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21 Life Lessons from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie You Might Be Needing Right Now

I read Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie few months ago. It was an ebook stagnant in my phone for years. I was bored at that moment so I scanned my phone until I found it waiting to be read. I read it to kill time. I read it to lull me to sleep. But ended up screen capping the portions  filled with valuable lessons I wasn’t able to resist. They just hit me to the gut.

SPOILER:

Morrie Schwartz was Mitch Albom’s professor in college. After Mitch graduated, his teacher developed an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a Lou Gehrig’s disease which Mitch described as a “brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system.” It was terminal and there was no known cure. It means Morrie will die. Because of that, Morrie was admitted in his home. And Mitch would visit his well-loved professor every Tuesday. They would spend time together talking about love, life and death and many other things. It is from their conversations where these inspiring words sprung.

I know most of you have read it. And I agree with your positive reviews of this book. You even recommended this as a must-read. But it takes an effort to scan again to find those inspiring words. So I am taking down some of them for the benefit of those who need them and those who haven’t read it yet, especially those who might need some motivation right now. It may change the way you see life, like me.

1. Tension of Opposites. Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle. Which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.

2. The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.

3. 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.

4. The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and let it come in. We think we don’t deserve love, we think if we let it in we’ll become too soft. But a wise man named Levine said it right. He said, “Love is the only rational act.”

5. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too – even when you’re in the dark. Even when you are falling.

6. Everyone knows they are going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way, you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.

7. Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

8. Learn to detach. But detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That is how you are able to leave it. Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a love one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. 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. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. 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.

9. I embrace aging. It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It is growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better live because of it.

10. You know what, people are so hungry for love that they were accepting for substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.

11. Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I’m sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how much of them you have.

12. The truth is, you don’t get satisfaction from those things. You know what really gives satisfaction? Offering others what you have to give. I don’t mean money. I mean your time. Your concern. Your storytelling.

13. If you are trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down at you anyhow. And if you’re trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.

14. Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won’t be dissatisfied, you won’t be envious, you won’t be longing for somebody else’s things. On the contrary, you’ll be overwhelmed with what comes back.

15. And love is how you stay alive, even after you’re gone.

16. There are few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. 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? Your belief in the importance of your marriage.

17. In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, you need others to survive, right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.

18. 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 touched and nurtured while you were here.

19. Here’s what I mean by building your own subculture. I don’t mean you disregard every rule of your community. I don’t go around naked, for example. I don’t run through red lights. The little things, I can obey. But the big things – how we think, what we value – those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone – or any society determine those for you.

20. No matter where you live, the biggest defect we human beings have is our shortsightedness. We don’t see what we could be. We should be looking at our potential, stretching ourselves into everything we become. But if you’re 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.

21. Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.

Morrie Schwartz is brimming with wisdom. Every single statement is an eye-opener. I didn’t notice I finished the book. It didn’t kill my time. It didn’t fall asleep. In fact, it awakened me to a new perspective of life. It made me get the most out of my time instead.

Which among the pieces of advice struck you the most? Which of these did you need right now?

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When there are no longer birds to watch

It is only when you are closer that you will be able to appreciate things.

But it sounds easier said than done when you do it to birds.

I was fortunate enough to participate in a seminar related to communicating biodiversity. The seminar gave me the chance to birdwatch, or simply, marvel at the magnificence of the diversity of birds through binoculars.

At around 6:30 in the morning, I and my colleagues arrived at the Philippine Eagle Center, the sanctuary of the national symbol, the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) for a guided birdwatching to set the mood for our seminar.

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Photo from ASEAN Center for Biodiversity Facebook page

I was wrong when I thought of birdwatching as a tour to their caged birds, mostly belongs to the family of raptors such as the Brahminy Kites and White-bellied Sea Eagles. I undermined the whole birdwatching idea.  It was harder than I thought.

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http://www.birdwatch.ph: Brahminy Kite
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http://www.birdwatch.ph: White-bellied Sea Eagle

We were asked to grab binoculars and bird guides with a stressful instruction: If you spot a bird, describe what it looked like and check it on your 1-inch thick, glossy-printed bird books. Stressful because it is my first time to do it and perhaps, just like anybody else, I see all birds the same.  I think just seeing them is enough, I told myself.

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And so the birdwatching kits: a bird book and binoculars

After a while, we started to search the forest. We were looking up most of the time. Our guide Ej was skillful enough to understand the chirps and pointing us where it came from and what kind of birds are singing it-something that I also wanted to learn. Nightingales have amusing bird calling patterns. Melodic. Enchanting.

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Photo credits: Kane Rosa

I was so desperate to find a bird. They were elusive, playful or blending in the canopies. How I wish I had that powerful vision eagles have. These raptors can see eight times farther than that of the humans. So I would not need binoculars. By the end of the activity, I was lucky to have found around five of them, usually rufous nightingales, Olive-backed sunbirds and fantails.

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Birdwatch.ph: Olive-backed sunbird
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Trinket Constatino: Pied Fantail

I was elated by their forms, colors, sounds and of course, their freedom. Their freedom to glide and flap their wings tree to another, perch on the branches, sing and call calms every tired sense.  And it became possible because the trees provided them abode. They are far from threats of being killed in whatever way humans are capable of. They contributed to the protection and thriving of nature to the greatest extent they can do.

Not until we passed by Fighter.

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Fighter finally showing his injured wings.

The 3-year old eagle sat in his area, trying to hide his injured wings. He was gunshot in the mountains of Don Salvador, Mati, Davao Oriental that caused the amputation the main feather part of his left wing.

