Be Calm, But Don’t Carry On: Three Rules for the Gentleperson on the RMS Titanic of Life

Be Calm, But Don’t Carry On: Three Rules for the Gentleperson on the RMS Titanic of Life April 13, 2016

Der Untergang der Titanic
Der Untergang der Titanic

Life, like the RMS Titanic, is quite wonderful, though not equally so for all of us. Beauty is all around, yet the marvelous voyage ends in the cold waters of death. Nobody “wins” at life and so preparing for the final challenge is essential.

You don’t want to be a coward and leave behind a legacy of shame.

There is a time to “be calm and carry on,” but when the liner strikes the iceberg, the time has come to move into a different mode of living. Some of us fail the test, but others pass and go to glory both in this life and that life which is to come.

Live in the Light of Coming Doom, but Live 

The day of Doom is coming for us all. The hour of our death is an appointment that cannot be shuffled off to an aide and nobody is late. . . ever. The suicide can bring doom upon himself, but nobody escapes doom and after that comes the judgment when God Almighty measures our deeds.

Oddly, one cannot live in this heightened awareness all the time. Just as a person in love knows that every moment with the beloved is priceless but cannot maintain the intensity of the last moment together, so we must live in the knowledge of doom, but without becoming captivated by it.

Most of the time we should have adopted a strategy where we know the truth about death, keep calm, and carry on living. The day will come when we must remain calm, panic does no good to self and may harm others, but we must change. We face eternity and that requires change.

One cannot be a “prepper” for death, because our death generally comes in a manner we do not anticipate. We cannot know the feelings we will experience until we are there. The best way to prepare is, therefore, to practice the virtues in living, know God’s grace, and trust God that what He has built in us will face any challenge now and at the hour of our death. So we should live, love, and laugh, but not as fools. We live, love, and laugh wisely knowing we are facing the final challenge.

We carry on to avoid failing that test.

Do our Duty as Long as We Can

We often think doom has come when it has not. While there is life there is hope, but that hope should not fundamentally be about prolonging our lives. We have forgotten that our ancestors would have called them “our miserable lives.” The chief thing is not prolonging the challenge, but doing our duty, as it faces us, as long as we can.

If we save others, we may not “save” our bodily life, but our souls. The judgment we give others, those in “third class” don’t deserve to live, will be the judgment we face in eternity. Have we lived gracefully? We will find grace. Did we trust ourselves? Then we must save ourselves and that is impossible. Were we merciful? We will find mercy.

The night the good ship went down some men stayed at their posts and died like men. They kept the lights on to help others escape. They lowered lifeboats they would not enter. They stood on the deck and played music to comfort souls. A priest took final confessions and led others in prayers. Did they die? Most did. A few survived when duty ended. Those who did their duty, who stayed calm, did not carry on as if nothing had happened. They knew doom had come at last, but they had lived lives that could be transformed into a higher key.

They changed, but they were recognizably the men of the day before the crash. If they did better than they had ever done, it was because they had allowed God to make their souls fits, by grace through faith, for the crisis to come.

Save Others and then Self

A key way to avoid shaming self is to think of others. In any crisis I have faced, the best recourse was to work to save others. If the business goes down, can I help others thrive out the wreckage? If we lose our money, can we help the kids have the best childhood possible? We are the brave woman, eager to stay with her husband to the end, who steps out of her place on the boat and gives it to a neighbor.

Love your neighbor. Focus on their need and a heightened peace will result.

There comes a moment when love of humanity legitimately becomes care for self. The last duty is to God, but God teaches us to love others as we love ourself. When we can help nobody else, we can help ourselves. How? We should help self in a manner that if we fail, there will be no shame. We do not panic. We do not curse “fate” as if that will help. A good man or woman acts in faith in the light of eternity.

Few of us want to die, but if my grandparents and others I have known are any example, the good life does not prepare us to die (there is no true getting ready), but enables us to do well. It is a new thing to die. One does it once (Lazarus and a few other excepted).

So it goes. We are on a voyage where nobody survives. No man, woman, or child who sailed on the great ship Titanic lives. One survivor of the liner lived only to die in Hitler’s camps. Another died in an automobile accident later. Most died in bed surrounded by loved ones after a long life. All are gone. All faced doom, eternity, and judgment. There was no final escape and the measure of their lives was not one incident. Nobody can save himself. Nobody wins. Grace exists to enable us, as we sink into darkness, to see Light eternal and triumph over death.

Let’s keep calm and prepare to live in that greater grace.


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