A book by Mitch Albom.
A true story: Morrie was a philosophy teacher at a college, and a few decades ago Mr. Albom was taught by him. When he left college, Mitch promised Morrie he would write. But he did not.
Then like 20 or 30 years later, Morrie had a terrible disease and was told he had a limited number of months left to live. His health would decline so much that he would become completely dependable on his wife.

The abc television network decided to do a special about him, which was seen on tv all across the country. That's when Mitch saw him, and realized just how much he missed him. So Mitch, now a sports writer, immediately contacts Morrie, and the two hit it off straight away, just like old times back in college. Mitch then realized just how much wisdom there was still left to learn, and how much he wanted to spend time with his old teacher, so he finds out what time of the week suits Morrie best, which happens to be Tuesdays, and hops a flight to Morrie's house every week to speak with him and be with him and learn from him. He brought a tape recorder to "listen to Morrie's voice after he's gone." All according to Mr. Albom, of course.

This book is evil.

Here we have someone who writes to make money. That's what he does. And he turns on the tv one day and sees someone he knows, and understands that this person is now something of a famous figure. He smells cash.

So he contacts Morrie, who he never bothered to contact before, and says how sorry he is for not writing to him, and how much he's missed him, and how sad he is about the illness. In fact, he missed Morrie so much that he's going to come visit him every week.

So in he comes with his tape recorder, asking questions like it was some kind of interview. Which is what it was, I suppose. But I'd be surprised if poor Morrie even knew about the tape recorder. I'm sure Mr. Albom had it well concealed.

Mitch claims to have realized the error of his money-hoarding ways in his book. He says that Morrie, so content with his simple life, has made Mitch understand that money isn't everything, and that he has spent too much time on his writing carreer. That's honestly what he wrote.

Yeah, he's just passing on the wisdom that he had the privilege to get from Morrie, right? He's just sharing his experience right? Yeah, right, just sharing his experiences watching Morrie die bit by bit. Is it because
a) the world needs to know about this sort of thing?
b) there is much to be learnt from this sort of thing?
or b) because america saw this man on tv and want to know more about him, creating a market for information on his final days?

Not surprisingly, Mitch sold the movie rights to someone. Wow, the compassion just pours from the whole book, really makes me feel great. I really got the feeling that Mitch honestly cares about a single thing Morrie is saying. Really, I did. :(

The book:

Objective analysis

Mitch Albom asked of his mentor, Morrie Schwartz, many questions. In his book Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom addresses these questions using various techniques. Albom not only interviews Schwartz in his home during his final months, but also uses flashbacks and personal discoveries to answer the questions. The major themes covered in the book include an individual’s function and responsibility with those he knows personally, with society in general, and with himself. As for the individual’s relationship with himself, the overarching focus is on the concept of death. Although Albom often directly asks Schwartz his opinion on these matters, many times the inquiry is only implied. To take a burden off of the reader, or perhaps as respect for the reader, Albom rarely engages or refers to the reader. He leaves the reader with the decision to use Albom as an analogy to the reader.

Albom and Schwartz discuss the meaning of close relationships in the classroom, in the family, and with friends. Schwartz believed that one should take an objective look at his life, and that a teacher’s role is to “‘probe you in that direction.’” Albom agrees, “I knew what he was saying. We all need teachers in our lives” (65). As for family, Schwartz insisted that family anchors an individual in a way that nothing else can. “‘The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon people may stand today if it isn’t the family,’” reasoned Schwartz (91). Although Schwartz shied away from denoting marriage or having children as critical to happiness, he did say they were unique experiences worthy of trying. “‘If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children’” (93). Struggling with a distant relationship with his brother, Albom asked Schwartz for advice on the matter. Schwartz reminded Albom that one should love his family members by giving them space and that Albom should be “‘at peace with his brother’s desires’” (177). As for friendship outside of family, Schwartz’s wife reminded Albom that his relationship with her husband gave Schwartz a “‘sense of purpose’” (102). Schwartz imparted on Albom an understanding of one’s role with those close to him.

In addition to one’s personal relationships, Schwartz believed people should realize their place in a larger society, as well as a global community. Still, he cautioned that culture can fall short, and developing a personal culture can be important. In order to gain meaning in life, Schwartz advised Albom to “‘devote yourself to your community around you’” (43). As Schwartz became more ill, he began to feel an emotional connection with people in distant countries. Referring to seeing war in Bosnia while watching television, Schwartz claimed, “‘I feel closer to people who suffer than I ever did before… I feel their anguish as if it were my own’” (50). Albom also entered ideals from indigenous people in South America to equate to Schwartz’s worldview in an attempt to downplay the differences between people spanning our global community (141). By bridging differences between people, Schwartz answered questions about why humans separate each other. “‘If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family around the world’” (156). Still, Schwartz highlighted the importance of having a personal culture. He believed that major human values should be personal, and that “’you can’t let anyone—or any society—determine those for you’” (155).

