I’m reading a book about the Titanic (A Night to Remember – one of the first books written about the tragedy and considered one of the most accurate)….It’s so interesting to me to think about the moments that define our lives and who we are….
The book is full of stories of heroism and cowardice…..think of 2 men: Bruce Ismay (a big official with the White Star Line) and Benjamin Guggenheim (a wealthy American businessman)….
In reading Ismay’s biography, one finds little to suggest that he ever did anything that may have been questionable. However, it seems that nothing could make up for his one terrible blunder, and that was boarding a lifeboat ahead of hundreds of women and children – an act that haunted him for the rest of his life. During his lifetime, he was labeled as one of the biggest cowards in history.
Mr. Guggenheim: He was aboard the ship with his Mistress. From all accounts, it seems he lived mostly apart from his family and lost a lot of his inheritance through poor management. On the Titanic, when he realized that there was no chance of his survival, he removed his lifebelt and took his steward to their room. They changed into their finest clothing, and said that they would go down as gentlemen. He made sure his mistress and her maid were safely aboard a lifeboat. Here is copied and pasted a short account of his heroism:
“Guggenheim is famous for these comments made while the liner was about to go down: “We’ve dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” He later said to a steward: “Tell my wife I did my best in doing my duty.”
Dressed in formal evening attire, at approximately two o’clock in the morning, Guggenheim and his valet sat in chairs on the deck, sipping brandy and smoking cigars while the Titanic sank. He was 46 years old. His body was never recovered.”
These incidents were about 2 hours in each man’s life, yet those hours defined the mens entire lives. I think of other men, such as Oskar Schindler, who by all accounts led a scandalous and basically worthless life….except for the simple act of saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis….His life is defined by that, not by his many mistakes….
I like this….I like that whatever failures we may have in life, there is hope that in the end our life may mean something….there are very amazing men and women in the world who do great things daily….then there are just average people like us, who has as many failures as we have successes….it’s amazing and wonderful to see that even people who haven’t led glorified lives have the capability and the chance to be heroes….that one honorable moment can define our lives.
I’m thinking to myself “what would you do? how would you behave? would you be courageous or would you collapse into terror and do whatever it took to survive?”…..Think about this….decide….concete it in your mind so that in the unlikely event that you should ever be in such a position, you will make a choice, not act out of sheer human instinct.