Morrie observed that most of the patients there had been rejected and ignored in their lives, made to feel that they didn’t exist. They also missed compassion—something the staff ran out of quickly. And many of these patients were well-off, from rich families, so their wealth did not buy them happiness or contentment. It was a lesson he never forgot.
One time, a group of black students took over Ford Hall on the Brandeis campus. . . . The standoff lasted for weeks. And it might have gone on even longer if Morrie hadn’t been walking by the building when one of the protesters recognized him as a favorite teacher and yelled for him to come in through the window. An hour later, Morrie crawled back out through the window with a list of what the protesters wanted. He took the list to the university president, and the situation was diffused.
All this emphasis on youth—I don’t buy it. . . . Listen, I know what a misery being young can be, so don’t tell me it’s so great. All these kids who came to me with their struggles. . . . And, in addition to all the miseries, the young are not wise. They have very little understanding about life. Who wants to live every day when you don’t know what’s going on? When people are manipulating you, telling you to buy this perfume and you’ll be beautiful, or this pair of jeans and you’ll be sexy—and you believe them! It’s such nonsense.
It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. 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.
Mitch, it is impossible for the old not to envy the young. But the issue is to accept who you are and revel in that. This is your time to be in your thirties. I had my time to be in my thirties, and now is my time to be seventy-eight. 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.