuff up. But the main thing I remember about him was his belief that if you were being good so you could get into heaven, then you weren’t really being a Christian. That wasn’t what it was about. If you have Jesus in your heart, then you simply want to do what is right. And this whole modern idea of being “born again” would have repelled him. As did the idea that all you had to do was “believe” in Jesus as though he were the Great Pumpkin. (It is of note that Schweitzer also believed that Jesus and St Paul thought the second coming was coming real soon—like in Paul’s lifetime. I’m not sure quite how you believe that and still continue being a Christian. Humans are amazing animals.)
Schweitzer is probably most remarkable for doing what imperialists always say they are doing: going to help the people. He was a doctor and he did what he thought was best for the people of Gabon. I know that like all of us, he was a man of his time and place. He no doubt was paternalist toward the natives. On the other hand, he was against imperialism. He worked to help the people, not exploit the people. He was a great and a good man.
Happy birthday Albert Schweitzer!