We had to read Tuesdays With Morrie for my capstone seminar, Life and Career Planning. The class involves a lot of glorified “talking about your feelings” discussions, and Tuesdays With Morrie is a pretty good touchy-feely book to read for that kind of class. I’d read it before, but remembered very little about it until this past week.
Mitch met Morrie in a sociology class at Brandeis University. Morrie was not like any other professor Mitch had ever had: He truly cared for his students, more than Mitch could imagine. Before Mitch knew it, he had taken every class Morrie offered; in his senior year, Morrie encouraged him to write an honors thesis. At graduation, Mitch promised he’d keep in touch…but as so often happens, he didn’t.
Fast-forward a decade or two. Morrie has been diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative disease in which the patient slowly becomes paralyzed over the course of several months. Mitch learns the news when his old professor is interviewed on TV, and decides to visit him. These weekly visits turn into their “final thesis”: a memoir about life and death—and how to deal with both.
Let me just start off by saying I am not a big fan of “inspirational” books. (You might have noticed this in my entry about The Alchemist.) I find them incredibly trite and boring, mostly because it seems to me that we’ve heard it all before. Tuesdays With Morrie definitely falls into the so-called “inspirational” category, but I enjoyed this one more than most.
First of all, it was pretty incredible to see how Morrie dealt with being diagnosed with a fatal disease, especially something as debilitating as ALS. What was even more admirable to me was that he did not use up what little time he had left wallowing in self-pity, as I (and undoubtedly many others) would probably do. He spent it having visitors almost every day, thoroughly enjoying every minute with all the people he loved—and all who loved him.
I also liked that he used his appearances with Ted Koppel not to gain pity from anyone, but to spread his final message to the world: “Love each other or perish.” This mantra showed up several times throughout the book, and is one of the reasons I enjoyed the story: it was so simple. This is what everything boils down to. Love each other or perish.
One of the things I didn’t quite buy was Morrie’s assertion that most people “sleepwalk” through life, rarely appreciating what is directly in front of them until it’s too late. First of all, cliché or not, everyone must notice the world in brighter, clearer, more beautiful detail when they realize they are dying, so of course Morrie would feel as though he might have “sleepwalked” through life. However, I don’t buy that it was to the extreme that it seemed he was suggesting. There are definitely degrees: I do believe there are some people who don’t appreciate nearly anything around them, but I certainly don’t believe everyone who doesn’t know they’re dying sleepwalks through their life.
All the same, it does make me want to appreciate the little things more. A look, a touch, an inside joke, a conversation with someone I love. I can’t say my life was much altered by the book, but I am glad I got another chance to read it when I was little older and probably more appreciative of my own mortality (I read it for the first time when I was maybe fifteen). I don’t know that I’d pick it up again without having a specific reason, but I would recommend reading it at least once.by