In the midst of undergoing a serious life-altering incident, one often experiences the feeling of a paradigm shift. It is amazing to see how our perspectives of the world shift when forced to reflect on what is truly important. Such is the way with death. Being near death causes a sharp realization of what is truly important in life--love of family and friends, faith in God, and making the world a better place to live in--and enables one to not merely accept this, but apply it to their life as well. All those typical, average daily worries and concerns about homework, professional careers, food, sleep, personal grooming, etc., while important and necessary in everyday life must seem unbelievably miniscule when the death has wiped ones eyes clear and the big picture of life has come into focus. If an individual suddenly becomes aware that their time on earth is coming to a close or is suddenly thrust into a meaningful relationship with someone trying to deal with such a phenomenon, as is the case in Tuesdays With Morrie, a contemporary book written by the popular sports journalist Mitch Albom, serious personal change can occur as a result. In fact, a person is only able to reach such a tangible state of enlightenment and understanding of the world around them in those last moments before death.
To reach some understanding of the important affects that death can have, we must first explore the devastatingly real shock that the end of something so permanent as life must provide. No one can ever truly know what the feeling of death is like until they actually feel it for themselves, but for the purpose of this exercise, let us imagine what it must closely resemble. Words such as afraid, daunting, intimidated, unsure, confusion, hopelessness, sorrow, and countless others spring to mind. The actual realization that death is very near must be unbearably weird, for it is something that is as much a part of life as birth, yet is totally unprepared for in our culture, as evidenced when Morrie says, “Everyone knows they’re going to die…but nobody believes it. If we did we would do things differently';(Albom81). We as a society are too consumed by material possessions, money, and status and the way in which these ends are met leaves little time for people and the development of relationships--which is the key to leading a meaningful life...
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...ut this is where the real lesson comes into play.
Just as Mitch journeyed back to Morrie in the hopes of providing some type of support for his tragic situation and ended up gaining the knowledge of an enlightened man on his deathbed, we as a society need to view visiting the old and dying not as a pathetic gesture of pity, but instead as an opportunity to learn from their collective experience. The bulk of society, and especially people who stand in positions capable of establishing great change, like politicians and the wealthy, need to receive the same insight into life that Morrie and others who have experienced a waking up to death are given. Those who reach this enlightened state of understanding must be willing to teach their new philosophies before it is too late and everyone else needs to be willing to listen. The extreme change and understanding that is reached through the realization of death is much too valuable of an experience to not be shared with all. Just imagine how much of a better place our world would be if everyone could go through the transformation that Morrie and Mitch took on.
Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays With Morrie. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
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