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Most Important Life Lessons On Aging From Tuesdays With Morrie

Most Important Life Lessons On Aging From Tuesdays With Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie, written by Mitch Albom about the final words of wisdom from his beloved professor Morrie Schwartz, is recognized as one of the most popular books ever written on how to live your life with understanding and how to face your death with dignity.

Albom and Ted Koppel, who featured Schwartz on three occasions on Nightline, appeared recently in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the book and talk about the tremendous impact Morrie’s words had on them and millions of readers around the world.

Booming Encore Senior Contributor Dave Price captures the essence of this ongoing publishing phenomenon in a two-part series. In this second article, Price shares the life lessons on aging that Morrie shared with Mitch Albom.

Also Read: Lessons Learned: The Story Behind the Classic Book Tuesdays With Morrie

By Dave Price

In the first of a series of home visits for what would become the basis for the now-classic book Tuesdays with Morrie, writer Mitch Albom heard his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz offer his explanation of why there was so much interest in the story of a dying 78-year-old scholar.

You know Mitch, now that I’m dying I’ve become much more interesting to people,” Morrie, breaking into his trademark smile, told his former student. “People see me as a bridge. I’m on the last great journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.

Ted Koppel and Mitch Albom Discussing Tuesdays With Morrie

For the next 13 Tuesdays, as Albom watched the body of his beloved former professor wither from deadly ALS, he recorded Morrie’s thoughts on a variety of subjects ranging from birth to death.

Not surprisingly, given Schwartz life-long preoccupation with helping his students prepare for their future, one Tuesday was devoted to aging, a subject that Albom and his fellow Baby Boomers were obviously becoming more interested in as the years and decades passed. In fact, on a list that Albom, then 37, prepared for his mentor to discuss, aging was third, right after death and fear.

All this emphasis on youth – I don’t buy it,” Morrie told Albom. “Listen, I know what a misery being young can be, so don’t tell me it’s so great. All these kids who came to me with their struggles, their strife, their feelings of inadequacy, their sense that life was miserable, so bad they wanted to kill themselves…

And, in addition to all the miseries, the young are not wise,” he added. “They have very little understanding about life. Who wants to live every day when you don’t know what’s going on? When people are manipulating you, telling you to buy this perfume and you’ll be beautiful, or this pair of jeans and you’ll be sexy – and you believe them! It’s such nonsense.

Schwartz said people should embrace aging.

It’s very simple,” he said. “As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at 22, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at 22. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative 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.

Actually, Schwartz explained his learning and his life had taught him why so many people wished to be young again.

You know what that reflects?” he asked rhetorically. “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,” he said.

Accepting yourself at every age and reveling in that time is the best way to avoid the fear of getting older, Schwartz maintained.

You have to find what’s the good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now. Looking back makes you competitive. And, age is not a competitive issue,” he said.

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,” he added, as his sole pupil in this final, one-person, in-home classroom nodded that he understood. “Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own. How can I be envious of where you are – when I’ve been there myself?

Here (in a designed question and answer format) are some of the other most powerful pieces of advice that Professor Schwartz offered in Tuesday with Morrie:

 Why are so many people so unhappy?

Well, for one thing, the culture we have doesn’t make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.

 What makes for a meaningful life?

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing the things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

 What’s the most important thing in life?

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. We think we don’t deserve love, we think if we let it in we’ll become too soft. But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, ‘Love is the only rational act.’

 Why don’t people realize what is missing from their life?

The culture doesn’t encourage us to think about such things until you’re about to die. We’re so wrapped up with egotistical things, career, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks – we’re involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going. So, we don’t get in the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing?

Why do so many people seem to covet material things?

We’ve got a form of brainwashing going on in our country. Do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. And that’s what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it – and have it repeated to us – over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. But it never works. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship. Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness.

How do we find a sense of immortality?

Be compassionate. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place. Love each other or die. As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without going away. All the love you created is still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

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Dave Price operates a freelance writing/speaking/consulting/tour guiding practice in Washington, D.C., where he focuses on 3 topics – the Baby Boomer generation, classic rock, and issues on aging, especially those affecting men. A former journalist and educator, Price is researching 2 books, one on the status of classic rock music and its songs, performers, and fans today and the other a DC guidebook designed especially for Baby Boomers.