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Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson - Mitch Albom "Mitch," he said softly, "you know that I'm dying."I knew."All right then." Morrie swallowed the pills, put down the paper cup, inhaled deeply, then let it out. "Shall I tell you what it's like?"What it's like? To die?"Yes," he said.Although I was unaware of it, our last class had just begun.In March 1995, while flicking through the channels on his television, sports journalist Mitch Albom heard the host of ABC-TV's Nightline programme talking about one Morrie Schwartz. This was how he found out that his favourite teacher from college was dying.Morrie Schwartz had taught social psychology at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; he was the kind of professor that, during the Vietnam War, would give all his students 'A' grades to help them avoid being drafted. In August 1994 he had been diagnosed as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a disease which, Albom says "is like a lit candle: it melts your nerves and leaves your body a pile of wax." Morrie had maybe two years left, but he refused to become despondent. He carried on teaching, organised his own 'living funeral' and wrote some "bite-sized philosophies about living with death's shadow" which he shared with his friends. One of them wrote to the local newspaper, who printed an article about him. This led to the Nightline show, which in turn brought his former student flying seven hundred miles to talk to him every Tuesday for the last few months of his life - their student-teacher relationship rekindled, only this time the course was life.Albom recorded their conversations and this is the result. Subtitled "an old man, a young man and life's greatest lesson", the idea for the book (and the title) came from Morrie; and the publisher's advance paid for his medical bills. "I'm on the last great journey here - " he said, "and people want me to tell them what to pack."Of course, it's pointless worrying about what to pack because you can't take it with you. It's what you leave behind that matters.Although I was touched by the warmth and wisdom of the wonderful human being that was Morrie Schwartz, I didn't learn anything new. I'd heard it all before. Facing your own death in print seemed almost de rigueur in the 1990's. Books like C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too by John Diamond and Before I Say Goodbye by Ruth Picardie had us all reading with sad admiration about how people cope in extremis. Books like this ought to inspire us to get our priorities right, but we never do, do we? I know I haven't, otherwise I wouldn't have spent several hours of my life reading about yet another complete stranger's demise. Isn't it ironic, don't you think? All these people using their dying words to tell us to stop wasting our lives doing, and worrying about, pointless things. Still, at least these books tend to be quite short.Even though he was Jewish, there is a strong Buddhist feel to Morrie's philosophical observations. Pithy aphorisms like: "once you learn how to die, you learn how to live" could have come straight from the mouth of the Dalai Lama. But why not? After all, aren't we all the same in the end?I can recommend this book, but I recommend spending time with your loved ones rather more. You can read the first few pages of Tuesdays With Morrie online here This review is adapted from one I originally posted at ciao.co.uk in March 2004.