As we remember the tragedy that was the Titanic disaster 100 years ago, it has always intrigued me as to why we find this tragedy so fascinating. The main reason I see is because it is a tale that illustrates so much of human nature, and of the culture of the day. The class distinctions, the failure of human self-sufficiency in an age of ‘inevitable progress’, the emphasis on what is importnat in life and what is not, the hubris of not having enough lifeboats on board; all these things tell us so much about ourselves. The real tragedy is that it took a real vent and not just an illustration to remind us of these things. The 1500 people who died were real people with real dreams and real families. That just highlights to me the urgency of seeing ourselves in the light of who we really are – dependent on Something else for our existence, that human frailty is real and human autonomy is folly.
A couple of articles, one written last week and one written in the days following the disaster in 1912, illustrate all this elegantly. The first article is from Eureka Street’s Andrew Hamilton and talks about the lessons we can learn from the Titanic sinking, going into more depth than what I have attempted to describe above. The second article is a sermon by the great theologian Karl Barth delivered on 21 April 1912, just a week after the fateful event. Fascinating reading.