Tuesdays With Morrie Themes
Morrie's Lesson on Forgiveness
In the movie Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom, a newspaper columnist learns that his former professor, Morrie Schwartz, 78, is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Not having talked to him since his college days, he goes to see Morrie and ends up visiting him every Tuesday as Morrie gives his last lectures to Mitch- his lessons on how to live.
During the movie Morrie is shown laying down in his chair, gazing on the window, thinking about his regrets. Among his list of regrets was hardness of heart. He recalls the death of his father and how he could not shed any tears for him- because Morrie couldn’t forgive him after his father refused to confront his feelings on the death of Morrie’s mother. Morrie knows now that it’s important to forgive everyone of everything, before it’s too late. He then stresses the importance of being surrounded by love- by the people you care about. He did not want to die like his father did.
Older individuals are stereotyped as cranky, stubborn and set in their ways. Perhaps we associate this with the elderly because we have this idea that with age comes a cognitive decline, and with this decline, elders can’t see past their ways to accept something clearly better.
Morrie is the epitome against this stereotype. Though Morrie’s physical capabilities are quickly dwindling, especially with the ALS, he is in no way cognitively inferior to someone in their twenties, thirties or forties. In fact, with all of his experience, he probably and arguably has more intelligence than the younger adults. Aging has made him less arrogant and ignorant towards this aging process. He teaches us that aging isn’t a time of decline and decay- it’s not all downhill.
Often, when we think of aging as a time of deterioration, we are representing all elderly with this one idea of aging. This however is not the case. The normal aging process actually includes stable intellectual functioning. Morrie was clearly functioning intellectually, and is engaged with living. Elders have just as much capacity to change as a younger adult- whether it be learning something new, accepting different ideas or forgiving others. This is the average way people age. Our ability to maintain our cognitive and psychological function does not disappear as we continue to age. As we age, we learn more from experience, and we can apply these new things that we learn to our life. We continually accept change within our lives.
The fact that Morrie was able to describe his memories so clearly is testimony to the ability to sustain cognitive function. Memory loss is often associated with aging, as the elderly are continued to be labeled as forgetful. Morrie, like many other older individuals, doesn’t actually have an issue with loss of memory. Memory loss may seem like it’s correlated with age- correlation, however is not causation. Memory loss really depends on the individual, their experience, and the environment in which they developed, more than how many years they’ve been alive.
To have memory or to remember experiences, is a process. We take in sensory stimuli, by one of our senses, which are processed by the brain. The way we understand this information is called perception- which varies from individual from individual. It’s easy to understand why memory loss is not directly caused from aging.
Morrie is psychologically and cognitively growing until the day he dies. Morrie is able to learn. There is an age old expression that goes something along the lines “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This is the ageist stereotype. The ability to learn does not vanish as you age- Morrie, not just in this scene, but throughout the movie, tells us that aging is not decaying. Just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you can’t learn.
Morrie himself, was able to come to an understanding and realization that he should have forgiven his father, and always surround himself with love and a good community. In order to learn that, Morrie had to learn with age, and having plenty of experiences to gain an understanding from, he realized how important love is. Although Morrie has a lot to deal with, Morrie is perfectly capable of seeing past his old ways, where he was hard of heart, and was able to see new ideas, which included forgiveness.
Morrie is the embodiment of the cognitive capabilities of the elderly. With aging, we do not become more stubborn, and set in our ways- with aging comes change and learning. Society may associate forgetfulness, stubbornness, and the inability to learn new ideas, as a result of aging. When a few individuals seem to fit this mold that has been created for the elderly, society highlights and emphasizes it. (For instance, normal forgetfulness may be emphasized when a person is older, giving us this idea that with aging comes forgetfulness).
It’s important to understand that most older individuals do not fit this negative stereotype. Tuesday’s With Morrie, teaches us that there is so much more to aging- that life doesn’t necessarily end when you reach a certain age. It can even be argued that those years will be your prime years, speaking in terms of intellectuality.
Humans were meant to adapt and learn – and this does not stop when we’ve become old. This is the time when you’ll learn what really matters in life- and what never did.