I’ve seen this book many a time on ‘inspirational and uplifting’ book lists, but had never considered that my wheelhouse, and thus had never before bothered to try to mine the wisdom from its pages. I can honestly say, post reading of Mitch Albom’s tribute to his former mentor and friend, that this was mildly inspirational, but heart-soaring-ly uplifting. You can tell I’m serious when I start making up words. So let us begin on this 1997 hit. It’s mini throwback time.
Above, I mentioned that this wasn’t overwhelmingly inspirational. And that’s true, because straight up? Some works are poignant, not because they are inspirational, but because they bring you to a realization about obvious truths you would have otherwise overlooked.
‘My days were full, yet I remained, much of the time, unsatisfied.
What happened to me?’
pg. 34 – Mitch
So yes, as much as this is a tale of Morrie Schwartz’s final days, it is even more so about our author’s reprioritizing his life. Maybe we all lose sight of what truly matters as we get older and jaded. And maybe, it takes someone we respect, someone who is just outside our day to day to point that out to us: we only have so much time. What are we doing to ourselves by wasting what little we do have left?? ‘Cause that’s the real realization here, one that Mitch comes to a little later – that it isn’t what happened to us, it’s what we did to ourselves by not valuing the right things.
This could easily become a sermon on the site. A listing out of my personal priorities in neat, concise order for you to read. But what I value does not matter to you. It should not matter to you. That’s another pointy point: Everyone needs to write out their own list of priorities and live by it, and never by the list of another.
‘For a moment, I am sure she is going to thump on the floor. At the last instant, her assigned partner grabs her head and shoulders and yanks her up harshly.
“Whoa!” several students yell. Some clap.
Morrie finally smiles.
“You see,” he says to the girl, “you close your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too – even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling.”
Only when dealing with people directly… or fuzzy, domesticated animals… does this ‘feeling over fact’ thing really fly. And even then? Not a great way to move forward in life. Some people suck. And their actions reveal that, regardless of your feelings.
That being said, if you want someone to trust you, yes, sometimes you must close your eyes, have faith, and trust them first. That’s a difficult reality in a world of so many potential relationships, so many potential betrayals. As this book continues, Morrie’s wisdom kind of transitions from ‘life altering ‘ to more ‘feel good’.
I completely get why this was a bestseller: It’s mostly about caring and feeling, slightly about harsh fact. Of course, this is where my priorities bleed through this post, for no matter how ugly or vicious the blunt truth may be, I now prefer it, even to a wonderfully appealing sugarcoating.
“Yes. Detaching myself. And this is important – not just for someone like me, who is dying, but for someone like you, who is perfectly healthy. Learn to detach.”
He opened his eyes. He exhaled. “You know what the Buddhists say? Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent.”
But wait, I said. Aren’t you always talking about experiencing life? All the good emotions, all the bad ones?
Well, how can you do that if you’re detached?
“Ah. You’re thinking, Mitch. But detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it.”
“Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails.
But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.”
Doesn’t this seem reckless? Who’s to say that, once you let your emotions penetrate fully, you’ll ever be able to escape that indulgence? To play with the metaphor: Who’s to say that once you’re in, all the way over your head, that you won’t get swept away by the undertow? This looks like, again, a pushing of feeling over fact.
Instinctually, I tense at this notion. But, there is a beauty to it, if you could only master such discipline. It would take both incredible control and knowledge of self to live this way, but what if we could? Hell, maybe this is the inspirational bit! Pushing passed knee-jerk fears to let yourself be vulnerable could be the best advice ever given in the pursuit of a rich life. Maybe I’m just not there yet and I am strangely ok with that, now knowing, that maybe one day, it’ll be an option.
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
pg. 174 – Morrie
We live on in the memories and thoughts of those we’ve left better than we found them, even without our physical bodies moseying about. This was the wisest thing I read from Morrie. Not inspirational, but certainly something of which I needed to be reminded.
In conclusion? Tuesdays with Morrie is a book of memories – Albom’s memories of his professor’s final days, Morrie’s memories of a well lived life, and the readers’ memories of who they used to wish they would become. This was a quick read that’s memories and ideals linger. What more can we ask for, than to be made to think? Three goodreads stars, methinks.