I am fascinated by the way that internet memes seem to come around in cycles. Someone comes across a meme as ‘new to them’ and shares it, and a whole new generation of people who haven’t seen it before share it as if it’s new. That happened to me this week when someone shared the following:
“Never be afraid to try something new: remember that amateurs built the ark but professionals built the Titanic.”
Now I know what they are trying to say, but there’s a big flaw in this: the meme is based on flawed logic. You might as well say that my childhood go-kart that I used to ride down our drive was built by an amateur (my dad) but my car that I use on the roads is built by professionals! The different status of the builders was irrelevant to their success. It seems to me from my limited research that the reason the Titanic sank was not the build quality it was a failure to adapt to the environment. The Titanic was steaming at full speed and when a warning of icebergs in the area was received it should have reduced speed and increased the lookouts so that they could take avoiding action.
Why didn’t they adapt? There are a number of theories. Perhaps the failure to adapt to the environment was also based on arrogance – the Titanic was famously claimed to be ‘unsinkable’ so why would you need to slow down? Maybe it was down to prestige – the desire to make the fastest passenger crossing of the Atlantic and the associated publicity and perhaps commercial success that would be associated with it. It’s possible that it was ignorance – a failure to recognise the dangers – but that seems unlikely given that Captain Smith was extremely experienced and had been master of numerous vessels.
Whatever the cause, it seems to me that the reason that the Titanic sank was not because of build quality but because of a failure to adapt to the environment.
So to what changes in our environment should we adapt?
There’s The Environment which, despite the Nelsonian blind-eye approach of Donald Trump and climate-change deniers, is changing rapidly (and potentially catastrophically) caused by human action. If we all make small changes it will make a big difference.
But there are other changes – technological change is increasingly changing the ways that we interact with one another and how we operate as human beings (at least in the countries where the technology is available and affordable). Reading some of the vitriol that is poured out via social media against people who have different views to the ‘author’ upsets me considerably. I wonder whether one change in environment to adapt to is a recognition that the impact and reach of what we say is far greater than we might imagine (like the amount of iceberg hidden under the surface of the water) and a realisation that we need to be more careful before steaming ahead at full speed with our opinions into iceberg-infested waters.
I believe that the concept of ‘family’ is sailing in dangerous waters. The traditional model of family has been changed by the family breakdown and divorce, social and economic mobility and other changes in society and moral attitudes that have created families with multiple parents, absent parents and other family configurations that would not have been imagined half a century ago. Some wring their hands and long for the ‘good old days’ but we are where we are. Whatever we think of this we need to adapt and sail carefully in these waters. Condemnation of difference merely because it does not conform with our ideal is likely to tear a huge gash in the hull of our society that is irreparable. Instead we could navigate far more wisely by emphasising the importance of communication, community, love and valuing all as wonderfully-created human beings.
I am sure you can think of others. However, there’s one other major difference between the Titanic and the Ark and that’s to do with motive for them being built. The Titanic was built for commercial reasons, the Ark was built to preserve life. One was a cruise-liner motivated by profit, the other was a lifeboat motivated by God. Which would you rather be on?
Be blessed, be a blessing