This past week I finished reading a great book about life and death and how we can live a meaningful life. The book, Tuesday with Morrie, is about a college professor dying while his old student spends the last months with him. They talk about old times, life’s greatest learnings, and how we all can face death. The book is a quick read, but you will be stopping and thinking of the things that Morrie says and getting a better understanding of what life is really all about.
We all know that we are going to die, but don’t really feel we are going to until we are on our last breath or through a late loved one. After reading this book and discussing with my girlfriend of why she gave it to me I truly feel a closeness to her in a spiritual and humanitarian way and that I am going to change some of the things that I live my life for now and go after and do what is important to me and to others in my circle and friends that I meet along the way.
Here are a couple of quotes that touched and inspire me:
“Well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time- then you might not be as ambitious as you are.”
“is today the day I die?”
He opened his eyes. He exhaled. “you know what the Buddhists say? Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent.”
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. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is.”
Same for loneliness: you let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely-but eventually be able to say, “All right that was my moment with loneliness. I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I’m going to put that loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them as well.”
Finally, in a whisper, he said, “I know how I want to die.”
I waited in silence.
“I want to die serenely. Peacefully. Not like what just happened.
“And this is where detachment comes in. If i die in the middle of a coughing spell like I just had, I need to be able to detach from the horror, I need to say, ‘This is my moment.’
“I don’t want to leave the world in a state of fright. I want to know what’s happening, accept it, get to a peaceful place, and let go. Do you understand?”
“It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
“oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I were sixty-five.”
He smiled. “you know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.
“Listen. You should know something. All younger people should know something. If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.
“The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old, I’m a thirty-seven-year-old, I’m a fifty-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own. Do you understand?”
“Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? I wrote it down, but now I can recite it: Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.
“Do the kinds of things that come from the heart.
“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.”
“Love each other or perish.”
“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.”
“Look, no matter where you live, the biggest defect we human beings have is our shortsightedness. We don’t see what we could be. We should be looking at our potential, stretching ourselves into everything we can become. But if you’re surrounded by people who say ‘I want mine now.’ you end up with a few people with everything and a military to keep the poor ones from rising up and stealing it.”
“The problem, Mitch, is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own.”
“It’s natural to die,” he said again. “The fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it is all because we don’t see ourselves as a part of nature. we think because we’re human we’re something above nature.”
“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 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.”