Other than one’s relationships with other people, Albom and Schwartz discussed how an individual should learn to live with himself. Specifically, Schwartz believed that learning how to die meant learning how to live, as highlighted by his often-repeated aphorism, “When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Schwartz told Albom of the importance to let go from the world, but only when the time is right: “‘Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long’” (162). During Schwartz’s final weeks of life, he began to detach himself from the world, as epitomized by his disregarding the O.J. Simpson verdict as he used the bathroom in the other room (158). Still, Albom learned that as his mentor grew older, the more he became dependent on other people. Schwartz believed that this dependency, while at first humiliating, is a necessary part of aging and is not so different from the rest of life. “‘At the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive…but here’s the secret: in between we need others as well’” (157).

While dying can be a painful process, Schwartz never ceased to look at the positive aspects of his life. In reference to the fact that he knows of his impending death, Schwartz tells Albom, “‘not everyone gets the time I’m getting. Not everyone is as lucky’” (167). Continuing this enthusiasm, Schwartz also remained excited about experiencing the unknown of death. “‘Mitch, it was the most incredible feeling,’” Schwartz tells Albom of a coughing spell that nearly ended his life and a dream that he had, “‘I was thinking about a dream I had last week, where I was crossing a bridge into something unknown. Being ready to move on to whatever is next’” (172). Albom and Schwartz concluded that dying is a natural process, and one that every human should embrace.

Subjective analysis

I did not make the decision to analogize myself with Albom. Albom and I have little in common. He lives a fast paced life as a married professional sports writer ensnared in the lonely comfort of a corporate American lifestyle; he is out of touch with the basic principles of happiness and compassion.

Tuesdays with Morrie did not have a positive effect on me. All of the conclusions Schwartz reached were ones I had either already reached, or had foreseen myself reaching in the future. These grains of truth Schwartz imparts on Albom during his dying days are available elsewhere, and not just in religion such as Schwartz’s often cited Buddhism. Albom stitched a Frankenstein quilt of personal discoveries and half-baked aphorisms, peddled as a comfort blanket.

What was Albom’s motivation to write this book? Albom claims the book was mainly Schwartz’s idea, but their relationship leads me to degrade Schwartz’s involvement into an encouragement for Albom’s book idea. Albom had not contacted Schwartz for years until he saw his dying face on television. I imagine Albom, smelling money, jumped at this opportunity. After all, this was the younger and self admittedly unenlightened Albom that first sought out Schwartz. After writing this book, Albom continued his work as a prolific sports writer and opportunistic novelist. Albom’s sale of the movie rights does little to quell my suspicion of Albom’s financial motives.

I feel sorry for Schwartz, a man’s whose personal insights, albeit curiously vague and generally obvious, were sold to the American public. Still, I’m not sure how sorry I can feel for a man who is self-interested enough to request a “living funeral.”

This book shows that in a capitalist culture such as America, nothing is too sacred to be captured, packaged, slapped with a cute title, and mass produced for immediate consumption: even the whimsical spouting of a dying man’s last days. From every human mind grows a tree of wisdom at an unalterable rate. Albom trucked in a fully bloomed tree, cloned from a stranger’s final bloom, and planted it right alongside mine. Not so fast. I have plucked this foreign object free and flung it away. Some dead brown leaves remain stuck amongst my own, yet the wind will soon have them back.

Guide to the major questions posed in the book

  • Why do we avoid what is truly important in life? 27 43 82-3 176
  • Why are we scared of aging and death? 18 21 36 81 118 172
  • Why do we look for happiness in material possessions? 125 127 156 159
  • Why are we afraid to show emotions? 51 104 166 186
  • Why do we hide from our past? 18 32
  • Why do we hold grudges?  164-5
  • Why do we have regrets? 18 118 167
  • What does it mean to be a teacher / student? 39 65 79 135 168
  • What does it mean to be a parent / child / sibling / spouse? 91-2-3 168 177-8
  • What does it mean to be a friend? 102 139 157
  • Can one have a personal culture? 35-6 42 64 154-5-6
  • Why do we disconnect ourselves from our global community? 43 50 110 141 156-7 163 173 179-80
  • Why are we so distant from eachother? 139 142 146
  • Why do we struggle with marriage? 148-9
  • Why are we scared to become dependent on others when we get old? 11 22 49 61 157
  • Is it critical to be religious? 75 82 84 108 151 163-4 180
  • How can we remain alive after we die? 77 134 170 174
  • How should one die?
    • Let go, but not too soon. / Be at peace with death. 37 103-7 158 161-2 171-2-3
    • Forgive yourself and others. 164 166
    • Count your blessings. / Realize how lucky you are. 18 57 167
    • Be excited about the journey into the unknown. 172

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