Titanic Lessons

On the evening of April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic made her way across the dark Atlantic with 2,228 passengers and crew on board. Four days earlier they had departed Southampton, and following brief stops in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland the ship now found herself midway across the Atlantic. I’m telling you a story that you probably already know, but it is a story that bears repeating as it is germane to us still, even at this later time in world history we now find ourselves.

Dinner that night revolved around a ten (10) course meal in the first class area of the ship. Some of those passengers, mostly well to do, had paid upwards of 4,300.00 (85,000.00 by today’s exchange rates) for the opportunity to take the maiden voyage on a brand new ship that was boastfully considered by her builders as ‘practically unsinkable’. The meal began with oysters and consomm√© Olga, the fourth and fifth courses included filet mignon and roast ducking. By the tenth course, those who were able could partake of peaches in chartreuse jelly or French ice cream. Wine was provided from the ship’s stores of over 1000 bottles, although if you chose ale your choices went up considerably as there were over 15,000 bottles on board - in many different varieties.

Meanwhile, the second class passengers dined on consommé, baked haddock, spring lamb, and roast turkey. Although surely not as luxurious as the upper deck passengers, the meal was not too bad despite its decidedly middle-class standards. Most amazingly, the third class and steerage passengers were allowed to eat prepared food in their own dining area. In the past, lower class passengers had been required to bring their own food, but not on the Titanic! Food was provided and though it was nowhere close in quality to what the better classes above them were eating, all in all it was a hot meal provided and paid for within the price of a one-way ticket.

Following dinner, there was entertainment performed by a live orchestra in the first class area, and if dancing was not on your list of priorities, a gymnasium, Turkish baths, and the first ever shipboard swimming pool were available to the wealthier passengers. Similar fare, though not as ostentatious, was on hand for the lower echelon passengers as well. Life was good on board the Titanic, and destined to continue forever – or at least until their scheduled arrival in New York. They danced, they played, and they sang their songs from their deck chairs as they sat in the lap of luxury with never a thought of a disaster looming just over the horizon on that unusually cool spring night.

As the Titanic cruised at a speed of 20.5 knots through those dangerous, frigid waters no less than six warnings of pack ice had been received from other vessels on that day alone. At 11:40 PM, the ship careened off an iceberg, ripping a gash on the right side which buckled the hull in several places and popped out rivets below the waterline over a length of 299 feet. The Captain made his way to the bridge, and following a thorough damage control report, he ordered the ship to be abandoned shortly after midnight. The life boats were prepared and a distress call was sent out. Life boat number 7 was the first boat to be lowered at 12:45 AM, sixty-five minutes after the original collision. Although it was rated to hold sixty-five passengers, the boat was sent away with only twenty-seven people on board. Unfortunately this turned out to be the norm for the night as most of the boats were under loaded, and two boats did not make it off the ship at all. At 2:20 AM the last visage of Titanic was seen as her stern slid below the surface and down into the depths.

Out of 2,228 passengers and crew, only 706 survived the disaster and lived to tell about it.

Today, I see our country, our people, and even members of my own family in much the same state of mind as those long ago passengers aboard the Titanic. We travel endlessly down the road of life with no inkling that tomorrow may never be, or that a critical disaster could easily sweep us all away. The signs are there, displayed for us on the news each night as the economy drifts toward oblivion and natural or man-made disasters flank us at every turn. But we continue to ignore those signs, preferring instead to watch our sitcoms and movies, even while we lose ourselves in video games or on Facebook.

When the ship first struck the iceberg, most of the surviving upper deck passengers stated that they felt a small nudge, and thought nothing of it. The lower deck passengers, however, saw the tear in the hull and witnessed the water beginning to rush into the doomed vessel. By that point, there was little that either group could have done anyway. Today it is not the wealthy that are feeling the pinch of the recession; in their world things continue in much the normal manner they are accustomed. The middle class can tell (because we watch) that something is wrong; we just have trouble wrapping our hearts and minds around it. The lower classes however, at least those who have worked hard their whole lives, know first-hand about the economy. It is their non-skilled jobs that were the first to go and seem to have the lowest opportunity of ever being recovered. Yet in the end, when the ship goes down we will all go under regardless of our standing in society.

An economic crash? Our country in trouble on various fronts? A breakdown in our system? Say it ain’t so, Shannon.

Tonight I’m actually thinking more along the lines of something even bigger than the economy and of more importance than possibly our very own country’s survival. I’m talking about the times Jesus warned us about in Matthew 24 – better known as the Olivet Discourse. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Yeah, I believe in that sort of thing. Maybe it’s just me. I study the Bible and pay close attention to the knowledge and wisdom contained therein. And I’m not bragging when I say that I can see the water coming in through the shattered hull of all the hopes and dreams we hold on dearest to in our world.

But let’s not worry about it, at least not tonight. Forget about a possible economic event horizon or the apocalyptic predictions of some crazy man from McNeill. Have another filet mignon or leg of roasted duck. Pull your deck chair closer to mine and we’ll watch the dark waters slide by as we listen to the band. Don’t they sound great? Such talented musicians; their lullabies can very well sing us all to sleep.

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