Monday, November 26, 2007

Equality In A Lifeboat

When there’s a bunch of you bobbing around in a lifeboat, miles from anywhere, the usual ideas of importance change a bit. The bank president who can’t row is demoted to bailing water, while the freckle-faced tomboy who can, and read the stars as well, is suddenly promoted to captain.

You see, you’re in the South Atlantic, about as south as you can get, when your little ship hits ice and sinks, as happened the other day. Suddenly, the only show of rank is, “can you get the job done?” It’s the equality of the lifeboat.

Usually; ideally. When the Titanic went down, one lifeboat became an exception: that which was populated by Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, their secretary, seven crewmen and maybe two others. Twelve people in a lifeboat build for far more. “Shouldn’t we go back?” asked a sailor. “Oh, goodness no,” Lady Duff-Gordon replied, “we might be swamped by people trying to get in.” In the England of 1912, they probably felt no need to answer for their actions.

In the lifeboat, not a whole lot matters. House, car, bank account: useless at the moment. Friends in high places: useless. You have to trust that your ship’s signal for help has been heard, because you are sitting there absolutely helpless. You are alone in one of the worst places in the world.

It’s a good time and a good place to think about what’s really important to you.


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