Amy’s Marginalia: Tuesdays With Morrie

tuesdayswithmorrieI picked up this little book at a book sale recently, recognizing the author from The Five People You Meet In Heaven (a book I haven’t read yet but have been meaning to for awhile).  It seems that Tuesdays with Morrie is also fairly well known, so it warranted a read, especially since one of our local theaters is staging a production of a play based on it. 

The premise is very simple.  A beloved Sociology professor is dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and a former student reunites with him in his final days for a series of lessons about life, love, and dying.  What sounds like a very morbid and depressing book is actually one of the more uplifting stories you can read because it embraces life.  The constant irony in the book is that only a dying man can teach us about living.

Morrie’s a great mentor for me as a teacher.  It sounds like he connected with his students in remarkable ways and taught them important lessons about life.  Students continued to seek him out long after graduation for his wisdom and companionship.  You can’t say that for many other professors. And teaching was his true vocation, one that he chose to pursue even with his dying breath. 

Faith is a complicated issue in this book.  Morrie is Jewish by heritage, and he attended synagogue while growing up and was buried by a rabbi.  But he claimed to be an agnostic for most of his adult life.  In the 10th anniversary edition, Albom includes an afterward which mentions Morrie’s potential conversion back to theism.  In his dying days, Morrie, when asked about death, says, “This is too harmonious, grand, and overwhelming a universe to believe that it’s all an accident” (196).

Most of Morrie’s lessons, which always take place on Tuesday, are very much in line with Judeo-Christian values.  But there are times he pulls from Buddhist thought as well.  Albom explains that “Morrie borrowed freely from all religions,” but thankfully, his advice ends up being rooted in his childhood faith foundation.

Morrie freely criticizes our culture for its excessive focus on materialism, its repetition of “more is good,” ad nauseum. He rightly calls this idolatry: “These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes.”

He discusses the importance of marriage and commitment to it.  He says that the most important value in marriage is “your belief in the importance of your marriage.” 

Morrie is right about a lot of things, but he’s missing the boat on the most important lesson of them all.  He doesn’t mention Jesus, the ultimate answer to all the questions.  His advice is filled with a lot of truth that falls in line with biblical practices, but without Jesus at the heart of it, it’s empty and self-seeking. 

Morrie is a wise teacher.  He offers a lot of insight learned from life.  But Jesus is the best Rabbi, who not only teaches you, but he transforms you into someone better, someone more like him.   He’s the one that satisfies our longings for false idols, giving us his true love that we seek.  And in our marriages, our greatest value is to love and serve him, and everything else will follow.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well since Morrie was Jewish it’d make sense that he didn’t necessarily mention Christ as the ultimate answer to everything. And the way Mitch Albom writes his novels, he never really focuses on one religion but more on the central belief that we are all facing the same struggles and problems regardless of whatever religion we practice. By writing that way, he caters to more readers around the world.

    AL: Thanks for your thoughts here. I’m of the belief that whatever religion or fundamental core beliefs we hold to, it shapes our writing and our other ideas. The literary criticism world calls it ideology. As a Jewish man, Albom’s core religious views shape all his writing, even if he isn’t aware that he’s doing it or is trying to suppress it in certain characters. Now, as a reader with a Christian worldview, I can’t force Albom to share my views, but I can interpret his ideas in light of my own ideology, my own Christian worldview. And, there’s also the idea that Truth with a capital T transcends all religions. I find Truth in Jesus, so anything expressing Truth will be aligned with him. A complex answer, but it’s a complex issue too.

  2. How very arrogant of you to say that your deity is the only true expression of truth. If I were you I would celebrate the love this book represents and leave your personal bias at the door. Your expression of truth seems to be a tad coercive, which at times has manifested itself in abhorrent actions in the name of religion.
    Is that what you’re about? Morrie wasn’t.

    AL: Phil, I get the impression that you’ve got a lot of anger surrounding the issue of the Christian faith. Perhaps you’ve been hurt at the hands of someone professing to be a believer. I’m so sorry, if that’s the case. All I can say is that I’m only seeking to share the good news that I’ve found in Jesus, and I’m sorry for the bad things that have been done by misled people, in his name. I pray that your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be healed of the resentment you harbor. Jesus offers so much. I’d hate for you to close yourself off to him and miss out.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I’m teaching Tuesdays with Morrie for the first time in a Christian high school and am using an excerpt from your review in class tomorrow. These are exactly the thoughts I’m striving to communicate–truth is not relative. How could Morrie have truly died in peace if he died without Christ?

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