"Have you found someone to share your heart with?" he asked.
"Are you giving to your community?
"Are you at peace with yourself?
"Are you trying to be as human as you can be?" (6.15-18)
Morrie pummels Mitch with really deep personal questions during their first meeting. These questions outline what Morrie has come to believe truly matters in life—and they're big questions. We doubt that anyone could confidently answer yes to all of them.
"Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We're teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create your own." (6.29)
According to Morrie, our culture surrounds us with the wrong principles and priorities. The only way to fight this is to create your own set of principles. Basically we have to work against the system to live the right way.
I had also developed my own culture. Work. I did four or five media jobs in England, juggling them like a clown. I spent eight hours a day on a computer, feeding my stories back to the States. […] This was not an abnormal load. Over the years, I had taken labor as my companion and had moved everything else to the side. (7.5)
In his life, Mitch has made work his main principle. He spends the most time working out of everything else, and everything else in his life comes after work. Not the most balanced way to live, is it?
"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give our love, and to let it come in." (8.38)
Here Morrie gives us his secret to success, the principle that orders all the others: We have to love. If we love, we're able to put the right priorities on everything else in life, mainly putting others before ourselves. If you learn to be comfortable with sharing your heart and allowing others to share theirs, you just can't go wrong.
Still, despite their circumstances, Morrie was taught to love and to care. And to learn. Eva would accept nothing less than excellence in school, because she saw education as the only antidote to their poverty. (12.25)
As a child, Morrie's stepmother encourages him to become the man who he eventually does. She teaches him that learning and loving are kind of the same; they can overrule the fact that they're poor and make them better people.
"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."—Henry Adams (12.36)
So here we have it: The teacher's role is to be responsible for giving people the right principles. What a teacher says can affect generations and help people live the way that they should.
"And, in addition to all the miseries, the young are not wise. They have very little understanding about life. Who wants to live every day when you don't know what's going on? When people are manipulating you, telling you to buy this perfume and you'll be beautiful […] and you believe them! It's such nonsense." (17.20)
Take it from Morrie: Being young is overrated. Youth comes with all kinds of the wrong priorities—beauty, looks, fads—and these things don't make people wise, only foolish and unhappy. It's not impossible, but it's very difficult for young people to have the right priorities. But at the same time, everybody wants to be young.
He smiled. "You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Lives that haven't found meaning. Because if you've found meaning in your life, you don't want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can't wait until sixty-five." (17.26)
Getting principles, so to speak, will give meaning to your life, providing both structure and a reason for your day-to-day existence. And the good news is that once you get your priorities straight, it sets you on a one-way track; you can't just stop caring about the right things.
"Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won't be dissatisfied, you won't be envious, you won't be longing for somebody else's things. On the contrary, you'll be overwhelmed with what comes back." (18.28)
We're talking about selflessness here. You can only be happy when you think of others before yourself, and to do this, you have to live with your heart. Morrie has learned that thinking of one's self only brings dissatisfaction and unhappiness, which will lead to caring about the wrong things.
It was a tense scene as the principals all turned to face the jury, Simpson, in his blue suit, surrounded by his small army of lawyers, the prosecutors who wanted him behind bars just a few feet away. When the foreman read the verdict—"Not guilty"—Connie shrieked. (21.157)
The O.J. Simpson trial kind of sums up everything that Morrie says about culture. They are all shocked when the notorious celebrity is ruled innocent, since all the evidence suggests otherwise. Talk about our culture valuing the wrong principles.