Mitch and Morrie sit in the dining room of Morrie’s house while Connie answers the phone multiple times for Morrie. Mitch is impressed by how many friends Morrie seems to have, and thinks about his own friends that he's lost contact with. Morrie says that the newfound interest in him is because he's so close to death, and people want to know what it's like. Mitch tells Morrie that he's always been interesting, which Morrie says is very kind. When Connie asks Morrie if he can take a call, he tells her that they can call back because he's visiting with Mitch.
Morrie's community is rich and involved, while Mitch's community is barely mentioned at this point—he appears to be relatively isolated in his busy, stressful life.
Mitch feels uncomfortable with his own very apparent transformation from an idealistic college student to the successful adult he's become. If it weren't for the Nightline show, Mitch might never have known about Morrie'simpending death. Mitch wonders what happened to make him into the person he is, and offers the passing of 16 years, getting older, and experiencing death as reasons, as well as trading dreams for money.
Mitch's discomfort points to self awareness that his life, despite being successful by many standards, leaves him unfulfilled. His awareness of this sets him up for the transformation he'll undergo in the rest of the book.
As Morrieasks questions about love and being human, Mitch struggles to answer them, wanting to show Morrie that he has indeed spent time thinking about questions like that. Mitch wonders again what happened to him, and notes that his days are filled with things to do and all sorts of technology and famous people, but that he himself remains unsatisfied.
The media, as Mitch's work, is further developed as negative. By discussing his unsatisfying work in opposition to emotional and intellectual curiosity, he enforces a dichotomy between these two lifestyles. Again, Mitch is aware of all of this, and is at least willing to admit that he's unsatisfied, showing room for change.
Suddenly, Mitch remembers and says that he used to call Morrie "Coach," and Morrie smiles at the memory. Mitch continues to watch Morrie struggle to eat, describing the trouble Morrie has using his silverware and swallowing.
This instance of eating and calling Morrie "coach" mirrors the last flashback, but instead of feeling joy and a sense of community, it makes Mitch feel worse.
After a long silence that Mitch finds embarrassing, Morrie begins to talk to Mitch about how modern culture leads people to live unhappy lives. Morrie urges Mitch to instead create his own culture, pointing to the fact that as a dying man, Morrie is happy and surrounded by loving family and friends. Mitch is surprised by Morrie's lack of self-pity, wondering how his professor can be so accepting of his fate.
Morrie asks Mitch a haunting question—if he'd like to hear how Morrie is going to die—and then proceeds to answer it: suffocation. Thinking about that idea makes Mitch uncomfortable, but Morrie is unruffled, and leads Mitch in a breathing test to prove his point. Mitch, at 37, can perform the test very well, while Morrie struggles. Morrie's certainty and acceptance makes Mitch even more uncomfortable, and he thinks he's had enough for one day.As he's leaving, Mitch promises, once again, to come back and visit Morrie, trying hard to not think about the last time he promised to visit.
Part of what makes Morrie such a compelling character is his high level of comfort with death, which is a generally unsettling topic. Mitch is understandably uncomfortable with Morrie's revelation, and is unwilling to embrace the inevitable yet. He seems unsure if he's going to come back, but there's a sense of shame as he's reminded that last time, he didn't follow through.
Returning in a flashback to his college days, Mitch shares the beginnings of his friendship with Morrie. Morrie's passion for learning is contagious, and the two begin to talk after classes. Morrie is genuinely interested in Mitch's life. One day, Mitch is complaining about the confusion he feels about how to balance what is expected of him versus what he wants. In reply, Morrie describes the idea of the tension of opposites, or "a series of pulls back and forth" between things people want to do and should do in life. When Mitch asks Morrie what side wins, Morrie tells him that love does.
The idea of the tension of opposites is a recurring motif and is used to highlight comparisons and difference. The present-day relationship between Mitch and Morrie shows two people living their lives in very opposite ways, and Mitch is constantly at war internally with how he knows he should be—more sensitive and curious, like he was in college—and how he is in the present day, which is more materialistic and hardened.