DISPATCHES FROM HOME – 131 + 43 + 4+1 = 179 Titanic memories.

Jul 2022
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While recently waiting in line for some eye meds at the local apothecary shop, I spotted what I thought was an old friend of mine, who seemed to whisper, “Please don’t leave me here. It’s been so long since last we met.” I didn’t and quickly picked up the reissued National Geographic magazine that initially held me spellbound back in 1985 due to its subject matter: the discovery of RMS Titanic.

     I have now added the reissued magazine to my little collection of Titanic memorabilia that began in 1967 when my dad gave me a copy of “A Night To Remember” for Christmas. Since that time, I’ve collected 43 books about the Titanic, along with owning four large, framed pictures of her. I also have 131 copies of the Titanic Commutator dating back to 1984. This magazine is the official publication of the Titanic Historical Society. One of my favorite little Titanic tidbits is a popcorn bucket given to me by a friend during the 1997 movie’s phenomenal run of 54 weeks.

     Inevitably, come the anniversary of the April 15th, 1912, sinking, someone will ask me why the Titanic saga still captivates me after all these years? Some reasons are obvious. It was her maiden voyage, and she was the largest, most luxurious ship in the world. Her 1st Class interiors were the finest examples of Edwardian splendor, boasting magnificent grand staircases, a Moorish-inspired Turkish bath, and a smoking room encased in stained glass and mother of pearl. Her 2nd Class interiors and services were equivalent to 1st Class on other ships. In Third Class, most of her passengers had never seen electric lights, experienced hot and cold running water, or indoor plumbing. And the food. Many of them had never known the simple luxury of three tasty meals a day. She was the wonder ship of her age.

     However, Titanic’s story continues to beckon for another reason. Her tragic sinking is rife with strong symbolic metaphors. Hers was not just another 20th-century catastrophe. It was a wake-up call to human arrogance. In his Sunday sermon after the sinking, the Bishop of Winchester said, “When has such a mighty lesson against our confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money been shot throughout the nation. God grant that we and our sister nation of America may take it to heart and profit from the lesson. The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.”

     Do any of the good Bishop’s words ring true today? Don’t we, as a society, still presume that we can overcome all the world’s problems via our knowledge of science and technology? Isn’t our “confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money” still dominant in our thinking? As our world leaders once again “rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic” due to the horror being played out in Ukraine, might the Titanic’s sinking be a metaphor for our undoing?

     On the day passengers and their luggage were being loading aboard the Titanic in Southampton, a 2nd Class passenger, Mrs. Sylvia Mae Caldwell, was apprehensive about boarding the great ship. She asked a deckhand, “Is this ship really unsinkable?” With a cavalier smile, he replied, “Madam, God Himself could not sink this ship.”

     The Titanic’s tragedy shines a light on many of those on board that fridge-cold night, exposing their chivalrous acts, as well as their agony and heroism. And that tragedy still provides vital lessons for each of us living today. We are all traveling somewhere, perhaps not from Southampton to New York, but most certainly from here to eternity. We can put our faith in our money and our county’s supposed power, and the world’s leaders. We can lean onto our own understanding. We can assume that we are unsinkable, much like the Titanic’s passengers thought she was.

     In the end, however, we will all find ourselves in one of two lifeboats. On both, there will be no class distinctions. There will be no 1st Class or 2nd, or even 3rd. One boat will sail into the harbor of Glory, and its passengers will live there eternally, safe in the arms of Jesus. But the other boat will sink into the fiery depths of a terrible place filled with “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth,” its passengers living there forever, severed from God’s mercy and love. I, for one, have booked passage on the lifeboat bound for Glory. I will reaffirm that passage come this Sunday morning when I celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, Savior of the world.

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