Chapter 21 Summary
“The Eleventh Tuesday: We Talk About Our Culture” opens with Albom hitting Morrie’s back. By beating his professor’s back, Albom can help prevent the poison in Morrie’s body from solidifying. Ultimately, Morrie is dangerously close to choking to death as the ALS begins to close in on his lungs. Although these are disheartening moments for Albom, they reveal the extent to which he has changed since he first started visiting Morrie. Before, Albom kept his emotions inside and felt awkward focusing on his feelings. Now, he and Morrie often hold hands, and he has taken on more therapeutic responsibilities.
Morrie and Albom begin to discuss American culture, how it affects people, and how people affect it. Although Morrie believes that people are essentially good, he is aware of what people could be driven to do. Essentially, people are most likely to do wrong when they feel threatened. Morrie points out that America’s obsession with money drives them to feel threatened about their jobs even when they are employed. As a result, there is a potential for a vicious circle of negativity.
Morrie’s solution is for people to form their own subculture. Although he does not advocate overthrowing society or rebelling against the law, Morrie does recommend that people consider the big picture, like how people think and what they value. These principles and values cannot be determined by anyone but the person who holds them. Morrie argues that people are made to feel embarrassed about their income or their weight because society tells them to feel that way, but there is nothing inherently embarrassing about being overweight, and Morrie uses the “indignities” he has suffered as an example.
The O. J. Simpson trial, which has proceeded in the background throughout Tuesdays With Morrie and which has served as an example of America’s misguided values, is concluded. Although the media has dubbed the case “the trial of the century,” Albom finds that he cares very little about the final result (in contrast to Morrie’s nurse, Connie, who says “Oh my God!” when she hears the verdict is not guilty). Albom underscores how trivial it is by writing:
As “The Trial of the Century” reached its dramatic conclusion, my old professor was sitting on the toilet.
The chapter closes with an anecdote from 1979. While watching a basketball game, the crowd chants, “We’re number 1!” Frustrated, Morrie responds, “What’s wrong with being number 2?” Albom recalls that this gesture silenced the crowd and describes how Morrie felt “triumphant.”