As the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer lao tzu once said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”. Acceptance is a choice—a hard one, but a choice, nonetheless. Whether it is a family loss, a missed opportunity, or a sudden change in plans, being able to accept things that are out of one’s control will help people maintain inner peace and happiness. Mitch Albom, the writer of Tuesdays with Morrie, argues that part of being human is embracing the foreordained through his usage of repetition and characterization.
Albom uses repetition to argue what it is to be human. An example of such is his repetition of the phrase, “learn how to die, and you learn how to live.” (Albom 83). Albom repeats this mantra many times throughout this memoire. The philosophy serves as a metaphor for Morrie’s awareness that his death may come at any moment. Mitch uses the phrase above to show that he means that one must accept the possibility of one’s own death before he can truly appreciate what he has on earth. Mitch’s constant repetition of this phrase emphasizes it’s importance. Another example can be the repetition of the bird symbol as said by Morrie, “well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you can accept that you can die at any time – then you might not be as ambitious as you are.” (Albom 83). Morrie states that when one accepts their death, their life and behavior changes. The sobering awareness that one day, it will all be out of reach, prompts the urge to appreciate and value what one can have only for a limited period of time, and to use every moment of that time doing something that they will not regret when the bird sings its last note. This proves that Mitch Albom uses repetition to deliver the message of how seeing things for what they really are can change one’s way of living and their perspective on it.
Another way Albom uses to convey the message of what it means to be human is through his characterization of Morrie. Morrie has many aphorisms that makes his character shine through the lines. Some of which are, “He refused to be depressed. Instead, Morrie had become a lightning rod of ideas. He jotted down his thought on yellow pads, … ‘Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do’; ‘Accept the past as past without denying it or discarding it’; ‘Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others’; ‘Don’t assume it’s too late to get involved.’” (Albom 18). These “bite-sized philosophies” define Morrie and how he lives after he is given his death sentence by ALS. As he sees his time on earth ticking away, he wants to make the most of it by reaching out and teaching others everything he knows. He realizes the philosophies he has on life could help others, and he wants to get the word out to whoever will see his notes. His positive attitude in the face of death can help others to live a better life. He accepts his inevitable demise and decides to help instead of wallow in self-pity. Another example on Morrie’s unique characterization is, “Instead, he would make death his final project, the center point of his days. Since everyone was going to die, he could be of great value, right? He could be research. A human textbook. Study me in my slow and patient demise. Watch what happens to me. Learn with me.” (Albom 10) Morrie is the consummate teacher and sees his death as an opportunity to continue teaching rather than a tragedy. His self-awareness of his own body allows him to budget the time he has left. He accepts that his, and everyone else’s, days on earth are numbered and decides to make the most of it and leave something behind. He saw the greater picture after his acceptance and for the rest of this memoire he tries to describe it to Mitch and others. This indicates that the characterization of Morrie is a big factor in deciphering one of the messages of this memoire; accepting and acting on that acceptance.
All in all, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie argues that accepting the inevitable is a major part in being human. Weither he argues it through the repetition of symbols and phrases or his characterization of Morrie. There is a lot to take from the book, one thing one could take from Morrie and Mitch’s journey through the waters of death is: Don’t fight the current, but as tzu said, flow with it. Let life carry you away.
- ALBOM, M. (2017). Tuesdays with morrie 20th anniversary edition. New York.: SPHERE.