Friday, May 08, 2009

Reflection: Tuesdays with Morrie

"Tuesdays with Morrie", is a book that I read when everyone who visited the library carried the book and raved about it. This was during those times when people casually threw Ayn Rand into discussions and dissected the amount of selfishness behind love and compassion. Not that such discussions don't happen now, but back then the discussions stemmed out of the need to express "elite" knowledge and scorn at anything naive and simplistic. The snooty college-goer attitude. At such an age, when I read this book, as much as I was touched by Morrie's spirit, I was as much surprised that this book was raved to such an extent when all it contained was common-sense and simple straight forward pieces of wisdom. I didn't even want to call it wisdom - it just seemed like "Jataka tales" for adults. Little tidbits of trite advice that everyone knows. Or so I thought. It took only a few years of reality to seep in enough realization in me that simple pieces of wisdom are the hardest to realize and put to practice when you're in the middle of a testing phase thrown by life. Since this is the period in my life where I have been searching for the very same simple words of wisdom, I bought this book from a used book store recently and skimmed through some of the chapters.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a simple book that describes the positive spirit of a dying sociology professor, Dr. Morrie Shwartz -- an old man, sharing some of his thoughts on his experiences with life, with his favorite student -- a young man, Mitch. Uncomplicated, without any embellishments of mind-boggling analogies, profound ontological theories or ideologies, Morrie, a highly knowledgeable, wise, loving and positive man shared his simple and meaningful insights into life. Morrie's effusive love is what that touched me. A person who lived his life in the most simplistic, yet fulfilling way that touched the hearts of everyone he met. Although on his death bed, with his body atrophying by the day, Morrie's courage and positive spirit to continue living his life as meanigful as possible, is a true inspiration. In recent times, Dr. Randy Pausch was yet another positive inspiration. And his last lecture had almost the same forms of advice as Morrie's -- in the end, life's lessons are simple and the same, no matter what generation, country, race or culture one belongs to. That has been my greatest realization.

From my recent perusal, I made some brief notes summarising Morrie's insights and my reflections. They could very well translate to my tenets of living. Morrie's basic mantra in life was "Love each other or perish". The sense of beauty and harmony in that statement is priceless. If you would like to read the book and not see its pearls of wisdom scattered on this post, then please don't read further.

Tenets of Life:

On Death - Ask a little bird on your shoulder if your time has come. Prepare your day based on such a realization. When one is prepared to face their mortality, the wisdom of how to live life in a meaningful way dawns. "Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live."

On Love - Love and memories make one's spirit immortal. Death ends a life, not a relationship. Be strong to open your heart and offer your compassion and love and be willing to accept love into your heart. "Love is the only rational act."

On Family - A spiritual security of unconditional love. Never take them for granted. Always respect each other's needs, ways of life and negotiate your disputes with love.

On Emotions - Don't be afraid to experience any emotion - pain, shame, envy or self-pity. Abandon yourself and let the emotion drench your pores. Then, having shaken hands with the emotion, detach and let go; like a drop of water on a lotus leaf, being in the world but not of it, walking in the rain without getting wet. Learn to accept, then detach.

On Ageing - Ageing is a process of learning as you grow. Look back at the 16-year old you were and be happy that you're no longer as ignorant, no longer grappling with understanding aspects of life, that you're now learning well about. If you're not learning today, pause and reflect. You are as old as you are in your heart. " Realize what is true, good and beautiful with you today. Don't be envious of the young, for you had your chance and lived that life".

On Money/materialism - Pursuit of materialism is disillusionment. One can hope to find true meaning in life by opening out their hearts, caring for others, reaching out to the community and doing what they find real happiness in. The returns are not monetary, but overwhelming sense of satisfaction, and sense of purpose.

On Reincarnation - "What we take we must replenish". The cycle of energy bundle in the universe needs to stay balanced.

On Marriage - An experience in itself that teaches you who you are, who you are not, and who you cannot be. Unless there is a bond of mutual respect, love, values and above all the need to make it work, it can't sustain.

On Culture - Don't let the current societal norms control your thinking and the rules to life and living. Create your culture founded out of love, compassion and rationality. Set no bounds to your thoughts, don't let culture be the picket fences of your mind.

On Forgiveness - Remember to forgive yourself first. Don't hold onto grudges; stubbornness, ego, vengeance and pride are parasites of our own spirit. They suck our positive juices and leave us bitter and weak. Make peace with everyone, and learn to forgive.

"Love is the only rational act", Morrie said. As much as I don't want to dissect it, my life and the world is filled with ironies of it. Sadly the world is not such a simple place, but my hope is that living one's life with simple and pristine guide lights will bring plenty of meaning and purpose.


SecondSight said...

I never quite understood what the big deal about this book was either, the first time I read it.. But then, Last lecture was really enjoyable- so maybe its a frame of mind, as you put it :)

Neeraja said...

Dr. Pausch was a much better writer and speaker. He was quite captivating with his apt analogies and communicated them well. I actually didn't like how almost half of this book was filled with repetitive details of Morrie's conditions. The take-aways were quite few compared to the other details. Maybe it's because Mitch was so affected by it, but I felt it was also exploitation of Morrie's condition...don't know why. But with Last Lecture, since Dr. P himself wrote it, he just addressed the "elephant in the room" and moved on, hardly harping on his condition and deterioration every so often.