The sad demise of the five men exploring the Titanic wreckage in a submersible two miles below the Atlantic also brings out another interesting dimension of travel: there is reason to believe that each person onboard would have weighed the risk and done the same thing again…their adventure cannot be simply dismissed as reckless travel, but as a way of life and a frankly admirable way to leave this Earth.
The Risk Of Travel, The Risk Of Life, And How We Balance It
I smiled at the fact that the five crew members onboard the Titan submersible enjoyed gourmet coffee before their final voyage at Terre Café in St. John, Newfoundland. Two hours later, an implosion onboard killed them instantly (quite candidly, not a bad way to go…), but they had spent their final moments on earth exploring the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. What an adventure!
In my news story on the incident, reader Stuart left a comment that resonates with me:
“The fact is, especially given my rather crazed personality, is that time spent pushing extremes on rivers, canyons, oceans and mountains around the world is a centering and calming experience. It’s often the one thing that can get us all out of our heads. No, it’s not for everyone, but it is also not worthy of criticism as to a choice.
“Yes, I’ve watched friends die on rivers and oceans. No, I refuse to say, “they died doing what they loved.” But I will say that, in the end, they would do it again if they could. There is a subset of the world that refuses to acquiesce to the sofa and the desk every day. To us, that is dying.”
What I am wrestling with today is how we measure risk and why some of us are so much more willing to take risks than others.
I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life. In terms of travel, despite having to bribe my way out of two countries and being accused of being a spy in Cuba, it has worked out okay. I’ve walked the streets of Iraq alone after dark, been interrogated in Iran, visited Afghanistan and Ukraine during active wars, and even snuck into two nations. Sometimes, though, what people think is risky or dangerous turns out not to be so.
When it comes to business, friendship, and money, my risks have not always turned out so well…but that’s another story I will not get into today.
The point is that I seem pre-wired to risk, even as I ground my life in my Christian faith and realize that my greatest obligation right now is not to travel the world, but to care for my wife and children (ironically for me, I provide for them by traveling…). We are unique humans, but there is a (perhaps thankfully…) small subset among us who are willing to push the boundaries in ways that most would simply shake their heads at.
Yes, I’d go to Mogadishu or Port-au-Prince tomorrow (with a security detail). I’d volunteer to go on the next space mission. Yes, I’d even volunteer to go on a submersible to visit the Titanic wreckage, despite what just happened.
Some would question my priorities and specifically my commitment to my family over such “reckless” risk. Some would scoff at me, suggesting that genuine faith could not lead to such a lack of discernment.
I get it.
And as I write this, I am not excepting to convince anyone…or even clear about what I am trying to say. I’m just thinking through this idea of risk and invite you to help me think through it.
Yet, I look at what has transpired this week and while on the one hand I think the OceanGate should face tremendous liability via wrongful death lawsuits for the reckless disregard for safety displayed by its CEO, I also think that had safety measures been taken and the sub still blown up, it would have been a great way to go. Not because “you died doing what you love” but because I have found pushing boundaries represents one of the greatest joys of life.
People don’t understand why I visit some of the places I do. People will fault the five “explorers” who perished on the Titan submersible for taking a foolish risk in the first place. But I think we have to look deeper. For some, there is no comfort in a “comfortable” and risk-averse life. At the very least, we should herald those who refused to be content with the status quo for changing the world for the good (and yes, sometimes lament those who were discontent and changed things for the worse).