I 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.