Tuesdays With Morrie
First published: 1997
Found: In the ‘free to a good home’ box of a church in New York city
Pages/read time: 192, ten days of bed time reading
None of us can undo what we’ve done, or relive a life already recorded. But if Professor Morrie Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as “too late” in life. He was changing until the day he said good-bye.
This is the true story about Mitch Albom, a high achieving journalist in America, reconnecting with his old university sociology teacher Morrie Schwartz. At first he does this as an act of memorial and melancholy – Morrie changed his academic life, and thus, the trajectory of his career. Now Albom’s professor, known for dancing to anything giving every student at ‘A’ because he didn’t believe in grading, is dying of a muscle wasting disease. The visit is made and Albom attempts a swift departure. But Morrie has so much life and love left to give, and he is determined to have Mitch see that. So they set up a recorded interview every Tuesday. This book is Morrie’s ‘final lecture series’.
“I give myself a cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear. On you – if it’s Tuesday. Because we’re Tuesday people.”
I grinned. Tuesday people.
There are some lovely moments.
How can you ever be prepared to die?
“Do what the Buddhists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?”
He turned his head to his shoulder as it the bird were there now.
“I today the day I die?” he said.
And some wonderful life-advice.
Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is.”
But. Big but: This was a very young-white-privileged-man learns from old-white-privileged man not to be a dick. Yes is was two decades ago, in the infamously conservative ’90s. Supposedly ‘we have moved on’. But still, I was a little uncomfortable reading about how Albom discovered his vulnerability and humanity as if he had just discovered a huge gap in the collective human psyche. Yes: I am living two decades later, in a slightly more conscience Western society, and talking from a position of racial privilege – so I am probably making sweeping statements of my own. I would, however, argue that anyone who has lived closely with persons with disability or of an advanced age who cannot afford having their respective impairments managed to the level of maximum possible comfort, would know a lot of what Albom ‘discovered’ already. That compassion cannot be bought, that human interaction is an investment, that love is push and pull, that people will make you happier than things, that illness, age and infirmity will come to us all and that we had better be a kind enough person over the intervening years of birth and death for people to give a toss about making us comfortable when we can’t do it ourselves.
The tone of this book, the structure, the premise. It’s all set up for the economically well-off. College-speak: lectures, courses, grades. Arriving in large cars, flying interstate on a weekly basis, bringing enough food with you to overfeed the household every seven days. Albom recognises that his wealth is absurd, his desires material and eventually immaterial. But he doesn’t quite get to acknowledging the position his race, economic background, gender and profession allowed him to bring the world Tuesdays with Morrie. One is supposed to learn with Albom over the book. Instead, I felt like I was learning about Albom – almost the most archetypal hero-figure in modern literature: mediocre yet well-off white man becomes self-aware, feels guilty, then spreads his enlightenment. If it weren’t for the delightful Morrie, I’d would seriously have considered putting the book right back where I found it.
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
Though this book has sold millions of copies, but I do not congratulate Albom; I commemorate Morrie. I did this as soon as I put the book down. I picked up my phone and told my mother, brother and best friends that I loved them. No context. No mention of the book I had just finished. Just ‘I love you’. I expected them to write back ‘What?’ Instead they replied, ‘I love you too’. No questions. No explanations necessary. Oddly, it was a bit of a revelation.
Morrie will teach you that you are loved because you do love.