The Second Tuesday: We Talk about Feeling Sorry for Yourself
Mitch returns to spend a second Tuesday with Morrie, and this time decides not to buy a cell phone during the trip so that his colleagues cannot disturb his meaningful time with his old professor. The union at the newspaper he works for in Detroit continues to strike, and he is therefore without a job. The strike situation had grown nasty; picketers had been arrested and beaten, and replacement workers had been hired.
Once again, Mitch has brought Morrie bags of delicious food. Now, Morrie is confined to his study, and keeps a bell by his side to signal for assistance. Mitch asks Morrie if he feels sorry for himself. Morrie replies that at times, he does, usually in the mornings. He mourns for his body and the control that he has lost, and cries if he needs to. Afterwards, however, Morrie moves on and recognizes how lucky he is to have time to say goodbye to his loved ones before he dies. He consciously limits the amount of time he spends pitying himself, as he knows he must enjoy the little life he has left. Mitch is astounded that Morrie has called himself lucky when he must endure such suffering.
While Morrie is in the bathroom with his aide Connie, who must help him, Mitch looks through a Boston newspaper and reads disturbing news about murder and hatred. He puts the paper down when Morrie returns from the bathroom, and offers to help him back into his recliner, which he does. Holding Morrie in his arms, Mitch is moved in a way he cannot describe, only to say that he can feel the "seeds of death inside his shriveling frame." It is then that Mitch realizes that his time with Morrie is running out, and that he must do something about it.
In a flashback to his junior year of college, 1978, Mitch recalls the unusual "Group Process" class he took with Morrie. The class, which Mitch labels the "touchy-feely class," studies how the group of students interact with one another. On a typical day, one person will end up crying. In one exercise, the students test one another's trust and reliability by doing trust falls; one student will fall straight backwards and must rely on another student to catch them. Not one student can trust another until one girl falls without flinching. Morrie notes that the girl had closed her eyes, and says that this exercise serves as a metaphor for the secret to trust in relationships; one must sometimes trust blindly, relying only on what they feel to guide them in their decision-making.
The Third Tuesday: We Talk about Regrets
Again, Mitch arrives the following Tuesday with bags of food. This time, he has brought a tape recorder, as well. At first, Mitch feels that the tape recorder is intrusive and worries that it will make Morrie uncomfortable. But Morrie welcomes it, and insists that he wants Mitch to hear his story. Mitch recognizes that using the tape recorder is also an attempt to capture a remnant of Morrie to remember him by after his death. He wonders if Morrie has had any regrets since learning that he is dying. Morrie responds with a lesson on how the culture doesn't encourage people to think about death and regrets until they are nearing their dying day. While they are living, he says, they are concerned about egotistical things, but they should constantly stand back and assess their life to determine what is there and what is missing from it. Morrie mentions that often, people need others to push them in this particular direction, and Mitch realizes that Morrie is this person, his teacher.
Mitch resolves to be the best student he can be. On the plane ride back to Detroit, he makes a list of common issues and questions about life and relationships that he plans to broach with Morrie. All of the questions he wants to pose seem to have no clear answers. He brings the list with him when he returns to Boston for his fourth visit with Morrie. It is a sweltering hot day in Boston, and the air conditioning is not working in the airport. Mitch notes that everyone in the airport terminal looks as though they could kill someone.
At the start of his senior year of college, Morrie had suggested to Mitch that he try an honors thesis. They discuss the possibility, and finally decide that Mitch will write a thesis on how America has adopted sports as a religion. By the spring, Mitch has completed the thesis, and Morrie congratulates him. He presents Mitch with the possibility of graduate school, which makes Mitch recognize that familiar "tension of opposites," as he wants to leave school, but is afraid to.
Mitch's gradual transformation of character, from a man driven by money to a man driven by love, is evident when he decides not to buy a cell phone on his second trip to visit Morrie. This is Mitch's first step towards creating his own loving, accepting, and forgiving culture. Morrie's self-created culture enables him to feel gratitude for his slow painful death, which, superficially, seems odd and outrageous. But given a deeper look, Morrie's gratitude is sensible. Unlike many others who have died, such as both of Morrie's parents, he has the opportunity to repent for the words and actions he regrets, and is able to express love and say goodbye to those he values most dearly in his dwindling life. Thus, Morrie does not feel lucky because he is suffering and will be martyred, but because he is aware of the little time he has left to do what he feels he needs to before it is too late.
Mitch, for a long time, is in denial that Morrie is even dying, and is only honest with himself about Morrie's impending departure when he helps him back into his chair and feels the "seeds of death inside of his shriveling frame" as he holds his limp body in his arms. The image of seeds and plants, like the pink hibiscus in Morrie's study, growing and dying as people do, recurs throughout the book. These "seeds of death" that Mitch feels are inside of Morrie serve as a symbolic indication that Morrie is about to move on to something new; seedlings bring new life, and indeed, Morrie is about to embark on a leg of life's journey that he has not yet set foot in.
Mitch notices evil and the potential for evil in the media and in his everyday surroundings, as he does when he reads about the murder and hatred in the newspaper, and when he notices the irritation on the faces of the people at the airport, who are so severely agitated by the heat, they look ready to kill. These passages in Tuesdays With Morrie string together to create a stark contrast between the popular social culture, which is inherently evil and driven by greed, and the invented culture that Morrie adheres to and that Mitch is slowly adopting, which is founded on love, civility, and understanding.
When Morrie uses the trust fall exercise as a metaphor for trust in relationships, he means to teach his students that trustworthiness is a mutual quality shared by both partners. Morrie teaches the students that trust is blind; one can only trust another based on an instinctive feeling, not by any rational judgment or method of thinking. To trust someone is to close your eyes and fall back, hoping that the person your instincts have told you is trustworthy will catch you and keep you from harm. Morrie's lesson simplifies the complicated issue of trust and trustworthiness into an easily digestible activity for the students to learn from, as his teaching caters more to life lessons than the academic.