Life is to be lived in its trials, tribulations, duty and beauty—to know how true this assessment is, ask Morrie! ‘Health is wealth’, goes the wise saying. By the time one understands and begins to appreciate the true meaning of this statement, sometimes, it is too late. One enjoys the recollection of the past life, when the present state of affairs is sound. What if something grave is happening about the present? The book is about how Morrie tackles his most critical problem, the certain death, and would not give up the fight till the end. He doesn’t concede a walkover to death, and maintains the positive attitude towards life till his last breath. The lesson of the story is how to the dynamically surrender to death with equanimity, love and poise, and the real happiness is not in the materialistic comforts.
The concern and goal of an ideal teacher is to make the students aware of the big responsibility on their shoulders to change the world for the better. Human society today is greatly influenced by materialistic civilization. The challenges are grave and dangerous. The essence of life is lost and undue importance is given to money and power. This is the root causes of the current crises in more than one area. All sorts of social contradictions and conflicts manifest themselves. The arrival of the cyber civilization has made the human society more and more dehumanized and alienated. The beginning of the story in the book sets the tone for a humane ending. What does Mitch Albom, who had high regard for his Professor, do after the graduation ceremony? He writes, “Afterward, I find Morrie Schwartz, my favorite Professor, and introduce him to my parents. He is a small man who takes small steps; as if a strong wind could, at any time, whisk him up into the clouds.”(Albom, 2002, p.3) The meeting indicates a special type of relationship between the Mitch and the Professor.
Albom promises to remain in touch with the Professor, and goes to pursue his avowed career in music. He is soon frustrated as he meets one setback after another. This makes him ponder deeply whether his decision to take up the career of his inner liking was wrong. He turns cynical and broods, whether he is failing to achieve something that he hoped for in life through music. At such a juncture his uncle passes away from cancer at the young age of forty-four. This gives him the shock, and he is in a hurry for materialistic achievements. He wishes to make a career where money-flow is assured. He takes degrees in journalism and business administration. Soon his career begins to take off. This example goes to prove how an individual is forced by the circumstances to give up the career of his choice, and goes for money-spinning options. He gets married and pursues his materialistic goals vigorously. In one of the TV programs, he hears the name Morrie Schwartz and to his utter shock learns that his favorite Professor is on his deathbed as he is suffering from an incurable disease. Sweet memories of his association with the Professor surface in his mind. How great of him, Schwartz was not afraid of his impending death, nor is willing to hide anything about the disease. The arrival of the disease and how he meets the challenge when the tests confirmed the disease is poignantly described by Mitch. He writes, “Another night, he fell down the steps, of a theater, startling a small crowd of people. “Give him air!” someone yelled. He was in his seventies by this point, so they whispered “old age” and helped him to his feet. But Morrie, who was always more in touch with his insides than the rest of us, knew something else was wrong. This was more than old age. He was weary all the time. He had trouble sleeping. He dreamt he was dying.”(Albom, 2002, p, 6). The final decision of the Professor was to teach the students, how to die! Mitch visits the seriously ailing Professor and promises to remain in touch. He returns to Massachusetts every Tuesday until the end of Schwartz’s life. The subsequent fourteen weekly meetings provide the profound insight of the Professor as for the role of money, marriage, family, qualities like forgiveness etc. and how to meet the ultimate challenge of death.
No solution exists to the problems like the one faced by Professor Schwartz. One has to face the life boldly and cheerfully. One has to live life with a sense of participation, not with the sense of renunciation and resignation. No one has ever stalled death. An individual is just journeying, from the cradle to the grave and from the womb to the tomb. How to make that journey comfortable and meaningful is the sole issue. The mystery and ‘charm’ of death is its suddenness. But in the case of Schwartz, he is aware of its certainty. Therefore, he wishes to live the balance of breaths at his credit with cheer and grace. At such a juncture, one realizes the essentials and non-essentials related to life. Professor Schwartz is aware of the seriousness of the problem with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It demands nothing but the patient’s life, but he remains calm. He has made his choices- the secret of embracing death by welcoming it. He prefers the homely comfort instead of the hospital gadgets that would prolong his breathing exercise. He is blessed with a supporting family and understanding friends. His affluence is love and gratitude which he shows in abundance to them. Every minute of his life is important to him from this point of view. He has nothing new to preach, but he has the practical sense of application of love in his day to day disposition. He wants his death to be a routine affair, and avoids all complicated approach to the numbered days of his life. In the face of impending death, one realizes the true meaning and importance of kindness, love, joy and dignity. Money and position take the backseat and they are of least priority. In other words, they have no priority at all, as one can not buy a single extra breath, by paying a million dollars. Money, power and materialistic comforts are nothing as compared to peace and love. History provides enough examples of it. The Great King Alexander expressed the same opinion, in his dying moments. Adolph Hitler’s observation hours before the tragic death was, “Brutal force has not won anything durable.” Professor Schwartz has shown one how to be glorious in life and even more glorious in the face of death and how to give the best to the world around in those crucial dying moments.
I remember two such examples one given by my History Professor and the other by Administrative Officer of the Bank where I worked for about 8 years and then resigned for better prospectus. The History Professor set high standards of teaching and was brilliant among the brilliants. He loved to teach his subject and he loved his students. On the last day of our College life he said in his farewell speech, “I only pray God may you get what you deserve in life; because it is the irony of fate sometimes, one deserves something, but doesn’t actually get it!” Was he referring to his own experiences in life? But he never seemed a frustrated soul.
On the last of service in the Bank, the Administrative Office summoned me and said, “Boy, I will give you a credential certificate.” Among others, he wrote, “It is better to deserve without receiving, than to receive without deserving….. He has the patience and perseverance to meet any situation in life; he sets a program and sees it through!” Such great people! Such great word of kindness and encouragement .Life is compared to an ocean.—and having gone for the sea-bath, why to be afraid of the oncoming waves!
What is theory after all? It’s other man’s experience. Any College is an institution, where text book knowledge is provided. But there exists a unique College of self-education, where one’s mind is one’s Principal and one’s initiatives are ones tutors. In this particular College, one remains as a student for ever. Mitch describes it beautifully. “No books were required, yet many topics were covered, including love, work, community, family, aging, and forgiveness, and finally, death. The last lecture of the Professor was brief, only a few words.