detachment of morrie
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Morrie says he is following the Buddhist practice of detaching himself. He says that he cannot cling to things, because nothing is permanent. One can experience things, but letting oneself be penetrated by these experiences is problematic. People get in over their heads if they fully enjoy every moment, so they shouldn’t believe the highest highs or the lowest lows in life. It's like dying. People know it's coming, but shouldn’t obsess over it.
After making his point, Morrie launches into another violent coughing attack. Mitch does the first thing that comes to mind, give Morrie a hard slap on the back to release the phlegm. The attack stops. After a brief rest, Morrie says he doesn't want to die in a fit like this. Rather, he would prefer to go peacefully. Nevertheless, if it happens in a coughing spell, he needs to detach from it and say, “This is my moment,” and accept it. He says he won't let go yet though, because they still have work to do and he has more to teach.
Morrie has a special place in his heart for Buddhism. While not a Buddhist, he uses some of the principles in his dealings with ALS. The theory of detachment is a big part what gets him through his coughing fits as he tries to detach himself from his body. This really shows the tone of Morrie's character. Even while going through something traumatic, he finds a way to get through it. Everything, even a cough, is a lesson. He does not dwell on things. Instead, he takes it for what it is and moves on.
When Mitch asks Morrie which animal he would like to come back as, he chooses the graceful gazelle. In this reverse of a personification (giving human qualities to animals), he takes the quality of an animal and puts it into the way he would like to be. The ironic thing is that Morrie appears to be quite serene. He handles things gracefully and takes them as they come. He already has some of the qualities of the animal that he would want to be.