Morrie’s Aphorisms No bubble is so iridescent or floats longer than that blown by the successful teacher. Sir William Osler (1849-1919), 4 Oct. 1911, Glasgow (quoted in: Harvey Cushing, Life of Sir William Osler, vol. 2, ch. 31, 1925). Mitch Albom wrote Tuesdays with Morrie as a final tribute to his old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who intended that his death should be his “final thesis.” Grim and fascinating, Professor Schwartzs courage in the face of a painful death is truly inspiring.
The lucidity and wisdom which Professor Schwartz gained over the years became increasingly pronounced and focused as he contemplated his life and imminent death, as well as his place in the Cosmos while his frail body melted away through A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease). This paper will discuss five of Professor Schwartz aphorisms (or proverbs), which would facilitate learning in subject- specific -and other educational venues. The Meaning of Life “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when theyre busy doing things they think are important.
This is because theyre chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” (emphasis added) (p. 43) Professor Schwartzs analysis of the “meaning of life” is particularly appropriate for teaching philosophical views and sociological concepts. Since time immemorial, man has contemplated why he is on the Earth and what his place is in the Greater Scheme of Things. While students rush through the educational process in a pinball-like attempt to learn what they need to thrive and survive, they frequently overlook those aspects of their education, which are the most important. When people become self-actualized, as Professor Schwartz did, they are better able to view humanity from a broader angle. This “better view” of mankind involves a commitment to others and to the community in which one lives, but it is more elemental than that.
Material possessions, according to the professor, mean little when you are lying on your deathbed. What is truly important is that an individuals life is given meaning and purpose by the degree to which that individual has served and loved others. Admittedly, Professor Schwartz had the wisdom of years and the insight provided by decades of philosophical research; however, the quest for the “meaning of life” is a universal aspect of mankind and finding the right answer is like finding the Holy Grail — many have looked but few have seen. Therefore, Professor Schwartzs thought process concerning devoting oneself to loving others and their community is particularly appropriate in a philosophical and sociological learning environment. A better learning experience could be gained by a requirement that all college students perform a certain number of hours of service to the community: painting and repairing low-income housing, or volunteering at nursing homes or veteran centers, for example. This “giving back” to the community would reinforce Professor Schwartzs view that we are all part of the human family and we gain meaning in our lives through service to others. An activity using this aphorism in the classroom was completed by my sixth grade Literature class at Greenwich Catholic School.
The grade decided to express the true meaning of Christmas by bypassing the holiday gift giving and donating their gifts to a local charity of the childrens choice. Then, each child wrote an essay on the true meaning of Christmas and related their experience to the activity performed. This truly put Morries proverb to work. Faith and Trust “You see,” he says to the girl, “you closed your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see; you have to believe what you feel.
And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too — even when youre in the dark. Even when youre falling.” (p. 61) There is an old saying concerning trust and faith: “Fake it till you make it.” This means that trust and faith can be learned. Trusting others is more difficult for some people than others. Trust, then, is the basis for all human endeavors, which involve others, since we must accept on faith that people will act in certain ways in order to live our daily lives. For example, in a learning environment, trust is the basis for the effective transmission of knowledge from teacher to student.
Moreover, it is the essence of living in a civilized society, for, if we cannot trust the driver approaching us in the other lane to not swerve and hit us head-on. If we do not trust the police to uphold the law, there is anarchy; if we do not trust our spouses to be faithful, there is infidelity; if we do not trust our teachers when they teach, there is ignorance. Therefore, the application of this aphorism would be appropriate in practically any classroom setting, but particularly appropriate in a philosophical environment in which universal truths are discussed. More specifically, encouraging students to trust each other (which does not, of course, mean to naively accept everything people tell you) will enhance their ability to learn and to interact with their peers, their family members and society in general. An activity that could enforce this trust would involve partners. One person would stand directly behind the other and support their partners weight.
Then, they would let their partner fall backward with the promise they will catch their partner before he/she hits the floor. This would provide a difficulty for the partners and would reinforce the fact that it is imperative to trust others in all situations. Learn How To Die So You Can Learn How To Live “The truth is Mitch,” he says, “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” (Emphasis added) (p. 82). A scene in Remarche’s All Quiet on the Western Front described a grizzled old sergeant advising his men that they might as well consider themselves as already dead.
This motivated the troop to find the courage required to continue to fight. While Professor Schwartz was not saying to consider oneself “already dead,” he was saying that by accepting the nature of life and its ultimate conclusion, you are then able to make the most of life. Dreams, which may well go unrealized, are ac …