I recently began reading a book titled, “Tuesdays with Morrie”. It’s a wonderful (true) story about a college professor diagnosed with ALS reconnecting with his former students after 16 years. The author (and former student of Morrie), Mitch Albom, had the opportunity to visit his old professor on numerous occasions throughout the remaining months of Morrie’s life. He wrote down all of the things he learned during this time, his “thesis,” and compiled it into what is now the book, Tuesdays With Morrie. If you haven’t read this book, please do so. It is a quick read at less than 200 pages (and you can’t put it down once you start). I won’t be giving away any spoilers in this blog post, because the reader already knows Morrie’s inevitable death at the beginning of the book. But I do hope to share some of my favorite quotes and thoughts from Morrie to highlight some truly powerful insights Morrie had on life and death. The quotes are taken straight from Tuesdays with Morrie.
Lessons from Tuesdays With Morrie
“Dying,” Morrie suddenly said, “is only one thing to be sad over, Mitch. Living unhappily is something else. So many of the people who come to visit me are unhappy.” Why? “Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own. Most people can’t do it. They’re more unhappy than me—even in my current condition. I may be dying, but I am surrounded by loving, caring souls. How many people can say that?”
“Still,” he said, “there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.”
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Let it come in. We think we don’t deserve love, we think if we let it in we’ll become too soft. But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, ‘Love is the only rational act.'”
“Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new. Gobble up a new car. Gobble up a new piece of property. Gobble up the latest toy. And then they wanted to tell you about it. ‘Guess what I got? Guess what I got?’ You know how I always interpreted that? These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship. Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I’m sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how much of them you have.”
“People are only mean when they’re threatened,” he said later that day, “and that’s what our culture does. That’s what our economy does. Even people who have jobs in our economy are threatened, because they worry about losing them. And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It is all part of this culture.”
“But giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it’s as close to healthy as I ever feel. Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won’t be dissatisfied, you won’t be envious, you won’t be longing for somebody else’s things. On the contrary, you’ll be overwhelmed with what comes back.”
“It’s not just other people we need to forgive, Mitch,” he finally whispered. “We also need to forgive ourselves.” Ourselves? “Yes. For all the things we didn’t do. All the things we should have done. You can’t get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened. That doesn’t help you when you get to where I am. … Make peace. You need to make peace with yourself and everyone around you.”
“The problem, Mitch, is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own. But believe me, when you are dying, you see it is true. We all have the same beginning—birth—and we all have the same end—death. So how different can we be? Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.”
One time, a group of black students took over Ford Hall on the Brandeis campus, draping it in a banner that read Malcolm X University. Ford Hall had chemistry labs, and some administration officials worried that these radicals were making bombs in the basement. Morrie knew better. He saw right to the core of the problem, which was human beings wanting to feel that they mattered. The standoff lasted for weeks. And it might have gone on even longer if Morrie hadn’t been walking by the building when one of the protestors recognized him as a favorite teacher and yelled for him to come in through the window. An hour later, Morrie crawled out through the window with a list of what the protestors wanted. He took the list to the university president, and the situation was diffused. Morrie always made good peace.
“Mitch, I embrace aging. It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.” Yes, I said, but if aging were so valuable, why do people always say, “Oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I were sixty-five.” He smiled. “You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five. Listen. You should know something. All younger people should know something. If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”
“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here. … Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
Only this I would add to Mr. Morrie's remarkable testimony, that in order have the overflowing love that gives the abundant life even beyond death one must start at it’s source; which can be found here.
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." -Jesus in John 6:35
You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:5-6
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." -Jesus in John 10:10.