The book “Tuesday’s with Morrie” by Mitch Albom is a nonfiction memoir written to describe the authors’ own personal experiences with his former teacher and mentor, named Morrie Schwartz. After reconnecting with his former teacher after nearly two decades, he finds his mentor dying from ALS. Much of the text revolves around his Tuesday meetings with the dying man, as well as his recollections of old college experiences from Brandeis.
One of the most apparent as well as the most striking thing about the text is the clear emotion that was put into its compilation. Just by Mitch’s description of Morrie, as well as his adherence to his older and newer teachings the reader can easily feel for both Morrie and Mitch in different ways. This was in fact one of the hardest things about the book as well.
Because it is written as a memoir, and so much of the text revolves around Morrie’s teachings, it is sometimes easily to lose sight of the fact that the man is in fact dying. Morrie is able to convey so many applicable teachings to not only Mitch, but to the reader as well, the man’s physical condition is often times easy to forget, and is simply crushing when the reader is specifically reminded of the fact. Mitch makes it impossible to not love the Morrie he knows, and successfully conveys to the reader.
One of the quotes that particularly left an impression, perhaps because it is directly linked to the dying man’s condition, occurred when Morrie was trying to teach Mitch not to embrace “popular culture”. It reads as follows:
The things I am supposed to be embarrassed about now — not being able to walk, not being able to wipe my ass, waking up some mornings wanting to cry — there is nothing innately embarrassing about them. It’s the same for women not being thin enough, or men not being rich enough.
Morrie makes his point apparent and hammers it home to the reader by pointing out his own obvious physical handicaps. In particular, the words “things I’m supposed to be embarrassed about…” are very powerful in illustrating this point about popular culture to Mitch.
This quote is also linked to a theme in the book as a whole that continues to come up revolving Morrie, and that is wisdom. Mitch remembered Morrie as a very intelligent and easygoing man from their time at Brandeis, and was compelled to reach out to his old Professor when hearing him speak. All of the flashbacks from Mitch’s’ days at Brandeis point to Morrie being more than just intelligent though, but wise as well. This difference between intelligence and wisdom is apparent throughout the story, especially as Morrie’s age and disease whither him away. His teachings almost become Gospel, and himself a martyr.
This source of Morrie’s teachings as wisdom holds weight when considering some of his more abstract teachings and quotes as well. This becomes very apparent when Morrie speaks about aging and the life cycle. A specific quote proving this is as follows:
Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.
This blatant acceptance of death on the part of Morrie is the ultimate proof of his wisdom–and that his teachings should be taken as such. This quote, and his acceptance of death, also serves a broader purpose–illustrating another theme.
Again, Morrie in the text can be looked at as a martyr–a wise figure who gained his wisdom from some sort of suffering, and eventual death. The conversations between Morrie and Mitch are no different than the teachings of most religious texts in many ways. First and foremost, the way the information was presented to the reader was very Biblical.
The New Testament, filled with the life and times of Jesus Christ, revolve around the teachings of the prophet primarily through dialogue with his disciples. This structure is in no way dissimilar from “Tuesday’s With Morrie”–Morrie’s teachings, and Mitch’s subsequent actions, can certainly be paralleled to the way Jesus’ teachings were conveyed. Morrie, as the Jesus-type figure, taught his moral, ethical, and life lessons through his constant dialogue with, and through the actions of Mitch.
This is the educational implication of the book as a whole. Morrie is able to teach not only Mitch lessons through their dialogue, but the reader as well–carried on by Mitch’s writings. Learning through dialogue, or the “Socratic method” is used in virtually every religious text because it leaves an impression–the same way children are taught morals and ethics by age-appropriate books. This forces some participation on the part of the reader, and this participation is the key to a lasting impression. Morrie certainly understood this, as did Mitch by writing and publishing the teachings of his prophet–as is the age-old tradition to carry on wisdom of any kind.