When you Google “How to live?”, a lot of memoirs, lists, articles pop up but it never somehow strikes the chord. Mitch Albom’s ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ does not make big claims that it can teach the reader how to live; but, it goes ahead and does anyway. It is a book that sneaks into your heart and nestles itself into your mind and nudges you towards being a better person.
About the Book
It does not promise to be a happy – go – lucky book; on the contrary, we are greeted with terminal illness and death very early on into the book. Our narrator is Mitch Albom – a student who has only just remembered his old professor – Morrie Schwartz, after watching his interview on TV. Who is Morrie Schwartz? Well, he is the protagonist – and, here’s the catch – he is suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). We are informed that ALS is like a lit candle: it melts your nerves and leaves your body a pile of wax. It is a disease that works from the leg up; slowly rendering all body parts it touches unusable and destroyed.
My understanding of the book is divided 3 lessons elaborated as follows.
Lesson #1 – How to deal with self-pity?
Professor Morrie Schwartz teaches us so many things about life. His childhood was not easy – he grew up in poverty, his mother passed away when he was very young, his father suffered silently, never showing his kids any affection and his brother had polio. Even after being diagnosed with ALS and being unable to move his legs, he takes on a very rosy outlook towards his remaining life – he sees this period as an additional time he has got to rectify his mistakes and prepare himself for death. He made death his final project – and in this, he teaches us priceless lessons about life. He talks about negative emotions as something we need to detach from – he gives his own example of how he wakes up in the mornings pitying himself but then, takes a step back from the emotion and decides he will move on from it and consciously decide not to mope. He decides to live the way he wants – with dignity, with composure and love. He essentially does not allow the disease to take over his life; it is his life, he will live by his own rules.
Lesson #2 – Create our own culture
We are never encouraged to be better people by society. We are never encouraged to feel good about ourselves. No one ever shares; someone who does is seen as too sentimental. While growing up, we are so wrapped in materialistic things that we often fail to keep track of what kind of people we are turning into. We cannot let society determine how we think, how we live, how or whom we love for us. We need to create our own culture: do things we love, surround ourselves with people who make us happy – after all, only then it will be a life well lived. As Morrie puts it, even in his bedridden condition, there are perfectly healthy people living more unhappily than him. Why does he consider himself happier than most? Because, he is surrounded by the people he loves.
Lesson #3 – Love Wins, Love always wins
Morrie often mentions a quote “Love each other or perish” from the poet W.H. Auden. He believes that we, as humans, discriminate between ourselves way too much. We are more alike than we think we are. Standing at the doors of death, Morrie says that this has become even clearer to him. All of us are alike in birth and death. All of us need to love each other, be more compassionate. There is a huge need for us to have empathy – now more than ever. We need to learn to give out more love and let it come in.
We need to start listening to each other more. Listening is a lost art. The book reinforces a need to be the person for others that we need the most in our lives – someone who always listens to us, completely, compassionately. How else are we supposed to show people we love them? How else do we live on after we die? We live on by spreading love. Because, after we go, the love will remain. Or as ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ puts it: Life ends, not the relationship.
The book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ highlights things we have known all along but have somehow forgotten as we tread though life. It is essential that we try to become good people, have more empathy, love each other more, tell people we love them because at the end of the day, life is short and unpredictable. There are no certain methods to cruise through this sea of life well, but a little love will make it better.
P.S. In this article, I try to summarize how to live life well. The list is never – ending.
References: Since it is an ode to the brilliant book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and what it has taught me, the article is interspersed with quotes from the book.