Reflection 255: Titanomania

April 16, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Everyone is fascinated, captivated, enthralled by the short, happy life of the Titanic, and the story of its maiden (and only) voyage that ended 100 years ago yesterday. Yes, this is the story of great myths, literature, drama. And underneath such symbolic treatments, it is the story of how we are called to consciousness by emergency situations.

Think of Russian sailors trapped in the hull of a sunken nuclear submarine. Think of the Apollo 13 astronauts. Think of coal miners sealed deep underground. Think of bungee jumpers, gamblers, tightrope walkers, and entrepreneurs who profit by taking personal risks. Even pornography horrifies-fascinates us in going beyond anything we can conceive of in our own erotic relationships.

By imaginatively putting ourselves in situations others have faced, we stand to learn how to conduct ourselves when our turn comes to meet the challenge of severe adversity. This is not an effort in logical planning, it is wholly intuitive in expanding our awareness of fight-or-flight opportunities. The wise take note, the careless gape and pass on. In any event, none of us can anticipate what will bring us down in the end.

From my point of view, the sinking of the Titanic illustrates the end of the supposed world order as we know it. We feel compelled to search for some survival advantage to take from the experience of others engaged in such an event. Why else are we given a capacity for consciousness other than to learn such lessons, so to apply them to our own advantage when the time comes?

What is it that arouses us in times of disaster but the disparity or discord between what we desire and what actually happens? It is in that gap that we come to consciousness to grapple with the difference between the best of times and the worst of times. We engage, that is, for the deepest of values—to survive under life-changing situations.

And in everyday life, we are aroused precisely by those extreme situations that are worse than bad or else better than good—putting us beyond the limits of our personal experience that we may transcend our own limitations and thrive under circumstances we have never known or imagined up till now.

In personal consciousness, each of us has a means for transcending our historical life experience in order to survive under the altered circumstances the future will inevitably present to us. We can either bull our way through on the basis of what we already know or believe—or we can incorporate new learning into our repertory of understanding, and so grow larger and more experienced with a greater probability of surviving in the face of unknown challenges ahead.

The sinking of the Titanic is, for each of us, a warning of what may lie before us. Intuition draws us to that incident so that we may learn from it how to cope with similar disasters in which we may be personally involved. Its fascination is not with the fate of those others, whether on the bridge or in first-class or steerage, but with our own personal fate should we ever collide with an iceberg in the North Atlantic—or the personal equivalent of such a disaster when we foolishly place our trust in the unsinkability of our first-person, singular and most precious self.

An alternative to developing such an emergency strategy is to attempt to forestall the future by building fortifications around our respective castles or installing backyard bomb shelters, accruing an arsenal of weapons, or hoarding vast stores of wealth instead of building life-enhancing and life-saving skills we can take with us wherever we go. Aleric took Rome because someone left the back gate open, rendering the city’s massive walls a monument to pride and forlorn hope.

In CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, I offer the image of a helmsman steering his way through fog “by the deviance of his compass needle from his charted course. His mindfulness of that error allows him to turn the wheel to port or starboard to counter the error at each moment as he goes. In that simple image I discover the rise of William James’ stream of consciousness, what others see as successive instants of working memory, and I see as my ongoing loop of conscious engagement” (p. 129).

Consciousness is given us as such a helmsman to guide us in response to the errors we make in judging where we are in relation to where we want to be. The fate of the Titanic illustrates the folly of deliberately cruising through a field of icebergs in the North Atlantic, relying wholly on faith in our carrier’s claim to being “unsinkable,” wagering good money on that claim. It is when we surrender sound conscious judgment to others that we become unduly vulnerable ourselves. That is the Titanic’s message to generations ever after that fatal event.

Every day is Celebrate Personal Consciousness Day that we may make good use of gifts we otherwise may take for granted—with dire results.

Check out the Website I made for my book,, buy the book at, read it, and do what you can to live a long life in full awareness of your inner workings and the fixes you can get into.

Thanks for stopping by. Y’rs truly, –Steve


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: