"I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that."
--Captain Edward Smith, RMS Titanic
April 15, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic. Thanks to innumerable books and movies, both good and not so good, the horrific events of that frigid night a century ago are forever etched in the collective conscience of humanity.
Most people know well the events of that night. Titanic, largest ship afloat at the time and a crowning technological achievement of mankind, struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. The majestic ship, once deemed “unsinkable,” slipped beneath the waves to an icy death in under three hours. Over 1,500 people died in the sinking, many in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the loss of Titanic, media buzz will no doubt continue to grow. The builders and designers of Titanic certainly thought huge. The thousands of passengers onboard her first and only voyage, also thought and dreamed huge. How can we, one hundred years later, learn from the lessons they left us?
I think the greatest lessons to learn might be humility and gratitude. As we know now, there is no such thing as a company “too large to fail,” a tower too big to fall or a ship too big to sink. A healthy dose of hubris can go a long way towards helping us all stand in more reverence before the miracle of life and just how tenuous our grasp of it is, despite our many advances in science and technology. We live in an uncertain world, in uncertain times, when the 24-hour news cycle is always ready to feed us more and more when what we might just need is less and less.
It’s doubtful very many passengers onboard Titanic thought they’d never see the other side of the Atlantic. Very few workers in the Twin Towers thought they’d never live to see another day. Most of us, in our day to day rush of life, give little thought to our own fragility, our own mortality. And while it’s certainly not healthy to live in morbid fear of one’s own demise, a healthy respect for the fact that such things can and do happen might go a long way towards helping us spend more time with the important people in our lives, doing the important things. Less time on Facebook and more time fishing with our kids. Less time staring blindly at the television screen and more time reading great books and viewing works of art. Less time doing and more time being. We’d all like more time to do such things. Maybe a lesson from Titanic is that we must stop wanting it and start making time for it to happen.
In our quest to think huge, we sometimes need to remember to stop and think small. That extra kiss on the cheek of a child before rushing of to work. The moment it takes to stop and help a stranger that’s lost. Taking back a minute from the relentless advance of the clock to see bluebonnets bloom, wind rustle the trees and a favorite lazy dog lounging in the sun. May we all never forget how quickly it can all change and that, in many ways, the “good old days” of tomorrow are the here and now of today.
" It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event that not only made the world rub its eyes and awake but woke it with a start keeping it moving at a rapidly accelerating pace ever since with less and less peace, satisfaction and happiness. To my mind the world of today awoke April 15th, 1912."
-Jack B. Thayer, Titanic Survivor