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I Finally Read Tuesdays With Morrie and I Don’t Get It

What is life’s greatest lesson, did I miss it?

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Photo by author, with other books bought by author, on author’s bookshelf that was assembled by author himself with no help from his wife

I made a joke in another post recently about how I was never going to get around to reading ‘that fucking book’ and I was referring to Tuesdays With Morrie, which my mother told me to read 25 years ago, and which my wife has read twice and last left on my desk recently.

I wanted to read it.

I’ve read all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, so I can deal with sentimentality. I picked it up from my desk and carried it up to the night table beside my bed where it sat for several weeks. My excuse for not reading it then was that it’s a physical book, and I last read a physical book sometime more than a decade ago.

I read Twilight (Team Robert please, Jacob is an ass) in Jamaica on vacation, and then, impatient for the sequels and unable to find a bookstore at our resort, I downloaded the ebooks from the interweb and read them all on my iPhone. I was hooked, no more paper books for me.

So Morrie sat unread on my nightstand, and then one day my wife said, “Why is that book on your nightstand if you’re not going to read it?”

I stared at the book and thought, what the heck, let’s do it. I opened it up, and began to read.

I must say, Mitch Albom, the author, can write. I flew through the book, finishing it in a few hours. Lots of admirable phrasing, and I shed lots of tears.

But did I learn anything? Did I find out ‘Life’s Greatest Lesson’?

No.

What was I supposed to learn from this book that has sold over 18 million copies? Death is not to be feared? I got that when I accidentally took 800 micrograms of LSD, died, came back to life, and Trump was still president.

Maybe I was supposed to learn that it’s sad when old people die. Yes, I suppose. It’s much more sad when young people die though.

I learned that it’s sad to die both slowly and quickly. Able to note your deteriorating condition on a daily basis by counting how long you can hold your breath, and seeing that count diminish. But it’s also sad to die when your country is overrun by Putin’s thugs, or flooded by a 100 foot tsunami. Describing the minute-by-minute horror of anyone’s death is always going to be sad.

Was the entire point of Tuesdays With Morrie the quality of Albom’s description? It wasn’t about Morrie, it was about the author’s ability to convey Morrie’s demise in a way that made you feel like you were there?

But I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to learn Life’s Greatest Lesson™.

I just finished the book and couldn’t tell you a single lesson from it, other than maybe…

Don’t Get ALS because then you won’t be able to wipe your own ass and you’ll die.

That seems so obvious that you shouldn’t have to write an entire book to convey the point.

I’m stumped. Morrie lived a good life, and was surrounded by people who loved him in the end. Awww, that’s sweet. Good for you Morrie.

But everyone I know and love already knows that lesson. That’s why I spend time with them, because they reciprocate my friendship and my love. Is that the lesson? A lesson that I just happened to discover independently and now I’ve wasted five hours of my life and half a box of Kleenex?

Maybe society needed to learn the importance of relationships and not fearing death 25 years ago, but we’ve evolved and now understand that lesson? Maybe even society evolved because of this book?

Nah, I think I need to read it again.

  1. A friend of mine recently lost her father to ALS. Her family handled it with grace and dignity.

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