Author: Mitch Albom
Genre: Philosophical Novel
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 1997
The cover of the book reads: “An old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson”. The thinking is along the lines of Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge: “The greatest thing you would ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”.
Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” is a genuine attempt at countering despair with hope and pain with acceptance. The book exports profundity wrapped in lukewarm humour and sincerity. Unlike other books blowing motivational trumpets, Tuesdays with Morrie is a hearty exchange between learned and the learner, the teacher and his student.
It was a watershed moment in newspaper columnist Mitch Albom’s life when he got to reunite with his teacher Morrie Schwartz, former professor at Brandeis University, US. Albom started taking weekly trips to Massachusetts, which opened before him a new vista. He threw difficult questions at his mentor and the latter retorted with answers learnt from the book of life.
It took an unassuming man in his late 70s to say, “Accept who you are; and revel in it.” It is through Morrie that the author sold his ideas and takes a dig at American Dream. He rejects the idea of popular culture – the kind of culture media create. “If the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it”, he said. Morrie regretted consumerism and flimsy values like a fisherman weeping at the sight of dried-up river.
Morrie spoke at length over forgiveness at a time when life has been tad unkind to him. He had lost his mobility but not his Mojo. Lou Gehrig’s disease made him retreat to his bed but he refused to make that final surrender.
Albom’s Tuesdays with the old man used to herald poignant moments with life’s greatest lessons learnt under the veneer of random exchanges. Morrie’s words, “Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hold on too long,” touched upon a wide gamut of subjects under the sun.
The unpretentious lucidity of words and brevity ensured that lessons don’t become hard on readers. The ‘classroom lectures’ were doled out in nonchalant way making a pulp of philosophies for easy digestion.
Brimming energy, coupled with spotless optimism described Morrie the best. He has been an onlooker all his life, and his empathy begets an affable outlook. He posited during one of his conversations with his student, “But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
The final chapter, ‘We say Good-Bye’ is very unlike conventional ending. Pathos was never dominant, even though it was evident. Parting was not something to mourn about. If Morrie is to be believed, “All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”
According to Morrie, the conversations were a part of ‘’final thesis’ and Albom admits having learnt that that there is no such thing as too late. He observed how the professor “was changing until the day he said good-bye”.
The author’s relation with Morrie was never meant to end as he says, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” Read this Magnum Opus if you think wisdom is elusive and answers don’t come easy!