Fast Company December 1999 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Fast Company December 1999 "When you learn how to die, you learn how to live." Morrie Schwartz Article by Chuck Salter, pages 198-200

Morrie Schwartz was a retired sociology faculty from Brandis University, a dynamic teacher of 30 years, and also a man diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, also know as ALS. So what made this particular sufferer someone to write about, what did he contribute to society that made a difference?

In the last year of his life, Morrie realized that "everything that gets born dies", and made a conscience decision to make profound changes within himself on how to live a meaningful life, and how to die with no regrets. These changes in his philosophy of life enhanced his desire to be what he called himself, "a teacher to the last." Teaching was Morrie Schwartz's passion and when he was diagnosed with ALS in the summer of 1994, he decided to turn this tragic, life altering experience into an educational opportunity for himself and others.

A New York Times best-selling author, Morrie Schwartz touched many individuals with his insight on life, work, community, relationships, aging, and death through his literature. His hope was to allow others, without guilt or shame, to learn from his eminent experience of death and to not focus on death, but to learn how to live.

In our everyday lives we often become shortsighted. I feel that many of us, myself included, become somewhat self-centered and individualized, focusing on opportunities to achieve and succeed, and pressured to perform. Opportunities, achievement and success come with a price and the message that Schwartz wanted to send was that there are costs associated with these tokens of success. Often those we care the most about feel the repercussions of our drive and determination through distance and lack of time spent together. Swartz also questions whether we are taking time to learn about ourselves in life. Queries such as: "Have you found someone to share your heart with?" "Are you giving to your community?" and " Are you at peace with yourself?" are all part of his live for today philosophy. When directly faced with death, the fences we put up and the hoarded, material possessions truly lose their importance.

Morrie believed that a community is more powerful than an individual and questions why if we live in a society that is so intelligent, are there so many miserable people? I agree with Schwartz's belief that happiness comes from "knowing and accepting your limitations and imperfections". And through self-discovery it is possible to obtain a sense of grounding and true happiness by living life with compassion, love, and zeal. The personal relationships that we care about need to be nurtured and not taken for granted. That holds true also for our classroom relationships with students. What we do makes a difference in many lives. If we embrace living, encourage compassion, and are conscious of how precious life really is, then we can emulate that in the classroom and not only be better teachers, but better individuals. I definiately do not want to look back on my life and have regrets.

-- Anonymous, January 28, 2000

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