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Mitch Albom was one of Morrie's students at Brandeis University. After graduating, he moved to New York City where he dreamed of becoming a famous musician, but after his uncle passed he questioned his life position. He decided to go back to school for journalism and eventually found a great job at the Detroit Free Press where he wrote about professional sports. The media demand and competition improved Mitch's self-concept and his accomplishments and material self gave him a sense of control and self worth.
After sixteen years passed, Mitch was flipping through channels on the television
and saw Morrie on ABC-TV's "Nightline" with host, Ted Koppel. Mitch traveled
back to Boston to see Morrie. When he arrived at his house, Mitch was faced with communication apprehension. He was shocked to see his old professor and used avoidance, trying to multitask while his Morrie awaited in his wheelchair on the front lawn. Morrie was excited to see that Mitch had come back and they both greeted and hugged each other. Morrie had a need for affection; he enjoyed touch, hugs and kisses, which could be viewed as a feminine thing in our culture.
Morrie asked Mitch many questions that might have been in a hidden or unknown area of the Johari Window. He asked if he gave to his community, if he was at peace with himself and if he's trying to be as human as he can be. They weren't ordinary questions you would ask someone that you haven't seen in a while, but that part of Morrie's personality. The questions made Mitch feel uncomfortable because he had changed a lot since college. Everything he promised himself he wouldn't do, he did. He traded in his dreams for a larger paycheck when he promised himself that he would never work for money.
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Mitch's visit with Morrie had a recency effect. A few weeks later, while Mitch was in London covering a tennis competition, the O.J. Simpson trial was taking place. While Mitch was thinking about how people give up weeks of their lives listening to someone else's drama, he thought of what Morrie said. He told Mitch that the culture that exists today doesn't make people feel good about themselves and if you don't like it, you would have to create one of your own.
Mitch became more aware of people's behaviors and developed an implicit personality theory. He was knocked over by a rude British reporter and when he flew back to Detroit, the union for his newspaper was on strike. He was out of a job. He began to watch sporting events on TV when he would normally be there covering the event, however nothing had changed with the sports news. Mitch was realizing that his column wasn't as important as he thought. His perception of people and the world was changing as he would superimpose words and statements Morrie made to events that he was currently experiencing.
Mitch called Morrie and agreed to come visit him the following Tuesday. Even though Mitch felt a little sympathy for Morrie, Morrie refused to feel sorry for himself. He stayed in touch with the world and still read and watched the news. He actually felt sorry for the innocent people being killed in Bosnia because he felt drawn to them by death. Mitch and Morrie talked about how Morrie would eventually have to adapt predictively to the fact that he wouldn't be able to use the bathroom alone. He mentioned in the interview with Ted Koppel. It made Mitch laugh and he agreed to meet Tuesday's because that was when they use to meet in college.
Every Tuesday Mitch and Morrie would discuss various topics. Mitch observed Morrie's body slowly decaying every week. Every Tuesday. On the eleventh Tuesday, Mitch realized that time was running out quickly. He was more aware of the physical embarrassment but he wanted to be there for Morrie so when Morrie's therapist took a break, Mitch would give Morrie a massage. They talked about their culture and how people were becoming selfish and self absorbed. People only look out for themselves because they feel threatened. The material culture makes money seem like a god. Morrie said you can't substitute material things for love or gentleness. He also goes back to saying that if you don't buy into the culture than you have to create one of your own, which is what he did.
Morrie had his own subculture. He obeyed simple rules. Rules that people are unable to change. He created his own cultural values and instead of being embarrassed about his condition, he was willing to communicate and teach his experience. Morrie believed people were ethnocentric and egotistical. He said if people acknowledged themselves are more alike, it would be easier for them to join together as one big family. Morrie uses the communication accommodation theory when he states that in the beginning and end of life people are dependent upon others and need them to survive. He also says that in between birth and death, you are interdependent as well.
Words have the power to affect self-images and influence relationships people establish with others. Many of the things that describe Morrie have some relation to the symbolic interaction theory. Morrie used linguistic determinism when he created aphorisms about living with "death's shadow." He wrote more than fifty of them for example, "Accept the past as past without denying it or disregarding it." The linguistic relativity in these aphorisms touched many people including Professor Maurie Stein from Brandeis who was so taken by Morrie's words that he sent them to a reporter that published them in the Boston Globe. The producer from the "Nightline" show saw the article and wanted to interview Morrie.
When he appeared on the show, he spoke with both hands because he had great passion when he was explaining how you face death. He used symbols often to emphasize meaning in his words and thoughts. Even when the disease continued to take move up his body he would still attempt to make gestures with his hands. As Tuesday's passed and self disclosure increased with a dyadic effect, Mitch became more comfortable with things such as affect displays. Both Morrie and Mitch would hug and hold hands often because Morrie enjoyed touch and didn't care for the idea of masculine or feminine roles. They were okay with men to crying and having the ability to show affection. When Mitch would leave, he would give Morrie a kiss on the cheek.
Eventually Morrie became unable to lift his hands and he used facial expressions such as raising his eyebrows when he would normally shrug his shoulders. Mitch had to rely on these nonverbal and backchannel cues when he was communicating with Morrie. Mitch and Morrie evolved in proxemics. They went from social space, in the classroom in college, to personal space like eating lunch together or going over Mitch's first thesis in Morrie's office, and finally they evolved to intimate space, when they were going over their final thesis. Death.
Mitch and Morrie's relationship began as a relationship of circumstance which eventually became a relationship of choice. Mitch was just a student in Morrie's class at first, but then Mitch decided to take all of Morrie's classes and agreed to stay in touch after graduation. This never happened. Mitch became wrapped up in his own life and disregarded the letters sent from Brandeis University. He was unaware of Morrie's condition until he saw him on "Nightline." Then he went back to visit and this is when they began to developed a very intimate interpersonal relationship.
The emotional contagion theory states that emotional expression is contagious and people can catch emotions just by observing each other. This is true for Mitch, Morrie, and even Ted Koppel. On the first Tuesday when Mitch and Morrie talked about the world, he told Mitch that he would eventually get him to loosen up which Mitch thought was funny because Morrie said the same thing when they were in college. On Mitch and Morrie's final Tuesday together, when they said their "goodbyes," they both cried together. Mitch thought it gave Morrie a bit of satisfaction to know that he eventually got to him.
Ted Koppel and the "Nightline" crew came back several times to interview Morrie. The third and final time they conducted the interview in Morrie's study because he was no longer motile and his body was almost completely taken over by the disease. Morrie shared his latest aphorism. "Don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long." This really got to Ted Koppel. At the end of the interview a final scene was captured and Koppel was near tears. People all over the world were interested and touched emotionally by professor, Morrie Schwartz.