Of course, the most famous shipwreck, that of RMS Titanic, was taking place exactly a century ago as I write this. It's an event that has captivated people around the globe ever since. A few days ago, I read Walter Lord's classic A Night to Remember in one sitting. Recent media coverage has included interesting discussions of everything from clothing to human remains, and provided a welcome distraction for those of us who tire of political primaries and court drama.
Titanic embodied everything that was bright and dark about the world before the Wars. The ship left England in an era of opulence and oppression, colonialism and conquest, revolution and reinvention, as Western society was transitioning from Victorian to Modern. 1,500 of Titanic's passengers never lived to see the new world. As the wreck fades into dust, they will be memorialized not by the majestic and monstrous hull, but by the small things. The china from which they ate. Souvenirs and playthings. The boots that they wore. And the coal that propelled them on an optimistic journey aboard one of the most magnificent creations of their time.