Sometimes random things happen that change everything. Our views, inclinations, opinions and even beliefs. Funny enough, they happen in the most ordinary setting … okay, probably why they’re called random in the first place.
So one evening, just before we leave school, a friend gives me a book. She hands it over in the midst of laughter and the usual merry that comes with our group of friends. So I figure ‘hey, she probably needs me to carry it for her or something.’ I didn’t think much about it, nor look at it. I just held it and went on laughing at whatever joke it was that had me all bubbly.
When things quiet down she tells me she brought it for me, and thought I’d like it. That was pretty cool, though I knew I’d probably get to read it on our school-break since we were swamped with work. (…Fast forward)
The holidays begin and one day as I head out, I pick up the book. Stare at it for a moment and pack it in my bag. What is usually a boring, tedious and somewhat annoying journey for me turned into something beautiful. Peaceful even. And still …yes, still. Like the calm of water, except the occasional bumps and potholes.
It gripped me from the get go and I kept switching seats to avoid any light reflection that would impede my goal of absorbing every detail as best as I could. Coming to think of it, I probably came off as eccentric. But oh well. …So here we go -the book! I doubt that i’d do the book justice by attempting a hurried summary, so I’ll pick bits and pieces. A ‘here and there’ kind of thing.
Titled ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, the book is about an old man, a young man, and life’s great lesson. Morrie was a professor who fell ill with a fatal disease- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), one of the neurological system. For those of us who may not identify with or relate to it, call it cancer. Call it AIDS. It has the same effect, eating away at the body from the inside out.
Morrie. He was stunned at first and even leaving the hospital he wondered how the world could go on. He wondered how people could act so normal when something so drastic had happened to him. At this point, my mind wandered. My thoughts drifted involuntarily which now makes me wonder if we indeed control our minds or it’s vice versa. Anyway that can be a whole thesis.
It hit me that no matter what happens to us, the world moves on. This is really important so i’m going to repeat it for dramatic effect. No matter what happens, the world moves on. It’s sad, but true. Our happiness and pain alike is known only to us. It’s therefore important to not stay still too long, to not live in one moment for hours, days, even weeks on end. Because one day you’ll wake up and find that as you celebrated or wallowed, things were moving and have drastically changed. It’ll take a hand and foot to catch up …so why not avoid it all together right? I know, easier said than done. But then again, doing becomes easy when we at the very least try.
Morrie knew he had a decision to make …to either wither up and disappear, or make the best of his remaining life. Well, I suppose you can guess what he chose. Life. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a book about him. If he chose to wither the story would have gone something like ‘there was a wise professor who fell terminally ill and died very fast.’ I’m guessing no one, no matter how skilled, could word up such a story into a whole book.
He knew he would die. But he chose to make the most out of his remaining time. Not by going skinny dipping or singing at karaoke night. He decided to be a human textbook. He was dying, was a bridge between life and death and decided to share what it was like. It began with hosting visitors. Colleagues, former students and friends would go visit and he showed not an ounce of self-pity, as most of us would.
A show got wind of Morrie and the host visited him for an interview. Actually, it is only when this show aired that Mitch got to learn of his former professors illness. Theirs was not the typical student-student relationship. Morrie was more of a mentor to Mitch. Actually, more of a friend. To be honest, I was a bit freaked out as I read of it but as the book unfolded, I came to terms. 🙂
Mitch had promised to keep in touch when he graduated. Well, he didn’t. He was ‘busy’. Got swamped with work and just totally delved into the world and pursuing his dreams. When the show aired, he decided it was time to visit. So he did. Let me cut to the chase here …Morrie decided that he would give Mitch a ‘last class’. They’d meet on Tuesdays and he’d share his experiences and the wisdom he’d garnered that far.
At his point I was seated reading the book as my salonists yanked at my hair. I was weirdly oblivious to the pain. Morrie talked about creating his own culture, a cocoon of human activities as opposed to watching telly and relaxing all the time. He created a culture that worked for him instead of going with what was expected …laxity.
At this point I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed time …a break to absorb it all. This book …this book! I began to think about my own life. What I’d truly like. What I truly want for myself. My thoughts went straight to my deepest desires and I thought of the things that my heart ached for. I knew instantly what I’d want to do if my life’s clock was ticking. That’s just it. Why do we have to wait to be nudged by an external factor before we realize what we treasure most? Why aren’t we doing what we want to do?
I’d been so deep in thought that when I snapped back, I found myself staring straight at a lady seated opposite me. She was staring right back and I wondered how long we’d been at it. Oh well. I read on, but not long before I had to stop and internalize something else. This time I was sure not to stare into space. 🙂
Detachment. This is what I thought about. On one of his Tuesday visits, Mitch learnt from Morrie the importance of detachment. He explained the concept that seems to be something of irony, but makes sense all the same. He says that detachment is letting an experience fully penetrate you. I know, right? How can we detach if we are feeling? Not even in the slightest, but fully.
Take pain for example. If we don’t let ourselves feel it, we don’t know it. As such, we are too busy being afraid to detach from it. Make sense? Stay with me, i’m getting somewhere. …By throwing ourselves in emotion, in pain, we get to know it. We understand what it is, how it feels like. So we can comfortably go like ‘Alright pain, i know you, i recognize you and I’ve experienced you. Now I need to detach from you for a moment.’
At this point I was done with my hair, had taken my first bus and had to catch another. Yes, that’s how long I took to absorb the concept of ‘detachment’. And well, other factors like motion time and what not. At the door of my next bus, I met a man also entering. He was old enough to be my father, so I retreated to give him way. Instead, he gestured that I go ahead. And so with a slight nod of appreciation, I did. As fate would have it be, we got the last two-seater seats. I opened the book almost immediately and read on.
The conductor provided for a brief distraction from the weight of the words when he asked for my fare. …Just as I was about to finish another chapter, my mind wandered again. I thought about the man seated next to me. It hadn’t quite hit me, but now it did. He had gestured for the conductor to hand me my change before himself. Yet I was seated at the window and it followed that he got his first. What a selfless man.
This is what the book does. It has so much weight that it continuously provokes thought on the tiniest things. Funny enough, this man who had spoken not a word alighted at my stage. He turned out to me my neighbor on the other side of my estate. We marveled at this and he yet again gave me way at the gate. We bid farewell and as I rang my bell, I couldn’t help but think. Think about Morrie, Mitch, myself and this man.
What a day, what a book. If there is one thing I know, it’s that learning is something akin to prayer. It happens anywhere and everywhere. And well, it wholly depends on us. If we choose to learn, we will. The book changed my perspective. It still is, as I’m not done. But will be soon.
Till next time.