I came to ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom when I was searching for a book with deeper philosophical connotations. This autobiographical book based on Mitch Albom’s visits to his terminally ill Professor has been popular in the self-help genre since its publication in 1997. But I was yet to read!
On the cover, just below the title it says, ‘an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson.’ Yes, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ is a philosophical discourse between a teacher and his student from a decade and a half back. Life’s greatest lessons imply the teacher’s knowledge on life and death as he awaits his end.
The beauty of the book lies in the fact that Mitch isn’t actively seeking solutions to a mid-life crisis. He is living the exact expected way, fulfilling the societal and professional perquisites. And then just happens to see his professor’s interview on television.
Professor Morrie Schwartz had been a guide and mentor to Mitch Albom in his college days. On the graduation day, as he parted from his professor, he made promises of keeping in touch. And like most of us, he too got lost in ‘making’ a life.
Mitch Albom is a columnist for the sports section in Detroit Free Press in 1995. After watching Professor Morrie Schwartz’s interview on TV, Albom calls him, and his old Professor is glad to reconnect. A coincidental newspaper strikes around the same time lets Albom plan a visit to Professor’s home. After a period of 16 years, Mitch Albom meets his professor Morrie.
This book recounts the fourteen visits that Albom makes to his Professor every week on Tuesdays. During these visits, Morrie Schwartz talks about life and his experiences and there is a perspective given through Mitch on how life when suffers from terminal illness. These meetings are recorded by Albom as a sort of thesis, in line with the college days, for a final course by Morrie but one where grades don’t matter. There is neither self-pity on Morrie’s part nor agonizing emotional confrontation from Albom. The visits remain real, not getting overtly melodramatic hence connecting so well.
And it isn’t only Mitch Albom who visits Morrie, there are many people who come to visit Morrie. Though Morrie Schwartz had a difficult childhood, being an immigrant, losing his mother, and having an insensitive father, these difficulties only shaped Morrie into a more giving and kind person.
Even during these last few months, Morrie is rather lively, easily accepting fate. Knowing that the end would be dreadful, Morrie has made peace with the present. Morrie can make people around him feel happy and contented. The reason he gives time to people visit him and gain insights from him.
The Tuesday meetings are life coaching sessions. Every Tuesday, you confront questions on existential crisis. Like, ‘What happened to me?’ Most of the time, you get a feeling that Mitch Albom is showing you a mirror through his life and life’s dilemmas.
‘What happened to me?’ The eighties happened. The nineties happened. Death and sickness and getting fat and going bald happened.
Is the book melancholic? Yes, and yet there is a sense of warmth in each sentence. Morrie’s last few months teach you that it isn’t about the gradual decay of physical abilities or mobility, life has so much more to it. The perspective shift from what one needs to be happy in life is a crucial moment of the book.
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.
Then something similar to ‘The Last Leaf’ by O.Henry you see a pink hibiscus plant by Morrie’s bedside. This plant withers and deteriorates as does Morrie’s health. A normal life cycle that has a beginning and an end. Along with ‘Aging’. We sigh for the bygone days, search for the past, and want an elixir of youth to continue. But will it have any meaning for one to continue to be twenty-year-old without gaining knowledge or perspective on life?
Readers talk so much about ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ because it has a personal connect without becoming text-heavy and compels you to think about life and death long after you have closed the book.