Bill Murchison

"I don't think I'll ever feel sure again," the man said. That might be the ticket after all. Feel sure about what? The human capacity to take on pretty much any job and succeed at it?

"Titanic's" fate is sometimes taken as a case study in hubris and self-seeking: "such boasting as the Gentiles use," as Rudyard Kipling earlier elaborated the matter, "and lesser breeds without the law" (He meant Britain's rivals, the Germans). Even if Titanic was not designed to overthrow the laws of nature, still it was the work of a science-loving century with a tendency to seek ultimate power over the human condition. Kipling knew his fellow man: "For heathen heart that puts her trust/In reeking tube and iron shard/? For frantic boast and foolish word /Thy mercy on thy people, Lord!"

Two years after the Titanic disaster came the greatest catastrophe since the fall of Rome: the Great War, a conflict we believed (being human) we'd rendered unthinkable through commercial interaction and general enlightenment. A number of Titanic's victims could have consoled themselves in the hereafter that they were spared at least the horrors of the Western front.

It is no wonder, perhaps, we humans spend so much time with our disasters. They keep coming as it were out of the blue -- as on a lovely early autumn morning recently in Lower Manhattan.


Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
 
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