Saturday, May 19, 2012

How would you act if they told you that you had only two hours to live and you were perfectly healthy? The way people react in this type of crisis is the most intriguing part of the story and the story is still on people’s minds 100 years later. The dilemma in the story, the true story, is the ultimate test in character. It has become a lesson in the generosity and selfishness and humility that makes human behavior what it is, all found in the letters and evidence from one ship in a ocean far from help.
We all know the 1997 film “Titanic” starring a young Leonardo Di Caprio that told one version of the sinking of the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner. It sank exactly one century ago last month. The descendants of those on board that night have their own stories to tell and they have been told in many ways to many people. I like the movie version from the 1958 film, “A Night To Remember.”
One hundred years ago at 2:20 A.M. the morning of April 15th, 1912 was the night filled with death and greed and despair. The Titanic a ship believed by many to be unsinkable sank after hitting an iceberg. More than 1,500 people died that night in the frigid waters in the North Atlantic Ocean where the found haunting hulk still rests like it is in a dock only its resting place is at the bottom of the ocean.
It is a story by now that we have all learned. Just this year nearly 100 new books about the Titanic have been published in English alone. There is a new museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland where the great ship was built and another in Southampton, England which is the port the ship left from. In Pigeon forge , Tennessee which has no connection to the disaster, millions of visitors have come for a Titanic Tour where they have built a life size replica of the elegant ship on land.
This fascination with Titanic is not new nor is the analyses into human behavior under extreme stress going unwatched. We saw a glimpse when the Italian Cruise ship went aground and tipped at a dangerous angle The Captain was one of the first to abandon ship not the last person. I wrote a blog on that one on January 25th. But no disaster in the past 100 years quite arouses the interest that this one has done. One survivor of the Titanic, John B. Thayer wrote in Philadelphia, April 15, 1912 that “To my mind the world of today awoke”.
For James Cameron’s Oscar winning movie in 1997, it has a rebirth being just released again but now in 3D. Somehow , Titanic has become an obsession for some. There have been much worst disasters in the past like Hiroshima, or even the Tsunami in Indonesia that took 250,000 lives a few years ago. Somehow Titanic is almost perfect in a lesson about human nature. The people that showed great heroism and the people that showed cowardice, the guy that dressed up in women’s cloths in a desperate attempt to be chosen to get on the life boat. These people had 2 hours to think about their death. Who gets that kind of warning in life? Not many.
Then there were the people who could have stepped into a literally life boat but chose to take a step back and give their place to other; a display of great kindness. I know of Jesus giving up his life for others and he was a God, I don’t know of many mere mortals or persons doing a heroic deed of giving up your life for a stranger. Can I even go so far as to say that this true event was a sort of miracle for some on that ship? Nah. Maybe. Who knows.
The noble actions of Ida and Isador Strauss chose love over survival. When offered a place in a life boat, Ida chose to stay with her husband on board and die. So romantic, such devotion to say we have lived our lives together and now we will die together. This is not the fictional account that James Cameron gives us in his recent movie. This is the real stories form the real event that never seems dated or out of style.
Who can possibly make death beautiful, but these people somehow made death even romantic and loving. They died as they lived. If you are a compassionate person you showed compassion to others. If you were greedy, you showed your greed even to the point of trying to change your identity, dressing in women’s cloths to achieve your goal. So, look in your mirror and hopefully be able to pretend that these are your last 2 hours of life. How would you act? What type of person are you? Do you even like you?

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