Saturday, April 28, 2012

Recent Inspiration: the Titanic

I've become preoccupied with the story of Titanic ever since the re-release of James Cameron's 3D version that commemorates the centennial of the ship's sinking. I went to see the movie on April 14, 2012...100 years to the day the ship sank in 1912. I stayed up all night following the History Channel's tweets of the Titanic's demise as it happened 100 years ago. It officially foundered at 2:20am on April 15th. I can't seem to get the sad story out of my much so that I wander through cities looking at tall buildings comparing them to Titanic. She was 882 feet long - that's almost as long as a 90 story building is tall!

The first time the movie came out in 1997, I saw it 10 times in theaters, partly because I had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio (I was in high school, ok gimme a break). But now watching it again on the big screen 15 years later, something deeper has captivated my imagination. I want to know the true stories, to empathize and experience the bitterness, to cry with those who lost loved ones. I am inspired by the brave souls who went down with the ship, the women who climbed out of the life boats because they would not leave their husbands, the parents who tossed their children into a life boat and stood on deck, waving goodbye. It's heart-wrenching, and somehow learning about the historical catastrophe offers courage and strength to deal with life.

On April 15th, I drove to Orlando to a brand new museum called "Titanic: the Experience". The place was packed and I was forced to tour with a group of about 50 people. I barely had room or time to sketch anything, but I lingered in the back and was able to experience a life-size recreation of Titanic's grand staircase all to myself. It was fabulous and eerie. I imagined myself on the ship, what it would be like to be a passenger and walk up those stairs, admiring the beauty and feeling so proud to be on the maiden voyage.

Try this experiment: place your hands in a bucket of ice and count to 10. One one thousand, two one the time you get to ten, that's what your body would have felt like being plunged into the icy Atlantic as a doomed passenger on the great Titanic. Most people didn't drown, they froze to death. Having a taste of what that would feel like somehow makes me a apply the lessons of Titanic to my own life.

What lessons?

A lesson in humility.
A reminder of the sublime.
A test of self-sacrifice.
That when the game is over, both king and pawn go back into the same box.

Logan Marshall, editor of the book On Board the Titanic, sums up:

"Whatever view of the accident be taken, whether the moralist use it to point out a solemn warning, or the materialist scout a theory that it was nothing more than the 'fortuitous concurrence of atoms', there is scarcely a thinking mortal who has not been deeply stirred in the sense of personal bereavement, to a profound humility and a conviction of his own significance in the greater universal matter what one believes, the effect is the same. To reduce man from a swaggering braggart - the self-made master of fate, of nature, of time, of space, of everything - to his true microscopic stature in the cosmos....How little is the 882 feet of the 'monster' that we launched compared with the arc of the rainbow we can see even in our grief spanning the frozen boreal mist!"

"Lest we forget! Lest we forget!"

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