It is not a movie I can watch often. I am sure I went to watch it at the cinema with a large group of friends back in – was is 1997? I remember one of my male friends feeling a bit embarrassed at some of the more intimate scenes in the movie (we were teenagers) and in the still silence of the cinema, his voice was clearly heard turning to us and saying “Would you like a Poppet?”…
…several angry “ssssshhhhhhhh!!!!” noises followed, and the rest of us found it hard to suppress our giggles. Teenagers hey! We were a little embarrassed…we were not expecting the bare chested moments, or the steamy hand print on the car window pane.
But please don’t think we were unmoved by the scenes that followed. Truly, we remained silent, except for the occasional tearful sniffle for the rest of the movie. Remember we were all from the Liverpool area and we were all familiar with these significant pages of maritime history. We had heard the story over and over at school and had many school trips to the Liverpool Maritime Museum. It was a story that had an impact on us since our earliest days and weighed heavy on our hearts. I am sure you too will have contemplated how truly awful it must have been.
I visited the Liverpool Maritime Museum again this summer and I lingered around the exhibits for a long time, because it was years since I had seen them.
Lots of information and artefacts. Lots of stories from survivors and stories of those who sank with the ship that night. But it is only if you allow yourself to contemplate what it must have been like, that you really absorb these pages of history.
One part of the exhibit really caught my attention. I love seeing scenes of the Arctic landscape, but pondering on what led to one of the worst tragedies at sea in modern history made me feel horrified viewing a picture of a huge ice-berg.
Time and time again I have heard people use the example of the RMS Titanic hitting an ice-berg in various analogies. So many sobering lessons can be drawn. The apparent blind confidence in an “unsinkable” ship, some were so convinced that the giant feat of engineering was beyond destruction. Some not responding promptly to the alerts of staff to put on life-jackets and board life-boats. The absurd injustices in the way different classes were treated. Some of the life-boats not being filled to anywhere near full-capacity. The list goes on and on of the things that contributed to such an enormous loss of life that night.
For me personally, the example of the RMS Titanic has effected my view of making a comfortable life for myself. When I was about seven, one of my teachers at school powerfully touched our hearts, motivating us to be aware of the holes in the way this world works. She wasn’t talking about the planet. I knew she was talking about the economic system, the way the world is governed often based on economic expediency. Short-term decisions to gain a profit at the expense of oh so much. I knew she was right, any system motivated by greed and selfishness is doomed to sink.
She explained that all of humankind are essentially in the same boat and it is a boat that is leaking, holes like racism, injustice, war, pollution that highlight that it is not unsinkable. She asked us to think of how we could make a difference and always always remember what really counts. She emphasised that life is precious and special. It was up to us to decide how to use our life, our time. Would we use it wisely? She said worrying about having a sportscar or a fur coat or fancy jewellery, is a bit like wanting a posh suite on the Titanic. She said we could spend our lives polishing the brass on the Titanic, or think about helping others into the life-boats.
I often thought of what she said, but it was only when I became a volunteer that I felt I could live by the conviction she had cultivated in my little heart. I have never been interested in having a posh suite in this sinking ship or polishing the brass. It feels like an utter waste of time. But relief from that sense of wastefulness came in seeing the people whose lives we made a difference to. I have so many stories of people of various backgrounds who were crying and groaning because of the damage from the holes I have mentioned, racism, injustice ethnic violence and warfare.
It is important to remain balanced and to enjoy all the wonderful things about life and this beautiful beautiful planet. But I have never forgotten that the holes in the way the world runs at the moment, have caused damage on such a scale that it essentially needs a complete reconstruction, based on an entirely different foundation. There are so many lessons to learn from the tragedy of the RMS Titanic. I try to live my life thinking of what really counts. How precious lives are, how extraordinary our planet is compared to any other in the known universe, how stupid class divisions are, how destructive so many economic and political decisions can be.
I am optimistic, very optimistic, because I trust most people do at heart realize that life is precious; whereas sports cars, fur coats and fancy jewellery are not! I think most people want to make a difference in whatever way they can to achieve a better world, one in which we live, we really live, not just survive. I know at times these big leaky holes can be incredibly frustrating, but keeping a focus on what makes life really precious…reminding ourselves of what really counts, and seizing opportunities to contribute to a better world, because at the end of the day I would hope most people want a better world.