Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Did You and I Perish on the Titanic?

Toward the end of Titanic in 3D, I had a sinking feeling. Could I be the reincarnation of someone who perished on the ocean liner 100 years ago? An Irish passenger, specifically?

I know you just rolled your eyes; I could see it. In fact, I just rolled my own eyes. I'm not a huge believer in reincarnation. But I don't actively disbelieve it, either. And there must be some reason why I've felt this strong emotional connection to the Titanic saga for so many years.

In the mid 90s, before James Cameron's epic spectacle Titanic was first released, I became completely absorbed by the Titanic. I read numerous books, devoured old movies (especially A Night to Remember). I even joined the Titanic historical society. I became a Titanic geek.

I can account for my Titanic obsession logically, to a point. I'm still fascinated by all the mistakes that were made, before and after the iceberg collision. I mean, they didn't even have a pair of binoculars in the ship's lookout tower at the time the iceberg approached!

I'm also a wee bit drawn to disaster tales. For this, I have Irwin Allen, the producer of all those 1970s disaster epics like The Poseidon Adventure, to thank. And the rapid technological changes occurring at the time of the Titanic's sinking, such as the advent of the telephone and automobile, fascinate me as well.

Isidor and Ida Straus
Then there are all the human dramas that unfolded on board Titanic the night of April 14-15, 1912. One that touches me the most is the well-known story of the Strauses. Isidor Straus, Macy's co-owner, refused to get into a lifeboat while there were still women and children aboard. His wife, Ida, remained with her husband, though she was offered a lifeboat seat. "Where you go, I go," she reportedly told him.

Last weekend, as I watched the ship sink in 3D, I felt flooded with sadness. Not because of the movie's love story, which I still find contrived. Not because of the 3D effect, though certainly it made everything more vivid, like a dream turned into nightmare. I've never gotten choked up during a disaster movie in my entire life (not even when Stella Stevens died in The Poseidon Adventure). What was going on?

The Titanic picked up 123 passengers in Ireland, most of them poor emigrants; only 44 survived. I have strong Irish roots, certainly on my mother's side. Could it be that I'm the reincarnation of an Irish passenger who died on the ship?

There's another explanation, of course. I recently turned 54. Could it be that disaster stories are no longer just the "cool" spectacles of mass destruction they were for me when I was younger? Given my stage in life, am I more emotionally attuned to the loss of life?

Because I'm a relatively practical person, I'll go with option number two.

And yet, amid all the Titanic anniversary commemorations going on now, it's important to remember that 1,517 people died. The tragedy created countless widows and orphans; it changed more lives than it ended, and for decades to come. Maybe you and I weren't on board the ship 100 years ago. But isn't it possible that the ship's sinking had some unknown impact on who we are today?


    


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13 comments:

  1. Disaster stories always suck me in. My kids can detail each compartment of the ship courtesy of dozens of books I have on the subject. We all have things that draw us in, I just wish mine would re-set to include excercise instead of human tragedy. Great post.

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  2. For architects and engineers the story of the Titanic is a story of hubris.

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  3. I think that as we get older we become more in tune to the pain and suffering of others, probably because we have in our many years suffered ourselves. I know that I used to watch movies that had violence in them and they didn't bother me one bit. Then a few years ago I tried to watch Slumdog Millionaire and at the very beginning, where someone is being beaten on the bottom of their feet with I believe an electrical cord...*sigh*, I just couldn't bear to watch anymore. I believe for you there may be some connection through your Irish ancestors; but for me...I don't think there were too many Spaniards or Mexicans on board :-)

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    1. Alicia, You might be right about the Hispanic population represented on the Titanic, but who knows, there still might have been a link to you in some way. At least, the thought of that is what fascinates me.

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  4. I've never heard that about the Strauses! Wow. That's really interesting.

    My Titanic love story is a wee bit different. Not to be that jerk that talks about their blog on another person's blog but er...well, I'm just going to be that jerk: Here is my Titanic story: http://akajanerandom.blogspot.com/2011/02/valentines-day-that-wasnt.html

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  5. James,

    I absolutely believe in some form of reincarnation. Of course I have no proof but I too have felt a connection was a past event. My "event" was being killed with a sword in one of those medieval battles. The first time I felt this (no pun intended) was when I awoke from a hernia operation when I was 17 years old. The left side of my abdomen had been cut open to remove a hernia that I was born with. As I was coming out of the ether I had a dreamy feeling that I was "doing this again." It was a strong feeling.
    You also bring up a good point in that now that you're older maybe you're more attuned to life and death. I know that I am. I am seventy years old now and I know it won't be too long before I make that Final Journey. I think about it a lot. I have a feeling a lot of questions will be answered.

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  6. Ron, that's amazing that you had such a specific vision. Thanks for sharing that. And yes, I am feeling more attuned to life and death, which helps me savor the here and now. -- Jim

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  7. I wish I could know how many Hispanic there were on the Titanic because I to feel a strong connection to the Titanic even if it was 100 years ago. Besides who knows because most of my ancestors are from Spain,Mexico,Porto Rico, and Cuba.

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  8. Well said Jim and reminds me of a John Donne quote: "Each man's death diminishes me." We are all connected.

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  9. I always wondered if my daughter had been the Titanic. I did not realise the connections with it until about 13 years after her birth. She was born on the 15th April. Her initials are RMS. Her surname is Smith. She found in a second hand market a fork with the white star symbol. She also has always had an interest in egypt and mummies.

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  10. back in the mid 70's I had compelling, repeating, graphic, colorful dreams in which I was a woman dressed in a fur coat, in a small boat, with other persons and one man specifically had a British accent. The tiny boat was floating on a becalmed sea under a black starlit sky. off in the distance I could see a large ship with running lights and rockets bursting in the air. The dreams were always the same: crystal clear. The man said:"She's gone to Hell, Matey" I often wondered about the dream and never connected it with the Titanic disaster, which I rarely, if ever, thought about. I called it "My lights in the sky" dream. Up until the movie came out I can't recall ever seeing a drawing of the ship or even reading about it. It was not on my immediate radar. When I saw the movie and the ship pictured there, sinking, and the view from the boats I suddenly blurted out, in the quiet theatre" "Hey! Theyre's my dream!!" I was stunned and shaken. I was sick in my seat. I had to be taken from my seat by my freinds. It took me several days to calm down to a point where I was actually coherant. I now know that I was on that ship and in one of the life boats, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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