3 Lessons I Learned from Tuesdays with Morrie

It was a Monday morning. I somehow found myself in the bookstore after a morning of trying to figure out what to write for this week’s blog post. I came up empty-handed and that might be why I somehow found myself in Popular at about eleven in the morning.

Mitch Albom has been an author I loved since I read his book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven a long time back. But somehow, I do not have any of his various other books. So, I took Tuesdays with Morrie off the shelf and started reading. Sitting on the cold floor in a book store, I read the words Mitch Albom had written about a decade ago (in 1997 to be exact). I could not put the book down and so it was that I found myself at the counter after about half an hour of reading, paying for yet another book to add to my already well-stocked bookshelf at home.

I read the book throughout the whole of that day. With a highlighter in hand, I carried the  book everywhere I went and read it at every opportunity. By Tuesday afternoon, I had finished the 192 pages the book held. It was a short read. But, it’s length betrays its depth. The words and thoughts and ideas put forward by Mitch Albom in 1997 still holds true for today’s readers, young and old.

The book talks about the lessons the writer learns from his college professor (Morrie) as the latter faces his imminent death by the hands of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the same disease faced by Susan Spencer, writer of Until I Say Good-Bye. (read my review of Susan’s book here)

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The professor talks to Mitch about a wide range of topics when Mitch visits him on Tuesdays. Some of the topics are regrets, death, family, money, culture and forgiveness among others. The language in the book is simple making Morrie’s advice easy to read and understand. Mitch paints the scene of Morrie’s home and his physical condition beautifully with words and then allows Morrie’s advice to speak for itself.

I agree with most of the wisdom being passed on in the book but disagree when it comes to certain issues like finding peace on your own or finding fulfillment in life only by loving others and oneself. I feel that God is the answer and not one’s own will or actions in finding peace and fulfillment in life (read more about living a meaningful life here).

Nevertheless, the book has indeed touched me the way it has touched the lives and hearts of so many other readers throughout the years. It has taught me a few lessons such as:

  1. Our culture is flawed

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Our culture is dangerously flawed. For example, our culture is such that it tells us that to be successful, you need to have a successful career, lots of money, a big home, a big car and so on. And that’s not wrong. But, the problem is most if not all our lives are spent chasing after these things just because everyone else is doing the same. So much so that when we obtain these things, we feel empty. Unsatisfied. Hollow. And when we do not know why, we think it is because we have not had enough. And we work even harder for “better” things to satisfy us. In the end, we become tired and bitter individuals who go through life always being not “good enough”.

“The little things I can obey. But the big things—how we think, what we value—those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone—or any society—determine those for you.

It’s the same for women not being thin enough or men not being rich enough. It’s just what our culture would have you believe. Don’t believe it.

We’re so wrapped up with egotistical things …we don’t get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing?

The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it”

(paraphrased from Tuesdays with Morrie)

2. Death should change our perspective about life

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I have written an article about death (read it here) and reading this book reinforces my belief that we should consider and discuss death more often as indeed it will help us to live better lives.

The book which is essentially a compilation of notes about life from a man about to die just shows how much we can learn from considering death. Mitch writes about how he finds his professor a more contented and happier person as his professor embraces his death. Maybe we should do the same.

Everybody knows they are going to die but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently. So we kid ourselves about death? Yes. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.

Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

Most of us all walk around as if we’re sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, because we’re half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do. And facing death changes all that? Oh yes. You strip away all that stuff and you focus on the essentials. When you realize you are going to die, you see everything much differently.

In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.

If we know in the end, that we can ultimately have peace with dying, then we can finally do the hard thing. Which is? Make peace with living.

(paraphrased from Tuesdays with Morrie)

3. The meaning of life

The answer to the big question if not THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF LIFE: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? has been searched for throughout the decades and centuries by philosophers and lay men alike.

But, I answer the question above by quoting these two verses from the Bible:

  1. …you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12: 30-31)
  2. …Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13b)

-from the ESV Bible Translation

And that is how I interpret Mitch Albom’s book when it comes to finding meaning in life: I accept that his advice helps people to live more meaningful lives but I believe that ultimately meaning in life is found through the above two verses. On the flip-side, I love Morrie’s advice on how not to live a meaningful life.

Who wants to live every day when you don’t know what’s going on?

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote your life to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

Part of the problem is that everyone is in such a hurry. People haven’t found meaning in their lives, so they’re running all the time looking for it. They think the next car, the next house, the next job. They find those things are empty, too, and they keep running.

(paraphrased from Tuesdays with Morrie)

In the end, this book is and always will be a great book which will change lives. I know because it has changed mine. I have two pieces of advice to you if you’re getting the book:

  1. Use your highlighter unsparingly on this book. Highlight phrases, sentences and passages. You know you want to.
  2. Read it aloud. Especially the highlighted bits!

If you have anymore doubts about getting this book, just read this page of reviews of the book on Amazon.

Thank you for reading and I hope this post has helped you in one way or another.

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