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Dancing Through Life

February 20, 2011

“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

~Morrie Schwartz

In Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom describes his time spent with a former teacher and mentor Morrie Schwartz. The story revolves around them meeting up again years later during what are to be the final months of Morrie’s life.

Having been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Morrie offers Mitch one final gift, his wisdom. They meet up every Tuesday and  talk about different aspects of life anywhere from love, money, death and dancing.

Morrie had loved to dance, regardless of what kind of music was being played. In his health, he would go to a church in Harvard Square each Wednesday night for an event called “Dance Free,” which catered mainly to students and other young people. Morrie, a distinguished doctor of sociology, would go in sweat pants and a T-shirt, and dance all night until he was soaked with sweat.

This is the kind of book that finds its way into your life and has the ability to shock you into awakening. From the tears you cry for the man who is dying on the pages in front of you, but approaches his circumstances with perspective, wisdom, and dignity, to the tears you cry for yourself once you realize the essential truths you have ignored in your own life.

Reading this book at a point in my life where I was questioning everything from meaning to purpose brought into perspective what is really important and made me grateful for what I have. It also forced me to act on certain decisions that I previously had avoided.

Hopefully we can all be reminded of certain truths in our own lives through Morrie’s wise words.

  • “Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.”“A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.” “A wrestling match. Yes you could describe life that way.” “Which side wins?” “Love wins. Love always wins.”
  • “Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do”; “Accept the past as past without denying it or discarding it”; “Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others”; “Don’t assume that it’s too late to get involved.”
  • “There are some mornings when I cry and cry and mourn for myself. Some mornings, I’m so angry and bitter. But it doesn’t last too long. Then I get up and say, ‘I want to live . . .’”
  • “I’m on the last great journey here–and people want me to tell them what to pack.”
  • “Dying, is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else. So many of the people who come to visit me are unhappy.”
  • “The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”
  • “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
  • “You asked about caring for people I don’t even know. But can I tell you the thing I’m learning more with this disease?” “The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” “Let it come in. We think we don’t deserve love, we think if we let it in we’ll become too soft. But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, ‘Love is the only rational act.’” “‘Love is the only rational act.’”
  • “Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people to trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too–even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling.”
  • “Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”
  • “Because, 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 think we have to do.”“Well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time–then you might not be as ambitious as you are.”
  • “Even I don’t know what ’spiritual development’ really means. But I do know we’re deficient in some way. We are too involved in materialistic things, and they don’t satisfy us. The loving relationship we have, the universe around us, we take these things for granted.”
  • “If you don’t have support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, ‘Love each other or perish.’”
  • “I thought about how often this was needed in everyday life. How we feel lonely, sometimes to the point of tears, but we don’t let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how feel a surge of love for a partner but we don’t say anything because we’re frozen with the fear of what those words might do to the relationship.”
  • “Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”“You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled 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.”
  • “You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now. Looking back makes you competitive. And, age is not a competitive issue.”
  • “These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.”“When you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how much of them you have.”
  • “If you’re trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down at you anyhow. And if you’re trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.”
  • “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.”
  • “Part of the problem, is that everyone in such a hurry, People haven’t found meaning in their lives, so they’re running all the time looking for it. They think the next car, the next house, the next job. They find those things are empty, too, and they keep running.”
  • “Every society has its own problems, The way to do it, I think, isn’t to run away. You have to work at creating your own culture.”
  • “There is no point in keeping vengeance or stubbornness. These things I so regret in my life. Pride. Vanity. Why do we do the things we do?”
  • “Make peace. You need to make peace with yourself and everyone around you.”
  • That’s what we’re all looking for. A certain peace with the idea of dying. If we know, in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing.” “Which is?” “Make peace with living.”
  • “As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away.”“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
  • “Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.”

This book is a humble reminder to all of us who are not making the most of every day that we have been given.

I hope you are all having a great weekend and remembering to appreciate the little things around you.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2011 12:26

    Wow, I love this so much!

    This is also the second or third time in the past week that ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ has come onto my radar, I guess that means I need to read it – just need to find a copy here, haha!

    Sounds like a magnificent book, the quotes you included have already inspired me to live my life more fully and with more love. There’s no point holding grudges.

    Thanks for posting this 🙂

    • February 20, 2011 12:38

      Hi Jen,

      I’m so happy that you were inspired by Morrie. I know I really was when I found his words in an old journal and writing this post. I think it’s time I read the book again.

      Obviously this book has a message for you if it’s been popping up so often. I love how life helps us by sending random things our way like that. I hadn’t thought about this book in years and was planning on focusing on different book and all of sudden Morrie’s word are slapping me across the face. 🙂

      I’ll be interested in hearing your opinion once you’ve read the book.

      Have a wonderful Sunday Jen 🙂


  2. warwick permalink
    February 20, 2011 16:42

    An inspiring man….lots and lots of beautiful and profound words and it is very apparant that they are from a most sincere place.

    I would like to receive them individually, like in a fortune cookie after a meal or better still, as a note at the side of my bed to be read in the morning first thing on awaking.

    I would like one everyday for a month or till they run out because everyone of them needs to be caressed…smelled, tasted and listened to and held gently in the palm of your hand before being held tightly against your heart.

    Good that you are circulating them and reminding me that they are available.

    • February 20, 2011 17:20

      I love this comment!

      What you say is so true in regards to slowly digesting each quote and its full meaning. There are too many important messages and lessons to take from each quote that deserve more than a quick scan. They need to be savoured and contemplated one by one.

      I am so happy to have been brought back into Morrie’s world this week and be able to share it with you.


  3. February 21, 2011 13:37

    Hi Jess,

    Really enjoyed these insights from Morrie Schwartz.
    My favourite one is “most of us walk around as if we are sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, because we are half-asleep doing things we automatically think we have to do.”

    How many things do I think I have to automatically do?

    Work all day long, 6 days a week, to earn an income that allows me to buy a house, provide food and take an annual 1 week holiday?
    Work hard at school, work hard at work, only take breaks occasionally to stay sane?
    Look at situations from a practical (safe) point of view?

    What if that really means that I am sleep-walking, or living a life drifting in and out of consciousness? Is that a meaningful life? Is that an enjoyable and rewarding life?

    I think that I am guilty of focussing too much on desired outcomes, whereas I should choose my aims, chart a course and live the journey in each breath.

    Thanks for sharing this post with me.

    • February 21, 2011 21:50

      I’m happy that reading Morrie’s words brought some insight into your own life.

      We are all guilty of focusing on desired outcomes one way or the other but the main thing is to be aware of it and then take the necessary steps to change that until we have created the life we want.

      All you can do is start by making a choice to change which you obviously have by being aware and start taking baby steps and don’t forget to enjoy the ride there 🙂

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