Taking Attendance

A few weeks following his reunion with Morrie, Mitch flies to London to cover the Wimbledon tennis tournament for the newspaper he works for. Typically, Mitch reads the British tabloids while he is in England, but on this visit, he remembers Morrie and his inevitable death. Mitch thinks of how many hours he has spent on mindless, meaningless endeavors, such as reading the tabloids, and instead wants to use his time as Morrie does, immersed in those endeavors that will enrich his life.

Mitch also remembers what Morrie had told him about rejecting a society's culture if it is not conducive to one's own development. Indeed, Morrie had developed his own culture, involving himself in discussion groups, friends, books, and dancing. Morrie had also created a project called Greenhouse, which provided the poor with mental health services. Unlike Mitch, Morrie had not wasted the precious years of his life. Mitch had developed his own culture of working himself to death, having dedicated his life to earning money. When he is knocked over by a cutthroat swarm of reporters chasing tennis player Andre Agassi and his girlfriend, actress Brooke Shields, Mitch is reminded of Morrie's adage that many people devote their lives to chasing the wrong thing. Mitch has been chasing money, and now realizes he must instead chase love and community, an endeavor that will give him purpose and meaning in his life.

When Mitch returns to Detroit, he learns that the newspaper union to which he belongs has gone on strike, which means his piece will not be published, nor will he be paid for the grueling work he had done while in London. Suddenly, Mitch is left without a job and without a purpose. Depressed, Mitch calls Morrie and arranges to meet with him the following Tuesday.

Mitch Flashes back to his sophomore year of college, when he takes two courses with Morrie as his professor. They meet outside of the classroom to talk, and share a relationship which Mitch has never before experienced with an adult. In talking, Mitch will divulge his problems and concerns to Morrie, and, in turn, Morrie will try to pass on some kind of life lesson. He warns Mitch that money is not the most important thing in the world, and that he must aspire to be "fully human." Morrie acts as a father figure to Mitch, as he cannot have such conversations with his own father, who would like him to be a lawyer, a profession Morrie hates. Instead, Morrie encourages Mitch to pursue his dream of being a famous musician and to continue practicing piano.

The First Tuesday: We Talk about the World

Mitch remembers how much Morrie loves food, and brings an arsenal of treats to his first Tuesday visit. Even in college, Mitch and Morrie had met routinely on Tuesdays, mostly to discuss Mitch's thesis, which Mitch says he wrote at Morrie's suggestion. They slip into conversation easily, as they did when Mitch was in college. When Morrie must go to the bathroom, his aid, Connie, helps him. He remembers telling Ted Koppel in his interview that he feared eventually needing someone else to wipe him after using the toilet, as it is the ultimate sign of dependency. He tells Mitch that this day is fast approaching. However, Morrie admits he is trying to enjoy the process of being a baby once more.

Morrie explains that he now feels an affinity with all people who suffer, even people he reads about in the news, such as the civilian victims of the war in Bosnia. He now cries even for those he has never met before; he admits he cries all the time. Mitch, however, never cries, but says that Morrie has been trying to get him to cry since his college days. Morrie tells Mitch that the most important thing to learn in life is how to give out love, and how to let it come in. He quotes Levine, saying, "Love is the only rational act." Mitch listens intently and takes heart, as he kisses Morrie when he leaves, an unusual display of affection on his part. When they part, Morrie asks Mitch if he will return next the Tuesday.

Again, Mitch flashes back to college, recalling an experiment Morrie had done with his sociology class at Brandeis. For fifteen minutes, Morrie does not say a word and the room is uncomfortably and totally silent. Morrie breaks the silence by asking what is going on in the room, and a discussion about the effect of silence on human relations follows. Mitch is quiet throughout the class, as he is not comfortable with sharing his feelings. Morrie notices Mitch's reluctance to participate, and pulls him aside. He tells Mitch that he reminds him of himself when he was young, as he was also reluctant to reveal his emotions.


One of Morrie's most important lessons to Mitch is the idea of initiating one's own culture if the culture is not conducive to one's happiness and development. However, he seems confused as to how to create a culture of his own, as he has become so adjusted to buying into the modern social values Morrie essentially deems shallow and worthless. How, exactly, does one create his own culture? Mitch understands how Morrie has created his own culture which he has filled with friends, books, and dancing, and after arriving home from London, realizes that he must create his own culture and or wither away in one that has turned him cold and greedy.

Mitch mourns for Morrie's death, and, in a very real sense, his own. A part of Mitch has died since his college days, and he grows increasingly sad and nostalgic for that part of him with every Tuesday he talks with Morrie. Mitch feels as though he has wasted a part of his life, having been deadened to emotion and caring, and now wants to resuscitate the caring man he had been so that he will not waste any more "precious" years of his life, trudging through each day with a healthy body and a deadened spirit. Morrie however, suffers from just the opposite affliction, which, unlike Mitch's problem, is irreversible. Mitch is has the potential to revive his spirit and his kindness, and can redeem himself if he so chooses. Morrie, however, must inevitably suffer as a lively spirit trapped within a dying, withered body.

To make up for the years he has lived with a cold, deadened spirit, an emotional zombie on the run from love and after money, he acts on the remorse he feels for having wasted much of his life, and heeds Morrie's advice that he needs to live as a man who is "fully human." By "fully human," Morrie means a person who creates their own, however unselfish, culture in which they make love their first priority and money their last. To be fully human, in Morrie's terms, is to be kind, compassionate, and accepting — of others and and of oneself. In quoting Levin, who had said, "Love is the only rational act," Morrie means that love is the foremost human behavior that comes naturally to all, and to be "fully human" means not to suppress this urge to love. Love is so irrational, it could be argued, that it is, in itself, a rational act, even in all of its mystery.

Like a newly born baby, Morrie cries often and needs just as much attention as a child would from his mother. Throughout the book, a repeated connection is made between children and the elderly, as both are completely dependent on others for their own survival. Morrie tries to enjoy the process of being a child once more because he revels in the love and attention he now receives because of his condition which the reader will soon learn was almost completely absent from his childhood. This love and attention is also absent in the lives of many adults, as the culture's rules regarding affection between adults is drastically different — and drastically scarce — compared to those for children and the elderly.