With the help of a staff at the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), we were able to take a groufie with him.

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Photo grabbed from John Frances Fuentes’ Facebook page

Fighter was not alone in the fight. Several other eagles were shot, most of them killed. The Philippine Eagles, being the largest and most powerful raptor in the world, the kind of bird only found in our country are also one of the most vulnerable to extinction. They are now critically endangered.

According to PEF, their existence is in danger because of two wrong practices: shooting and trapping, and deforestation. On February 24 this year, a national paper reported that an eagle named “Matatag” was shot by brothers in Baranggay Tambobong, Baguio District in Davao City.

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A veterinarian administers medicine on ‘Matatag.’ Photo from Philippine Eagle Foundation

According to Leonardo Pamplona, station commander of Baguio Police Station, the brothers Tiburcio, 24 and Rolando Aparesio, 18 mistook that the eagle was preying for their farm chickens so the older brother shot it with a caliber .22 rifle and hit eagle’s wings. The brothers, however voluntarily surrendered after bringing the wounded eagle to the PEF. Matatag was released by the PEF sometime in January last year. Read: Brothers surrender after shooting ‘Matatag’

On January 25, 2016, a one-year-old hawk-eagle died after being gunshot hitting the left lower breast. The bird was found at Quintuinan Hills of Camalig town in Albay. Read: Rare PH hawk-eagle shot dead in Albay

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Personnel of the Albay Park and Wildlife show the dead Philippine Hawk Eagle. The protected bird died due to gunshot wound at the lower left chest. Authorities said investigation still ongoing to locate the origin of the endangered eagle and identify the gunman.   Photo: Nino Luces, Manila Bulletin

And on August 16, 2015, “Pamana” was killed after being shot in her right breast shattering her left shoulder. Her dead body was seen near the creek in Mount Hamiguitan Range in Davao Oriental, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and recently enlisted as one of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Parks. Pamana was released by the PEF into the wild during the Independence Day. Read: Philippine Eagle Pamana found shot dead in Davao Oriental

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Pamana’s dead body. Photo by Rappler.com

The destruction the Philippine Eagles’ natural habitat also posed a threat to their existence. These wild raptors dwell in the rainforest and nests on large, old dipterocarp trees in lowland forests. Mountains and rainforests were gradually losing their potential to become home to the birds due to deforestation.

Benjamin Gregory Cruz, Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program Field Manager for Mt. Apo Region said one of the manners of deforestation is by debarking trees. People kill trees by gradually scraping its barks. They make the death of the tree an excuse to cut it down.

The recent forest fire incident at the peak of Mt. Apo last March 26, 2016 also jeopardized national bird’s habitat. The fire lasted for about three weeks and destroyed an estimated 1,000 hectares.

Adding to the list of causes of their endangerment are hunting for food and trade, collections, and pollution. Source: Bagheera

BUT WHY BOTHER?

We should save, protect, and conserve the Philippine Eagle because “it is an important natural and cultural heritage. It is a powerful symbol by which our people can rally around for the conservation of our natural resources. They also reign over the forest ecosystem, providing an umbrella of protection for all other species sharing its rainforest home. Their presence in the forests is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem”. (Philippine Eagle Foundation).

Put it in context, if the forest is healthy, our water sources such as our watersheds are sustainable. The PEF added that “a healthy forest helps control soil erosion, mitigate the effects of climate change, minimize flooding, and provides additional sources of food, medicine, clothing, and shelter for our people.”

They are endemic to the Philippines, one of the world’s rarest and has an alarming number of 400 pairs left in the country.

Another contributing factor in their dwindling population is their slow reproduction. They only lay one egg every two years. Parent eagles wait for their offspring to make it on their own (usually within two years) before producing another.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

We are no experts in handling, monitoring, and other technical stuff in protecting and preserving our national pride. But this should not be the reason not to do it. We have a lot in our hands than we thought. Here are some actions I can suggest we can do as ordinary citizens:

Initiate or Participate in Tree Planting Activities. You build a house when you don’t have one. And since our birds have been losing their homes, we should help in rebuilding it. Reforestation is the basic counter to deforestation. Plus, it benefits the ecosystem and supports biodiversity as a whole.

Volunteer in education campaigns and advocacies. “There is always strength in numbers,” says Mark Shields. Encourage more people to join the cause. Tug their heartstrings by educating them about the Philippine Eagles and what they can do to help protect and preserve them.

Report. Whenever you encounter incidents of cruelty to the Philippine Eagles in your community or you found a suspected eagle in your area, please don’t have second thoughts. Report them to your local Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR) or City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO). You can also tap private environment organizations such as the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

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You can report through email via the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s website.

Donate. The programs and initiatives for the protection and conservation of the Philippine Eagles also need financial help. So if you might as well drop quite handful of pennies. It is one way to invest in our future and the future of the next generation.

Birds in general, are agents of dispersal, helping in the spreading of seeds and plant. They control pests and insects, saving crops and other plants from devastation. Source: Iowa Nature Mapping

Thus, aside from possessing an innate charm, they are an aid in keeping the balance in the world we live in.

As I watched and waited for other birds to flaunt their majestic forms, I alternately bend my neck to ease the pain. I wondered, what if there are no longer birds to look up to, perhaps, the pain would be much agonizing because of a destroyed environment.

That is when there are no more birds to watch.

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Thanks to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, ASEAN, and Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) most especially to Ms. Karen Lapitan for the opportunity.

In case you wanted to join in the cause of the Philippine Eagle Foundation such as to Donate, Adopt or Volunteer, check out their website by clicking their logo.

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Bobbi Petalurca | April 26, 2016