The Professor, Part Two
One of Morrie's first jobs after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago had been as a researcher in a private mental hospital outside of Washington, D.C. He had been given a grant to research the patients and their treatments, which was a gr ound breaking concept then, in the early 1950's. Every day, one female patient would lie face-down on the floor in the hallway and remain there for hours at a time. Morrie had been saddened by the sight of her, and began sitting on the floor beside her, a lthough he was not supposed to interact on such an intimate level with the patients. Morrie eventually coaxed the woman to sit up and return to her room, as all she truly wanted was a bit of attention, which he gave to her.
Morrie came to befriend many of the patients. One woman was notorious for her nasty behavior. She spit at everyone but Morrie, who she called her friend. When she had run away, Morrie had been asked to help lead her back to the hospital. When he and the o ther staff members had found her hiding in a nearby store, she had accused Morrie of betraying her, as he has taken the side of her "jailers." While he had been employed at the hospital, Morrie had noticed that many of the patients had come from very wea lthy families, though their wealth had not contributed whatsoever to their happiness.
At Brandeis University, Morrie had taught many student radicals, advocates of the 1960's cultural revolution. The sociology faculty, including Morrie, had sympathized with these students, and took a very liberal stance. When they had learned that male stu dents who did not maintain a certain grade point average would be drafted, they had bravely decided to give them all A's. Morrie had also gotten personally involved in the revolution. He had traveled to Washington D.C. to protest with students.
At one point, a group of black Brandeis students had claimed one of the campus halls as their own by draping a banner over it that read: "Malcolm X University." This particular hall, Ford Hall, held the university chemistry labs, and much of the adminis tration had feared that the students were concocting bombs. The battle between the students and the university lasted for weeks, and only ended when, one day, Morrie was walking past Ford Hall and a former student of his called to him from the building. M orrie climbed inside through the window, and emerged an hour later with a list of the protester's demands, which he took to the university president. Shortly afterwards, the situation was resolved.
Mitch researches how different cultures view death. He admires the theory of a tribe in the North American Arctic who believe that there is a miniature self within every creature, so that when the larger creature dies, the miniature lives on, whether it immediately takes the form of an infant or takes temporary refuge in the sky and waits for the moon to return it to earth.
The Seventh Tuesday We Talk about the Fear of Aging
Morrie had told Ted Koppel in his first interview that the thing he feared most about his disease was the probability that one day, someone else would have to wipe him after going to the bathroom. Now, his worst fear has come true. Morrie's aide, Co nnie, must now do it for him, and he sees this as a complete surrender to the disease. He is now dependent on others for nearly all of his needs. Once again, Morrie tells Mitch that despite the difficulties of dependency, he is trying to enjoy being a c hild for a second time. He repeats that we should reject culture if we don't find it conducive to our needs, and again tells Mitch that we need to be loved as we are when we are babies, constantly being held and rocked by our mothers. Mitch notes that at 78 years old, Morrie is "giving as an adult and taking as a child."