In a strange way, I envied the quality of Morrie's time even as I lamented its diminishing supply. Why did we bother with all the distractions we did? […] They didn't know O.J. Simpson. They didn't know anyone involved in the case. Yet they gave up days and weeks of their lives, addicted to someone else's drama. (7.2)
In our modern age, our life is filled up with the lives of people we barely even know or care about. We get distracted by watching other people in the media rather than understanding what our own lives mean. Morrie, on the other hand, is maximizing his human experience by surrounding himself with people he really loves and cares about.
I wanted that clarity. Every confused and tortured soul I knew wanted that clarity.
"Ask me anything," Morrie always said.
So I wrote this list:
Death/ Fear/ Aging/ Greed/ Marriage/ Family/ Society/ Forgiveness/ A meaningful life (10.31-34)
Mitch makes a list of all the things about life that he wants clarified. These are things that he wishes he could understand in order to understand his own existence. Part of human existence is to question things; we're able to understand so much, but so much is left unanswered.
But it was also becoming clear to me—through his courage, his humor, his patience, and his openness—that Morrie was looking at life from some very different place than anyone else I knew. A healthier place. A more sensible place. And he was about to die. (10.15)
The irony of the situation is not lost on us. As Morrie gets closer to dying, he starts living a busier and fuller life. Part of human nature is taking things for granted until they're running out; losing something wakes us so that we finally appreciate it. Life is no exception.
So we kid ourselves about death, I said.
"Yes. But there's a better approach. To know you're going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you're living." (13.7-8)
Here's the idea of life and death again: If you understand one, you understand the other. Sadly, the way that it seems to work is backward from what people expect. Only when we understand what it means to die can we take advantage of our humanity and learn how to live.
"Why not? Like I said, no one really believes they're going to die."
But everyone knows someone who has died, I said. Why is it so hard to think about dying?
"Because," Morrie continued, "most of us all walk around as if we're sleepwalking. We really don't experience the world fully, because we're half asleep, doing things we automatically thing we have to do." (13.21-23)
How ironic is it that although we exist as bundles of endless possibility, we walk around "half asleep"? Our experience is limited because we're lazy, doing only the things we have to do, instead of things that we could do.
"Yes. I look out that window every day. I notice the change in the trees, how strong the wind is blowing. It's as if I can see time actually passing through that windowpane. Because I know my time is almost done, I am drawn to nature like I'm seeing it for the first time." (13.43)
Because he's dying, Morrie can slow down and participate in the world around him. Nature is a beauty that is sometimes unappreciated because we're so used to it. If we try to make ourselves aware like Morrie, though, we can feel the wind almost for the first time.
"Ah. You're thinking, Mitch. But detachment doesn't mean you don't let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That's how you are able to leave it." (15.32)
Morrie isn't suggesting that we detach ourselves from everything, including who we are. Instead, he's saying that in order to have the most amount of consciousness—to be aware of how it feels to exist one hundred percent—we should remove all the unnecessary cares and attachments from our lives so we can kind of throw ourselves into existing.
"I know you think this is just about dying," he said, but it's like I keep telling you. When you learn how to die, you learn how to live." (15.37)
Here are some of Morrie's most famous words. He's been able to live a meaningful life with his illness, precisely because he knows that his days are numbered. It's like we said: The theme of living and existing is completely tied up with the theme of dying.
The closer he got to the end, the more he saw it as a mere shell, a container of the soul. It was withering to useless skin and bones anyhow, which made it easier to let go. (24.5)
Here's a comment about the nitty gritty aspect of being alive: our bodies. Part of the wild truth about living and dying is that, aside from our minds and hearts, which are able to change so much in the world, we have these flimsy bodies that eventually wear out and die on us.
When I asked him on that day for a perfect afterlife scenario, this is what he chose: "That my consciousness goes on… That I'm part of the universe." (28.34)
Although this could be seen as a comment about spirituality as well, it tells us how much Morrie values his mind, his consciousness. If he could choose any way to live on he would want everything else in the universe to absorb him so that he can act as part of the whole big picture. His mind would no longer be limited to his body.