This week I would like to use an historical event as a way of examining the elements, both good and bad, that can happen in life. The Titanic was the pride of the seas…..a floating city that many said was “unsinkable.” This, unfortunately, was not to be the case. A ship steaming across the Atlantic…onboard were the elite, powerful, rich, inventive, captain, crew, poor and downtrodden. A true mix of humanity at any given time and stage.
So let’s start at the beginning…..the Titanic was constructed by sheer sweat and manpower, by workers who over time had built many ships….but this one, by far, was the largest and finest. No expense was spared….Titanic had to gleam in the water. It contained the finest crew, who would operate and cater to any need of the passengers. On deck was a “who’s who” list of the rich and famous, while below in steerage were the brave souls who just wanted a chance at a new life and to plant the seeds to their dreams in a new country. Once the journey was underway, Titanic powered through the water, defying anything that stood in its way. Much like many of us, at the beginning of our lives with so much time in front of us, we believe there is nothing we cannot accomplish. Just before Titanic set sail, the binoculars in the lookout towers were removed, because, who would need them? And how would it look to the passengers to see a member of the crew staring out on the horizon, looking for danger? Precautions were severely overlooked. Of course, a ship like the Titanic, that is “unsinkable,” surely wouldn’t need enough lifeboats for all on board, right? So off they sailed into the dark Atlantic.
The captain, with a little added pressure, wanted to break the Atlantic crossing record and arrive early in New York. He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful, we would surely make the headlines of all the newspapers”….and seeing that Captain Smith was planning to retire after this maiden voyage, what a great way to end his illustrious career. All the while reports of icebergs ahead were ignored. Whatever road we travel in life, it’s always wise for us to heed the warning “curves ahead.”
The most enlightening aspect of the Titanic’s dilemma happened once it hit the iceberg. At first, many thought the ship had blown a propeller, and before too long, they would be continuing on towards New York. Meanwhile down below, the true story was unfolding. Passengers in steerage started to see streams of water flowing down the corridors. It’s interesting, except for the captain, and a few members of the crew, the poor were the first to witness what was to come. Unfortunately, many of the steerage passengers were locked in down below….unable to free themselves to safety. Meanwhile, up on deck, the rich and the powerful danced, giggled, and complained about the delay. Eventually, of course, the truth started to make its rounds….slowly, the ship began tilting downward, while the bow started rising. What happened next is probably one of the most important lessons we will ever learn in life. Because of the refusal to believe the dire situation that Titanic was in, even as the bow rose higher and higher in the air, many of the lifeboats were lowered half empty, because few believed how badly damaged the ship really was. Can you imagine, some of the brightest, most influential people of society standing there, as the boat was sinking, refusing to accept that it was necessary for men, women and children to get into lifeboats, to save their lives. One of the greatest examples in history of denial. It was only a matter of time before panic set in and reality solidified. A collection of small life boats half full watched in horror as the “Ship of Dreams” headed to the bottom of the Atlantic.
No matter how many books and how many movies are done on this tragic event, I never come away without learning something new, and how it could have all been prevented. The perfect human storm. Arrogance, ego, denial, with a sheer disregard for the unexpected. At work, at home, at play, whatever it is that we do during the day, we must always remember the tragedy of the Titanic, so that we don’t fall victim to creating a Titanic in our own lives. We all live on the road of life…but it’s wise to once in a while check under the hood of our cars, the soles of our shoes, and the well-being of loved ones. The unexpected does happen….but with a little care and awareness, we can avoid the icebergs.
love, Jennifer Avalon
Â© 2003 Jennifer Avalon