From Tuesdays With Morrie, is it possible to list all of the aphorisms in the book?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Morrie's aphorisms run throughout the novel's narrative, obtaining all of them is a task beyond the scope here. For, gleaning all the aphorisms would probably require the reader to record them as he/she reads them. Perhaps it will, at least, be helpful to provide some of these.

  • On "The First Tuesday" Mitch visits Morrie and notices that his old professor has newspapers about, demonstrating that he keeps up with the news. Morrie commiserates with Mitch who feels badly about the war in Bosnia. He tells Mitch, But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, "Love is the only rational act."
  • On "The Second Tuesday" Morrie speaks of feeling sorry for himself, but allowing only a minimal amount of time for it:  "How useful it would be to put a daily limit on self-pity. Just a few tearful minutes, then on with the day."
  • On "The Third Tuesday" Morrie reflects upon how American culture does not encourage people to reflect upon things; a fault of this society because reflection is essential to self-knowledge. Therefore, he tells Mitch “You need someone to probe you in that direction. It won’t just happen automatically.
  • On the "The Fourth Tuesday" Morrie tells Mitch that there are benefits to knowing when one is going to die as one can prepare. He reflects, “Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.” He later adds,  “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”Further, Morris advises Mitch, 

Well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time then you might not be as ambitious as you are...You might have to make room for some more spiritual things.

  • On "The Fifth Tuesday" Mitch and Morrie talk about family as the providers of love and support to the dying person and those who are living. He tells Mitch that fame or financial security cannot provide what caring members of family can, “The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family."
  • On "The Sixth Tuesday" Morrie continues his theme of dealing with things and then moving on. He instructs Mitch to learn to detach himself from emotions; however, Mitch asks if this advice does not contradict what Morrie has earlier advised about allowing oneself to dive into emotions and truly experience them. Morrie explains,

But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely.... And only then can you say, "All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment."

  • On "The Seventh Tuesday" Morrie tells Mitch, "Forget what the culture says," meaning not to try to fit the behaviors of one's culture. Instead of "fighting" his debilitation, Morrie begins to enjoy being carried, being taken helped and cared for. Further, about aging Morrie declares, "All this emphasis on youth—I don’t buy it,” and observes “How can I be envious of where you are—when I’ve been there myself?”
  • On "The Eighth Tuesday" Morrie observes, “We put our values in the wrong things. And it leads to very disillusioned lives."  Morrie discusses with Mitch the materialistic culture that teaches people that owning things is so important. When people believe this, they lose sight of real values.
  • On "The Ninth Tuesday" Morrie reflects upon all the lives that he has moved and feels grateful. He tells Mitch, " is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.” 
  • On "The Tenth Tuesday," Mitch has his wife sing a lovely song to Morrie, who "dances inside" when he hears it. Later, he reflects upon marriage and tells Mitch, 

there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person.... If you don’t know how to compromise....If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you....And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike. And the biggest one of those values [is].... “Your belief in the importance of your marriage.”

  • On "The Eleventh Tuesday" Morrie's disease is dangerously close to taking his life. But, he talks with Mitch and tells him that people become mean when they are threatened. 

And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It is all part of this culture. 

He adds that man's biggest defect is his shortsightedness. They should be looking at their potential, but instead they are surrounded by people

who say ‘I want mine now,’ you end up with a few people with everything and a military to keep the poor ones from rising up and stealing it.”

  • On "The Twelfth Tuesday," Morrie tells Mitch, "Forgive yourself before you die, then forgive others."
  • On "The Thirteenth Tuesday," Morrie plans his cremation and speaks candidly of death. He tells Mitch that people are distinguished in death from plants and animals because they can live on after they die.

As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away

  • On "The Fourteenth Tuesday," Morrie says good-bye to Mitch, telling him he loves him and that he knows he always has. He remarks that saying "I love you" is the best way to say "good-bye."
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very possible to list all of the aphorisms in the book.  However, I think that different people will find different life lessons to constitute as aphorisms. The beauty of the book is that Morrie does not speak with some transcendental authority, almost as if saying, "This is an aphorism because I say it is."  He speaks as a human being, and his insights are based on his own experience, similar to Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture.  In Morrie's case, what he experiences come from his own life and thus so much of what is understood can be seen as an aphorism.

In the end, I think that the best thing is to identify what Morrie comes across as life lessons that he has gained.  These are the lessons that Mitch himself has come to understand through both his time with Morrie and upon further reflection.  Aphorisms such as “Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do" and "“Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others" would constitute as such aphorisms.  Another example of an aphorism would be when Morrie speaks about what he now knows as a result of his impending death:

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even  when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re  chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

As it becomes clear to Mitch that living unhappily is the same net effect as dying, Morrie's insight about being "half asleep" while awake resonates with an aphoristic quality.  Finally, aphorisms can be seen about the nature of death itself, and how death impacts the lives we lead:

As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Morrie's words about how life is viewed within the condition of death forms the basis of several aphorisms at the end of the work.  “Death ends a life, not a relationship" as well as how individuals are not a "wave, but part of an ocean" would be examples of aphorisms that reflect how life is more more meaningful in the face of death.