What if you had one day perfectly healthy? I asked. What would you do?
Yes, twenty-four hours.
“Let’s see… I’d get up in the morning, do my exercises, have a lovely breakfast of sweet rolls and tea, go for a swim, then have my friends come over for a nice lunch. I’d invite them one or two at a time so we could talk about their families, their issues, talk about how much we mean to each other. Then I’d like to go for a walk in a garden with some trees, watch their colors, watch the birds, take in the nature that I haven’t seen in so long now. In the evening, we’d all go together to a restaurant with some great pasta, maybe some duck — I love duck — and then we’d dance the rest of the night. I’d dance with all the wonderful partners out there until I was exhausted. And then I’d go home and have a deep, wonderful sleep.”
Can books transform our lives? Yes, they can—provided we are willing to change. There are several such books that have had a significant influence on my life, serving as real-life mentors to guide my transformation. One such book that has left an indelible imprint on my mind is “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. The above excerpt is from this book. It’s been almost two decades since I read those lines, and they feel as fresh to me as if I had read them recently. To this day, this book remains in the top five positions of my personal favorite 100 books.
“Tuesdays with Morrie” is a conversation between a teacher and his favorite student. The teacher is Morrie Schwartz, a 78-year-old sociology professor at Brandeis University who was slowly dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The name Morrie comes from its Hebrew meaning: “my teacher.” The student is Mitch Albom, a successful sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, who had aspired to be a pianist during his childhood. Although the student had failed to keep in touch with his teacher due to his busy schedule, the teacher remembered his favorite pupil even after 16 years. After seeing his compassionate teacher on a TV show and learning that he didn’t have much time left, Albom reaches out to him.
A newspaper workers’ union strike gives Albom the chance to take a break from his hectic life to commute weekly from Michigan to Massachusetts to visit his teacher. This wonderful book is the result of their fourteen Tuesday meetings where Morrie shared his wisdom on life. While the initial three chapters provide a flashback to their acquaintance at the university, their current reunion, and an introduction to their final conversations, the remaining chapters delve into Morrie’s views on death, fear, aging, greed, marriage, family, society, forgiveness, and leading a meaningful life—insights that are profound lessons.
Before this book, I was caught up in the materialistic world; life had become too artificial and mechanical. As I delved into the book, I felt as if I were conversing with Morrie! Unknowingly, I had gradually replaced Mitch Albom and become Morrie’s cherished student. Morrie instilled in me a new philosophy of life. That’s when the motto of my life changed, and I began dedicating myself to serving others. I started finding joy in the simple, everyday activities of life with family and friends.
A few words from that book always echo in my mind: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re 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.”
Albom asks, “Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine? If you are fortunate enough to find your way to such teachers, you will always find your way back. Sometimes it’s only in your head. Sometimes it’s right alongside their beds.”
I was fortunate to have many such teachers in my life, and I shall always cherish their memory. However, I was not fortunate enough to sit by their bedsides. They shall always remain in my heart. They are my “Every day with Morrie.”
There is also a movie based on this book, but I haven’t seen it. “Tuesdays with Morrie” is for everyone who loves life.
Prof. Dr. Prahlada N. B
24 March 2019