Tuesdays with Morrie


Page 40
  - "Have I told you about the tension of opposites?" [Morrie] says.
- The tension of opposites?
- "Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.
- "A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle."
Sounds like a wrestling match, I say.
- "A wrestling match." He laughs. "Yes, you could describe life that way.
- So which side wins, I ask?
- "Which side wins?"
- He smiles at me, the crinkled eye, the crooked teeth.
- "Love wins. Love always wins."

Page 42
  "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it." -- Morrie

Page 43
  "So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half asleep, even when they are busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." -- Morrie

Page 61
  "You see," he says to the girl, you closed 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 are in the dark. Even when you are falling."

Page 81
  - "Everybody knows they are going to die," he said again, "but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently."
- So we kid ourselves about death, I said.
- "Yes. But there's a better approach. To know you're going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you're living."

Page 91
  "The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn't the family. It's become quite clear to me as I've been sick. If you don't have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don't have much at all. Love is supremely important. As our great poet Aulden said, "Love each other or perish.'" -- Morrie

Page 105
  - "Okay this is fear. Step away from it. Step away."
- I thought about how often this was needed in everyday life. How we feel lonely, sometimes to the point of tears, but we don't let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how we feel a surge of love for a partner but we don't say anything because we are frozen with the fear of what those words might do to the relationship.
- Morrie's approach was exactly the opposite. Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won't hurt you. It will only help.

Page 113
  - Morrie always made good peace. At Brandeis, he taught classes about social psychology, mental illness and health, group process. They were light on what you'd now call "career skills" and heavy on "personal development." And because of this, business and law students today might look at Morrie as foolishly naive about his contributions. How much money did his students go on to make? How many big time cases did they win?

Then again, how many business or law students ever visit their old professors once they leave? Morrie's students did that all the time. And in his final months, they came back to him, from Boston, New York, California, London, Switzerland; from corporate offices and inner city school programs. They called. They wrote. They drove hundreds of miles for a visit, a word, a smile.

"I've never had another teacher like you," they all said.

Page 116
  "The truth is, when our mothers held us, rocked us, stroked our heads-none of us ever got enough of that. We all yearn in some way to return to those days when we were completely taken care of-unconditional love, unconditional attention. Most of us didn't get enough." -- Morrie

Page 117
  "All this emphasis on youth-I don't buy it," he said. "Listen, I know what a misery being young can be, so don't tell me it's great. All these kids who came to me with their struggles, their strife, their feelings of inadequacy, their sense that life was miserable, so bad they wanted to kill themselves…"

Page 125
  "Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new. Gobble up a new car. Gobble up a new piece of property. Gobble up the latest toy. And then they wanted to tell you about it.

"Guess what I got? Guess what I got?"

"You know how I always interpreted that? These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting sort of a hug back. But it never works. You can't substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.

"Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I'm sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feelings you are looking for, no matter how much of them you have."

Page 136
  "Part of the problem, Mitch, is that everyone is in such a hurry, " Morrie said. "People haven't found meaning in their lives, so they're running all the time looking for it. They think the next car, the next house, the next job. Then they find those things are empty, too, and they keep running."
Once you start running it's hard to slow yourself down.

Page 148-9

"Well I feel sorry for your generation," Morrie said. "In this culture, it's so important to find a loving relationship with someone because so much of the culture does not give you that. But the poor kids today, either they're too selfish to take part in a real loving relationship, or they rush into marriage and then six months later, they get divorced. They don't know what they want in a partner. They don't know who they are themselves-so how can they know who they are marrying?"

He sighed. Morrie had counseled so many unhappy lovers in his years as a professor. "It's sad, because a loved one is so important. You realize that, especially when you're in a time like I am, when you aren't doing so well. Friends are great, but friends are not going to be here on a night when you're coughing and can't sleep and someone has to sit up all night with you, comfort you, try to be helpful."

Charlotte and Morrie, who met as students, had been married 44 years. I watched then together now, when she would remind him to take his medication, or come in and stroke his neck, or talk about one of their sons. They worked as a team, often needing no more than a silent glance to understand what the other was thinking. Charlotte was a private person, different from Morrie, but I knew how much he respected her, because sometimes when we spoke, he would say, "Charlotte might be uncomfortable with me revealing that," and he would end the conversation. It was the only time Morrie held anything back.

"I've learned this much about marriage," he said now. "You get tested. You find out who you are, who the other person is, and how you accommodate or don't."

- Is there some kind of rule to know if a marriage is going to work?
- Morrie smiled. "Things are not that simple Mitch."
- I know.

"Still," he said, "there are few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.

- "And the biggest of those values, Mitch?"
- Yes?
- "Your belief in the importance of your marriage."

- He sniffed, then closed his eyes for a minute. "Personally," he sighed, his eyes still closed, "I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you're going to miss a hell of a lot if you don't try it.
He ended the subject by quoting the poem he believed in like a prayer: "Love each other or perish."

Page 154-155
  - Morrie believed in the inherent good of people. But he also saw what they could become.
"People are only mean when they are threatened," he said later that day, "and that's what our culture does. That's what our economy does. Even people who have jobs in our economy are threatened, because they are worried about losing them. And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It's all part of this culture."
He exhaled, "Which is why I don't buy into it."
Here's what I mean by building your own little subculture," Morrie said. "I don't mean you disregard every rule of your community. I don't go around naked, for example. I don't run through red lights. The little things, I can obey. But the big things- how we think, what we value-those you must choose yourself. You can't let anyone-or any society-determine those for you.

Page 174
  "As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you have created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on-in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."

"Death ends a life, not a relationship."


Tuesday's with Morrie by Mitch Albom



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