“That’s what we’re all looking for. A certain peace with the idea of dying. If we know, in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing.”
“Make peace with living.”
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
. . .
There has not been a period in our lifetime where we have grappled with the fear of death as much as we have now. Some of us can be the lucky ones. Perhaps you, like me, might have had a near-death experience in the past. Or many. And after going through it, and still being here, still alive, and breathing, perhaps you, like me, then are able to appreciate that we have to be grateful for every moment, as we are being afforded extra time. In hindsight, what once threatened us can now be one of the greatest blessings of our path.
It might take a significant life crisis to be able to appreciate this. Or a new enemy we cannot see.
This enemy we cannot see can make us panic; it can bring out the worst in ourselves as we try to survive. Or it can also bring the best of ourselves. It can help us be more empathetic, more compassionate — more sensitive to the world around us. It can be the gift that we needed to begin our transformation — a transformation that mirrors what the world is going through right now.
. . .
Mitch Albom had the idea of writing a memoir of his time with Professor Morrie Schwartz to raise money that could help with Morrie’s medical bills. Schwartz had been Albom’s Sociology professor at Brandeis University, and they reconnected after Mitch saw his former professor interviewed in a Nightline episode, where he talked about his experience dealing with a life-threatening illness. Morrie had been diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The book is the chronicle of a series of conversations between Mitch and Morrie, where they engage in deep reflections over what it really means to be alive — and what a man who is on the verge of dying can say about life’s seemingly most important topics: death, fear, ageing, marriage, forgiveness, society, family, and life.
Albom said that these fourteen visits changed the way he looked on life, giving him life’s greatest lesson, and declared that finishing the manuscript and getting it published was probably the first large act that I did for someone else, not me.
Following its publication, Tuesday’s with Morrie would go on to become one of the best-selling memoirs of all time, and the rest is history.
Here are some quotes that can help us remember — and hopefully understand that with the current shakeup, and with the fear it generates, we could have been given one of the greatest gifts. We are all going to die. The difference lies in what we do between the day we are born, and the day our turn comes to bid farewell.
. . .
‘People are only mean when they’re threatened,’ he said later that day, ‘and that’s what our culture does. That’s what our economy does. Even people who have jobs in our economy are threatened, because they worry about losing them. And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It is all part of this culture.’
‘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. Take my condition. The things I am supposed to be embarrassed about now-not being able to walk, not being able to wipe my ass, waking up some mornings wanting to cry-there is nothing innately embarrassing or shaming about them. It’s the same for women not being thin enough, or men not being rich enough. It’s just what our culture would have you believe. Don’t believe it.’
Fear, guilt, and shame can be paralysing. They can also make us mean and insensitive to the people around us. More than anything, fear, and guilt, and shame, are emotions that lead us to be cruel and unpleasant towards ourselves. We fall for these when we live by the rules that others have imposed for us instead of by what our heart dictates.
If we judge ourselves by where others are standing in life at any present moment, we’ll never be enough. There’s always someone richer, more handsome, thinner, stronger — ultimately, there will always be someone better at what we are trying to do, the same way there will always be someone worse. But life is not about comparing paths. It is about genuinely embracing our own.
And the same goes for embracing our own values. Only we can know, from our heart, what truly matters for us. And if we choose to live from that space, then whatever we create will serve the world because it is coming from the energy of love, of acceptance, and of unity.
. . .
My old professor sighed. ‘There is no formula to relationships. They have to be negotiated in loving ways, with room for both parties, what they want and what they need, what they can do and what their life is like. In business, people negotiate to win. They negotiate to get what they want. Maybe you’re too used to that. Love is different. Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.’
As many of us have learned, relationships are one of the pivotal points that can make a critical difference in how our path unfolds. If we are surrounded by the right people, and if we have that unshakeable, wholehearted support, then we will have a more solid foundation to rebuild our lives — especially in these uncertain times.
Of course, it all starts with loving ourselves.
For a long time, I have seen marriage as an outdated institution. But that is because what the three-dimensional world sees as marriage and the spiritual definition of marriage are two completely different things. As my current relationship is showing me, there is such a thing as a true, steadfast spiritual commitment, where two souls pledge to prop each other up in this lifetime.
Morrie and his wife were an example of this, and a reminder that true love really does exist.
. . .
‘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 part of nature. We think because we’re human we’re something above nature.’
He smiled at the plant.
‘We’re not. Everything that gets born, dies.’ He looked at me.
‘Do you accept that?’ Yes.
One of the greatest things that has emerged following the lockdown and all its consequence is that we are gradually learning how to be more in harmony with nature. We are realising that we are part of nature, and that if we try to be above it, we might feel, temporarily, on top of the world, but it will all come back to bite us. It already has, and that is why we are dealing with issues such as climate change, and diseases, and so on.
We will, all, at some point, die. At least our body will. And what will matter is not the days that we spent in fear, hoping not to die, but the days that we earnestly embraced life and our mission in it.
Nature functions in a sort of organised chaos, and if we accepted that the same applies to human life, we would be able to coexist in harmony, without the need of controlling each other destinies and ways of living.
. . .
Like Morrie after his ALS diagnosis, it is up to us what we do with this time that we have been granted. We are here, alive, still breathing. And what will matter is what we do between now and the day that our spirit leaves our body. Perhaps, like Albom, we can decide to do something for somebody — only for it to become the greatest gift for ourselves, and for it changing the world in the process. And, like Morrie, we can start with accepting our present, and releasing the negative judgment that society might force us to imprint in whatever our situation is. We only suffer because we judge something as bad, not because of the situation itself. When we accept, we can make the best of the present moment, and gradually turn it around.
Tuesday’s with Morrie is a reminder that we can always choose. And if we choose love, it will guide us until our last breath — so how can we be afraid?
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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